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Who was Marie Bracquemond?
Marie Bracquemond (1840 – 1916) was a French Impressionist artist, who was described retrospectively by Henri Focillon in 1928 as one of “les trois grandes dames” of Impressionism alongside Berthe Morisot and Mary Cassatt.
Her frequent omission from books on women artists is sometimes attributed to the efforts of her husband, Félix Bracquemond. Félix respected his wife’s talents as an artist but disagreed fervently with her adaptation of Impressionist techniques, in particular her use of color.
Félix and Marie Bracquemond worked together at the Haviland studio at Auteuil where her husband had become artistic director. She designed plates for dinner services and executed large Faience tile panels depicting the muses, which were shown at the Universal Exhibition of 1878.
Her husband introduced her to new media and to the artists he admired, as well as older masters such as Chardin. She was especially attracted to the Belgian painter Alfred Stevens. Between 1887 and 1890, under the influence of the Impressionists, Bracquemond’s style began to change. Her canvases grew larger and her colours intensified. She moved out of doors (part of a movement that came to be known as plein air), and to her husband’s disgust, Monet and Degas became her mentors.
In 1886, Félix Bracquemond met Gauguin through Sisley and brought the impoverished artist home. Gauguin had a decisive influence on Marie Bracquemond and, in particular, he taught her how to prepare her canvas in order to achieve the intense tones she now desired. Unlike many of her Impressionist contemporaries, Bracquemond spent a great deal of effort planning her pieces.
In 1890, Marie Bracquemond, worn out by the continual household friction and discouraged by lack of interest in her work, abandoned her painting except for a few private works. She remained a staunch defender of Impressionism throughout her life, even when she was not actively painting. In defense of the style to one of her husband’s many attacks on her art, she said, “Impressionism has produced … not only a new, but a very useful way of looking at things. It is as though all at once a window opens and the sun and air enter your house in torrents.”