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The Portraitist: Adélaïe Labille-Guiard
By Susanne Dunlap
The Portraitist: A Novel of Adelaide Labille-Guiard by Susanne Dunlap
Publication Date: August 30, 2022
She Writes Press
Based on a true story, this is the tale of Adélaïde Labille-Guiard’s fight to take her rightful place in the competitive art world of eighteenth-century Paris.
With a beautiful rival who’s better connected and better trained than she is, Adélaïde faces an uphill battle. Her love affair with her young instructor in oil painting gives rise to suspicions that he touches up her work, and her decision to make much-needed money by executing erotic pastels threatens to create as many problems as it solves. Meanwhile, her rival goes from strength to strength, becoming Marie Antoinette’s official portraitist and gaining entrance to the elite Académie Royale at the same time as Adélaïde.
When at last Adélaïde earns her own royal appointment and receives a massive commission from a member of the royal family, the timing couldn’t be worse: it’s 1789, and with the fall of the Bastille her world is turned upside down by political chaos and revolution. With danger around every corner in her beloved Paris, she must find a way to adjust to the new order, carving out a life and a career all over again—and stay alive in the process.
“An imaginative work that brings the story of a little-known artist to vivid life.” –Kirkus Reviews
“Deeply researched and imagined, The Portraitist offers a fascinating and dramatic plunge into the world of a brilliant female artist, struggling to make her mark before and during the turbulent and treacherous era of the French Revolution. I loved this novel.” –Sandra Gulland, international bestselling author of The Josephine Trilogy
“Written with breathless drama, The Portraitist follows the rise of the gifted portraitist Adélaïde Labille-Guiard in Paris during the last years of the late eighteenth century. The novel is a luminous depiction of Paris and those terrible times seen through the astute, compassionate eyes of a woman who had to paint. Every bit of lace, or royal carriage or bloody cobblestone is alive in the writing. The rain drumming on the skylight and a misbuttoned coat speak. Go to those streets with this book in your hand to follow her footsteps and those long-gone turbulent times will come alive to you as if they were yesterday.” –Stephanie Cowell, award-winning author of Claude and Camille
“In The Portraitist, Susanne Dunlap skillfully paints a portrait of a woman struggling to make her way in a man’s world — a topic as relevant today as it was in Ancien Regime France. Impeccably researched, rich with period detail, Dunlap brings to life the little known true story of Adélaïde Labille-Guiard, who fought her husband and society to make a name for herself as a painter to the royal family, the very apex of success– only to find everything she had built threatened by the Revolution. A stunning story of determination, talent, and reversals of fortune. As a lifelong Elisabeth Vigée-LeBrun fan, I am now questioning my allegiances!” –Lauren Willig, New York Times bestselling author of The Summer Country and Band of Sisters
“[The Portraitist is a] luminous novel of Adélaïde Labille-Guiard, whose livelihood and longing for respect are threatened by the institutions that deny women artists their due, compounded by the tumultuous events of the French Revolution. Deftly written and impeccably researched. Highly recommended.” –Michelle Cameron, award-winning author of Beyond the Ghetto Gates
The Portraitist: Adélaïe Labille-Guiard
By Susanne Dunlap
Publisher : She Writes Press
Pub Date August 30, 2022
Paperback : 296 pages
Susanne Dunlap, brings the 18th century France portraitist artist, Adélaïe Labille-Guiard, richly to life.
Set pre-Revolutionary France, Dunlap’s newest historical fiction she tells the story of the artist Adélaïe Labille-Guiard, not as a victim, but as revolutionary. She becomes one of the earliest female members of the Royal Academy of France, and also the first first female artist to receive permission to set up a studio for her students at the Louvre. She was an advocate for women who desired to be artists, giving them instructions and a place to develop their craft.
Most professional women painters who were usually born into families of artists or artisans. Not so with our heroine, Labille-Guiard, who was born to a Parisian shopkeeper. Unlike her advisory Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun, who was the daughter of a painter, and later Vigée on in life married Jean-Baptiste Pierre Le Brun, a connected art dealer. This allowed Vigée to rise swiftly and gain a foot hold in portrait paintings to the Royal Parisian Family. She became good friends with the Queen, and the official painter of Queen Marie Antoinette.
Adélaïe, Labille-Guiard goes against her father’s good judgment and marries Louis Nicolas Guiard. Immature and easily deceived, she realizes her husband Nicolas is not the man she thought he was. Instead of remaining she is granted legal separation from her husband, which at that time was hard to come by unless there was factual evidence. While separation was legal, divorce was out of the question.
Adélaïe life long dream is to be a sought after portraitist, already accomplished pastelist. She further her artist education by taking classes with the young François André Vincent at the Louvre. Determined to be recognized in her own right, she stays stead fast, and dedicates her life to her art.
The author uses historical facts along with meticulously research to bring Adélaïe, Labille-Guiard character vividly to life. Wonderful atmospheric details along with a character I thought that she was an extremely well-written. Dunlap seamless narration Adélaïe ‘s realistic, believable character jump off the page. She is compassionate and one that you can easily root for.
I enjoyed the realistic rivalry that may or may not have been created by male painters during this time. Both women use what they can to bring profits as they struggle to rise in a male dominated art world. The author’s carefully constructed storyline was everything I wished it to be, both enlightening and captivating from start to finish. The character development and complex relationships, and the setting and world building with its unique artistic details, making for a highly compulsive read.
If you are not a fan of Susan Dunlap, this book will sure make you one!
I highly recommend this addictive book to my family and friends ⚜️
This book was received from the Author, and Publisher, in exchange for an honest review. Opinions and thoughts expressed in this review are completely my own.
This is a non spoiler review, because you as reader need to read this book. Also, I feel sometimes I have in the past gave away to much of the plot line. This has diminished the pleasure for would be readers.
Enter to win a paperback copy or Audiobook of The Portraitist by Susanne Dunlap!
The giveaway is open to the US only and ends on September 8th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
Susanne Dunlap is the author of twelve works of historical fiction for adults and teens, as well as an Author Accelerator Certified Book Coach. Her love of historical fiction arose partly from her studies in music history at Yale University (PhD, 1999), partly from her lifelong interest in women in the arts as a pianist and non-profit performing arts executive. Her novel The Paris Affair won first place in its category in the CIBA Dante Rossetti awards for Young Adult Fiction. The Musician’s Daughter was a Junior Library Guild Selection and a Bank Street Children’s Book of the Year, and was nominated for the Utah Book Award and the Missouri Gateway Reader’s Prize. In the Shadow of the Lamp was an Eliot Rosewater Indiana High School Book Award nominee. Susanne earned her BA and an MA (musicology) from Smith College, and lives in Biddeford, ME, with her little dog Betty. For more information, please visit Susanne Dunlap’s website. You can follow author Susanne Dunlap on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Instagram, Pinterest, and BookBub.