selected exhibition history: Le Salon, Académie des Beaux-Arts, Paris, 1799
artist profile: Although she also produced oil portraits, portrait miniatures, and etchings, Marguerite Gérard is best known for intimate, domestic genre scenes.
Gérard, who never married and apparently never demonstrated any interest in joining the French Royal Academy, had a tremendously successful career. She won three medals for her work, which she exhibited regularly once the Salons were opened to women in the 1790s. Her pictures were acquired by luminaries such as Napoleon, and she acquired considerable wealth and real estate.
Her interest in art was shaped by her brother-in-law, the popular Rococo painter Jean-Honoré Fragonard, beginning in 1775, when she moved from Grasse to Paris to live with her sister’s family. As part of the Fragonard household, Gérard had considerable financial freedom, along with the opportunity to further her artistic training as her brother-in-law’s unofficial apprentice.
By her mid-20s, Gérard had developed her signature style, which featured painstakingly accurate details rendered with subtly blended brush strokes. She borrowed both of these traits from 17th-century Dutch genre specialists, notably Gabriel Metsu. Gérard’s work is technically impressive but also practical: these relatively small-scale, portable canvases appealed to wealthy collectors. They preferred to display meticulously painted still lifes and genre scenes, rather than large history paintings, in their homes. The numerous engraved versions of Gérard’s paintings made them accessible to less affluent art lovers and helped increase her reputation.
Physical Dimensions: w9.5 x h11.75 in (Without frame)
Rights: Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay; Photography by Lee Stalsworth