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The Portraitist: A Novel of Adelaide Labille-Guiard

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Based on a true story, this is the tale of Adélaïe 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 Based on a true story, this is the tale of Adélaïe 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 adjust to the new order, carving out a life and a career all over again--


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Based on a true story, this is the tale of Adélaïe 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 Based on a true story, this is the tale of Adélaïe 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 adjust to the new order, carving out a life and a career all over again--

30 review for The Portraitist: A Novel of Adelaide Labille-Guiard

  1. 4 out of 5

    Marquise

    To be completely honest, I didn't find Adélaïde Labille-Guiard's story as compelling as I had expected, nor did I sympathise with her character as written by Susanne Dunlap as I sincerely thought I would. From the blurb, the book had everything to appeal to me: a neglected female painter who struggles hard against sexist customs and social norms to follow her dream of becoming a painter on par with the male painters everyone admires, to have her talent recognised, and live off of her art. At this To be completely honest, I didn't find Adélaïde Labille-Guiard's story as compelling as I had expected, nor did I sympathise with her character as written by Susanne Dunlap as I sincerely thought I would. From the blurb, the book had everything to appeal to me: a neglected female painter who struggles hard against sexist customs and social norms to follow her dream of becoming a painter on par with the male painters everyone admires, to have her talent recognised, and live off of her art. At this time, 18th century France just before the Revolution, that was an uphill, almost impossible battle for women wanting to be artists. Not only did society not encourage them and threw many obstacles in their way but the artistic environment and the guilds & academies looked down on women wanting to take up the brushes and create beauty. I should've liked this book, I should've liked this character, but I didn't. For one, Adélaïde was no Artemisia Gentileschi. Art is, of course, subjective, and in my opinion she was rather average as a painter, even producing some mediocre portraiture. She didn't exactly dazzle and wow me, as I see nothing especially revolutionary or original about her art. So, if her art fails to impress by itself, what remains is her personal life. And there's my biggest issue with this novel. Poor Adélaïde, woe is Adélaïde, abused Adélaïde. That's the beginning and the end of her story as told here. And yes, it's true that she did have a difficult time trying to make a name for herself with her art, she faced prejudice and discrimination and envy, she went against the grain. All true and well and good. But she didn't need to be made a victim of domestic abuse on top of this to earn some cheap sympathy points. The author herself admits there's no basis for thinking she was a victim of domestic abuse of any sort, so why falsify such a fact of her life? Why do some authors feel the need to make real women from history the victims of domestic abuse, or even rape, when there's no basis for it? Why victimise real people in such ways? False sexual and/or domestic abuse are still false accusations that do real victims no good. For all we know, Adélaïde and Guiard might have split merely because they were no longer happy or working as a couple! What need do you have to smear the reputation of a dead person that can't defend themselves just so your character can be a poor wee victim? That left a very sour taste in my mouth, and I couldn't take the characterisation seriously after that. On top of it, the characterisation of Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun, a far more talented painter than Adélaïde in my opinion, is subtly a tear-down of Vigée, whom the author sees as a "rival" to her poor wee Adélaïde. And why? Because Vigée was savvier, had more connections, and was more liked by the court, including Queen Marie Antoinette? And how is that a fault of hers, I don't know. Adélaïde is always making comments in her head about Vigée, always remarking on her "advantages" and "privileges," the implication being that Vigée is undeserving, enjoying privileges denied her underdog self. She is envious, and sometimes catty regarding the "rival" that has what Adélaïde would like to have. It does Vigée no favours, and questions her talent by always remarking on her connections to the rich and aristocratic, as if her talent had nothing to do with her success, as if she hadn't also faced the sexism and prejudice Adélaïde did, as if because she didn't have a super tragic life she was somehow less interesting than Labille. It's not accidental, read the Author's Note and you'll notice this bias isn't by accident. I'm so very disappointed that one can't write about a deserving woman without fake victimhood and without discrediting another woman in the same field that achieved more fame. I'd have thought we were over that already, but apparently this trope is still en vogue. I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

    Adélaïde Labille-Guiard strives to be an artist. However, in 18th century France with an unsupportive husband, that is a difficult task. Adélaïde takes care of the husband part by separating from him and taking instruction from François André Vincent at the Louvre. Already an accomplished pastelist, Adélaïde develops her painting skills and becomes one of the first women to show at Salons and be accepted to the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture. Adélaïde still struggled financially and Adélaïde Labille-Guiard strives to be an artist. However, in 18th century France with an unsupportive husband, that is a difficult task. Adélaïde takes care of the husband part by separating from him and taking instruction from François André Vincent at the Louvre. Already an accomplished pastelist, Adélaïde develops her painting skills and becomes one of the first women to show at Salons and be accepted to the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture. Adélaïde still struggled financially and decided to take up female students, furthering the acceptance of women as artists. Just when it seems that Adélaïde has been accepted into the higher ranks of artists with royal commissions, the Royal family falls from grace and the Revolution begins. Based on the real Adélaïde Labille-Guiard, The Portraitist brings to light the story of passion, struggle and talent in 18th century France. From the beginning of the story as Adélaïde separates from her husband and finds her way to gain instruction in painting, I could sense her fierce determination. The writing drew me into the world of the artists, the Salons and the disparities of pre-Revolutionary France. I was amazed at the strength Adélaïde had to forge through with her dreams, especially with her economic situation. I was equally interested in the other woman artist, Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun who was accepted in the artists world at the same time as Adélaïde and were seen as rivals. I do wonder what would have happened if they joined forces rather than competed. I was amazed at Adélaïde's creativity for finding funds by creating erotic art. It's too bad that this probably isn't true. The Revolution changed a lot for Adélaïde, it seems she was able to live her life more comfortably, but never regained her traction as an artist. Overall, an important story of an overlooked female artist. This story was received for free in return for an honest review. .

  3. 4 out of 5

    Shari Bull

    I received an advance copy of this book for review. I love fiction based in fact, books that educate as well as entertain - especially when enjoyment is the main criterion, as it is here. I couldn’t put ‘The Portraitist’ down for longer than it took me to google Adelaide Labille-Guiard and admire her self portrait, vividly described in the book and currently on display at The Metropolitan Museum in New York. If you enjoyed ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’ you will love ‘The Portraitist’, I did.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Carol (Reading Ladies)

    3.5 Stars Thanks @SheWritesPress for a complimentary e ARC of #ThePortraitist upon my request. All opinions are my own. In The Portraitist by Susanne Dunlap, Adélaïde is forced to make her way in a man’s profession and break barriers. Susanne Dunlap writes the highly imagined story of a real-life artist, Adélaïde Labille-Guiard and her career aspirations. It is the 1700s and Adélaïde does not enjoy a life of privilege. She is forced to find ways to fund her own training and acquire her own tools. 3.5 Stars Thanks @SheWritesPress for a complimentary e ARC of #ThePortraitist upon my request. All opinions are my own. In The Portraitist by Susanne Dunlap, Adélaïde is forced to make her way in a man’s profession and break barriers. Susanne Dunlap writes the highly imagined story of a real-life artist, Adélaïde Labille-Guiard and her career aspirations. It is the 1700s and Adélaïde does not enjoy a life of privilege. She is forced to find ways to fund her own training and acquire her own tools. Some of these ways are controversial for the times. To complicate her life, the affair she has with her young instructor causes some to speculate that he touches up her work. As she finally achieves success and earns a royal appointment, the fall of the Bastille in 1789 threatens her career. Despite many obstacles and setbacks, she persists. I enjoy a story about pursuing your passion and following your dreams as well as themes of determination and perseverance. This is an interesting story about a woman who is forced to make her way in a man’s profession and break barriers. It’s interesting to learn what Adélaïde contributes to art during her lifetime. She paints forward-facing women making direct eye contact with viewers. In addition, her necklines are a touch lower than what is traditional. One of her paintings includes a subtle message about allowing more women to become students. Not many women artists were given opportunities to learn under master teachers. So one painting shows two women students watching her instruction….a message that boldly promotes the idea of more women students. I love the daughter/father relationship in this story. Adélaïde’s father supports and promotes his daughter and her art in any way that he can. Although I love the histfic genre, I know that some readers prefer to read an actual biography. I don’t mind the made up diologue or the slight rearranging of events and a composite of characters to fit the storyline. However in her author notes, Susanne Dunlap admits to fabricating some of the events in Adélaïde’s life such as having her paint erotica (of the time) to support herself and being the victim of domestic abuse. The fabrications that Dunlap includes changes my reading experience and my impressions of Adélaïe. This causes me to wonder if these liberties taken by the author lead to a more feminist portrait of the artist than might have been factual. I can understand that many historical details of the artist’s life are not available; however, made up events cause me concern. Even though Adélaïde is not an especially likable character and some historical events are invented, This compelling story is recommended for readers who appreciate art and art history, for fans of self-made women of the 1700s, and for histfic fans. For more reviews visit my blog www.readingladies.com where this review was first published.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Margaret

    I had the distinct pleasure of serving as a beta reader for this novel, and even in its almost-finished form, I found it to be one of the most exquisite books I've read in my life thus far. Dunlap's ability to bring emotion to the page actually had me in tears and laughing in turn. As a student of art history (I have a BA in the subject), I relished the way art was brought into the story and became like a character in its own right. The political backdrop of the revolution fascinated me, but tha I had the distinct pleasure of serving as a beta reader for this novel, and even in its almost-finished form, I found it to be one of the most exquisite books I've read in my life thus far. Dunlap's ability to bring emotion to the page actually had me in tears and laughing in turn. As a student of art history (I have a BA in the subject), I relished the way art was brought into the story and became like a character in its own right. The political backdrop of the revolution fascinated me, but that isn't the novel's main focus. Rather, the story centers around one woman's quest for personal liberty and sovereignty through the medium of paintings. Dunlap brought an important artist to life in a tale that was gripping, heartfelt, and pure bliss to read. I will add to this review when the book has been published for a while. I don't want to spoil the story for anyone, but as a book coach and writer myself, I absolutely adored this story. The only thing I didn't care for was when it was over and I couldn't read it anymore (though I found the ending itself well-executed, that sublime balance of surprise and inevitability); I just missed being in Adelaide's company. I look forward to reading the final, published version when it's released later this year.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Fiona Forsyth

    For a reader, there is no greater satisfaction than encountering a fascinating hero living through a fascinating era, and this we find in The Portraitist. Adelaide is a woman of her time, but fighting to be ahead of her time, looking for ways in which she can challenge the assumptions of a man’s world. She fights expectations of marriage and respectability: she pushes at the limits imposed on her by her chosen profession of artist: and she endures the fear of the middle class in Paris at the end For a reader, there is no greater satisfaction than encountering a fascinating hero living through a fascinating era, and this we find in The Portraitist. Adelaide is a woman of her time, but fighting to be ahead of her time, looking for ways in which she can challenge the assumptions of a man’s world. She fights expectations of marriage and respectability: she pushes at the limits imposed on her by her chosen profession of artist: and she endures the fear of the middle class in Paris at the end of the 18th century. The challenge for an author in a book like this is to make the unknown known to the reader as gently and smoothly as possible and this Suzanne Dunlap achieves both in her passages describing Adelaide’s art and in her descriptions of the complex and fast-moving politics of the time. We move through the streets of Paris effortlessly, we go round an exhibition, we even get caught up in riots. The three major aspects of the novel – women’s rights, art, and the French Revolution – blend together in the person of the hero of the book, Adelaide. She is a fully-rounded character, and makes her own way in the world: a potential problem for a novelist, because a woman who challenges the status quo of her time is always going to be an unusual woman, and we risk the reader’s scepticism. In Susanne Dunlap’s hands though, Adelaide is believable, and a very satisfying character, to the point that I googled her and read more about her and her life. I can’t think of many greater compliments to the novelist’s skill!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Ashley

    This book is moving, gripping, interesting, and so much more. Whenever I picked up "The Portraitist: A Novel of Adélaïde Labille-Guiard", I was whisked back in time, and went on such an emotional journey with this story. Susanne Dunlap is such an amazing writer. She brings history to life in such a vivid and visceral, and, as the reader, I felt completely immersed in the story from the first page to the last. She paints each of her settings, and you can truly envision each and every one. Her writ This book is moving, gripping, interesting, and so much more. Whenever I picked up "The Portraitist: A Novel of Adélaïde Labille-Guiard", I was whisked back in time, and went on such an emotional journey with this story. Susanne Dunlap is such an amazing writer. She brings history to life in such a vivid and visceral, and, as the reader, I felt completely immersed in the story from the first page to the last. She paints each of her settings, and you can truly envision each and every one. Her writing is emotional and detailed as well. This book tells the story of Adélaïde Labille-Guiard, an extremely talented artist in the 18th century. I do not want to say too much about the plot due to spoilers, but, I will say, Adélaïde was a woman who fought for what she wanted, was incredibly determined, driven, and was ahead of her time in many ways. This book has so much in it: heartbreaking moments, art history, passion, and much, much more. If you enjoy historical fiction novels, I highly recommend this book! It kept me turning the pages chapter after chapter, and I look forward to reading what the author writes next. Thank you so much to Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours and Susanne Dunlap for the ARC of this book, it is incredible. All opinions expressed in this review are my own. Please Note: This book deals with some extremely heavy topics.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Nora

    This was so beautifully written, the words bore so many emotions and usually i don't really pick up on the underlying feels, but this time i did. it goes to show that Susanne Dunlap is amazing at what she does, because i read a book about a painter i had never heard of before, felt really connected to her and her struggles and somehow didn't get bored halfway. thank you netgalley for allowing me to read this. This was so beautifully written, the words bore so many emotions and usually i don't really pick up on the underlying feels, but this time i did. it goes to show that Susanne Dunlap is amazing at what she does, because i read a book about a painter i had never heard of before, felt really connected to her and her struggles and somehow didn't get bored halfway. thank you netgalley for allowing me to read this.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Mariama Thorlu-Bangura

    Suzanne Dunlap's "The Portraitist" is historical fiction at its finest. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, which presented the artistic life of Adelaide Labille-Guiard. The novel starts in the mid-1770s, just when American is beginning its journey to independence from England, getting help from France along the way. It continues on through the French Revolution, and ends with Napoleon being on the throne (he did eventually have himself crowned emperor). In this time frame, Dunlap gives the Suzanne Dunlap's "The Portraitist" is historical fiction at its finest. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, which presented the artistic life of Adelaide Labille-Guiard. The novel starts in the mid-1770s, just when American is beginning its journey to independence from England, getting help from France along the way. It continues on through the French Revolution, and ends with Napoleon being on the throne (he did eventually have himself crowned emperor). In this time frame, Dunlap gives the reader a window into the life of an artist who should be more well-known for her work, rather than just as the rival of Elisabeth Vigee, Madame Le Brun. Madame Guiard was a great artist in her own right, and Dunlap eloquently presents that through this book. She tackles the difficulty women of the time had at forging a career as an artist. Where Madame Le Brun was willing to play the patronage game, Madame Guiard felt fame should come from hard work. Eventually she ends up playing the game too, but it was clear it went against her principles. She also shows the impact that patriarchal rule had on women's lives...how little real power women had at the time. Finally, she gives the reader a view into the turmoil of the French Revolution, and how it literally remade French society politically and socially. The book ends with an interesting meeting between Adelaide and Elisabeth...one that leaves the reader with a different feeling than would be expected seeing the rivals meet. Dunlap does a wonderful thing by providing an afterword to fully explain her goal in writing the book, a goal I believe she met and exceeded. Fans of historical fiction, political history, and art history will find this book fascinating, as I did.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Anne Daignault

    What did I think? I thought The Portraitist: a Novel of Adelaide Labille-Guiard, by Susanne Dunlap was fantastic. A page turner, an historical journey, an art historians delight, a book with depth and great characters. Susanne Dunlap succeeds at the toughest task before a writer of historical fiction, which is to faithfully portray real characters while bringing them to life in a fictional story. The obstacles in the way of a woman artist have always been formidable, but the unique challenges fa What did I think? I thought The Portraitist: a Novel of Adelaide Labille-Guiard, by Susanne Dunlap was fantastic. A page turner, an historical journey, an art historians delight, a book with depth and great characters. Susanne Dunlap succeeds at the toughest task before a writer of historical fiction, which is to faithfully portray real characters while bringing them to life in a fictional story. The obstacles in the way of a woman artist have always been formidable, but the unique challenges facing Adelaide Labille-Guiard in the years before and during the French Revolution were almost insurmountable, the makings of a good story which Dunlap makes great. As an art historian, I especially appreciated the faithful descriptions of art in its place: small pastels held in her hand, paintings in progress at her studio, the portrait as its model emerged on canvas, and the placement of finished work in galleries side by side with its competitors. As a reader of a good story, I will return to enjoy it and other books by Susanne Dunlap.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Pat

    So eloquently written.. I had not heard of Adelaide Labille Guiard : but having read this book , I am truly fascinated by her. I honestly felt like while reading her story I was also walking along side her....She really was inspiring. She proved that you need to stay true to yourself, even in a time when it was not heard of for women. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I look forward to mire books by Susanne Dunlap - hoping they are along this same line. This is a must read - you will not be disapp So eloquently written.. I had not heard of Adelaide Labille Guiard : but having read this book , I am truly fascinated by her. I honestly felt like while reading her story I was also walking along side her....She really was inspiring. She proved that you need to stay true to yourself, even in a time when it was not heard of for women. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I look forward to mire books by Susanne Dunlap - hoping they are along this same line. This is a must read - you will not be disappointed!!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jeanette

    I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. Many thanks to Netgalley and the Publishers for this opportunity. Author Susanne Dunlap has written a fabulous account of the life, struggles and creative talent of the female artist Adélaïde Labille-Guiard. The book is colourful and passionate and one that was a great joy to read, in particular as an artist of many years myself and having had the opportunity of seeing paintings by Adélaïde as w I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. Many thanks to Netgalley and the Publishers for this opportunity. Author Susanne Dunlap has written a fabulous account of the life, struggles and creative talent of the female artist Adélaïde Labille-Guiard. The book is colourful and passionate and one that was a great joy to read, in particular as an artist of many years myself and having had the opportunity of seeing paintings by Adélaïde as well as paintings from her rival, Louise-Elisabeth Vigée-Le-Brun at the Louvre. Unlike Elisabeth (Louise-Elisabeth) who was beautiful as well as talented, Adélaïde didn't have that pretty demure that would give a favourable first impression and she considered herself plain and to add to her struggle she was in a loveless marriage. Nicolas, her husband did not appreciate her talent and during a fierce argument he became violent. This episode gives Adélaïde the opportunity she needs to be rid of him to pursue her love of painting. Her father was never a fan of Nicolas and takes her back into his household. She applies for a separation, her divorce follows sometime later. From here on she is in the grip of her ambition but there are many obstacles that she needs to overcome, supporting herself financially is one of the main ones. Taking rooms as a studio to have for students is one way but this doesn't bring her enough money to buy her canvases, paints and brushes, in particular those needed for her to pursue her ambition to paint in oils. Unlike Elisabeth who is admired by many and is a key portraitist for Marie Antoinette and other important royals, Adélaïde finds herself having to continue her small erotica pastels that she sells to her dealer unsigned. Having to resort to this type of artwork holds a terrible risk for her, firstly if Nicolas purchased one, would he recognise her style and also that it might blight her further ambitions for obtaining a royal commission if her name came to light as "le pastelier érotique". Adélaïde had already exhibited her paintings through the Académie de Saint-Luc but this was closed due to the influence of the Royal Academy. Now she must strive to be admitted to the Royal Academy. She takes classes in oil painting with François-Andre Vincent (Andre) as she knows that her real future is in this medium. He recognises her talent, ambition, knowledge and looks at her in a manner that she has never experienced with a magnetic attraction to each other developing but Adélaïde is aware of her predicament that could jeopardize all that she wants if Nicolas was to come be aware of any love liaisons. Eventually a royal commission comes her way but it's to lesser royals and she grudgingly accepts that it is unlikely that she will be in the same limelight as her rival, Elisabeth. There is no doubt that she is jealous of Elisabeth, her contacts, the large fees that come her way as well as being married and a mother. It seems her rival has so much while she struggles. This aspect of her life is her one weakness, obsessed with her rival. However, as time moves on and the Reign of Terror grips France, Elisabeth flees the country while Adélaïde is able to stay in France. She loses out financially with her lesser royals also fleeing France and not honouring fees due to her. However, Adélaïde has a much more contented life than Elisabeth after France recovers from its turmoil.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Arista

    At A Glance historical fiction adventurous emotional Informative inspiring Rating ⭐⭐⭐⭐ About 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- At A Glance historical fiction adventurous emotional Informative inspiring Rating ⭐⭐⭐⭐ About 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. Review Thank you to @netgalley for allowing me the opportunity to receive this advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review. This was a completely different book than I generally pick up to read - but I am really glad I went for it! The Portraitist was a wonderfully fictionalized story of Adélaïde Labille-Guiard’s life and experiences as a young female artist during a time when females were meant to be in the shadows. While this is, at its core, a fictionalized biography of Adélaïde Labille-Guiard, it definitely does not read like that. It's filled to the brim with an exciting, adventurous and captivating story. I absolutely love that Adélaïde's story has been kept alive for generations to come through this book! Adélaïde is a fierce main character in her story and I am immensely proud of her and all the effort she put forth to become this amazing artist that we're still talking about three centuries later. I didn't study art in school, so I don’t know if Adélaïde Labille-Guiard is part of the curriculum, but she should be! Young artists, especially females, could not help but be inspired and energized to develop their own skills and tenacity as they learn about Adélaïde. The next time someone asks me, "If you could sit down with someone for an hour, alive or dead, who would you pick?" I will definitely be adding Adélaïde to the top of that list thanks to Susanne Dunlap's amazing novel! The Portraitist comes out at the end of the month (08/30) and you absolutely need to get your hands on a copy!

  14. 4 out of 5

    HalKid2

    Please NOTE: I received early access to this manuscript in exchange for working an impartial review. Thank you NetGalley and She Writes Press. Publication: August 30, 2022. THE PORTRAITIST: A NOVEL OF ADELAIDE LABILLE-GUIARD is an historical novel recounting the life of a little-known but talented French artist who, because she is a woman, struggles all her life to gain the kind of opportunities and recognition male artists at the time received. As the author explains in the Afterword, not much h Please NOTE: I received early access to this manuscript in exchange for working an impartial review. Thank you NetGalley and She Writes Press. Publication: August 30, 2022. THE PORTRAITIST: A NOVEL OF ADELAIDE LABILLE-GUIARD is an historical novel recounting the life of a little-known but talented French artist who, because she is a woman, struggles all her life to gain the kind of opportunities and recognition male artists at the time received. As the author explains in the Afterword, not much has been written about this woman which allowed Susanne Dunlap some leeway, for example, to add more substance to a supposed rivalry between Adélaïde and another more famous woman painter of the time, Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun (1755-1842). Though we so often think of French society as one that has always honored arts of all kinds, the truth is that they, like most others, have only done so through the lens of patriarchy. Chauvinism played a major role in the challenges of her personal life as well, but it was learning about the life of a female artist at this time that was fascinating to me. Adélaïde, though artistically gifted from childhood, is unable to access the kind of training readily available to men. Nor, as she ages, is she able to recruit the same calibre of students who study with men. She isn't paid as much as a male teachers. Her commissioned art don’t command as high a price as her male contemporaries. Nor is she eligible for the kind of government subsidies available to artists like Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825). Instead Adélaïde must rely on her own formidable determination to secure an important mentor in the artist François-André Vincent (1746-1816) and to attract the notice of prominent patrons. Enough so that eventually she is one of the few women admitted to the elite Académie Royale. Adélaïde (1749-1803) also lived through interesting times and her story cannot be separated from the unfolding of the French Revolution, and it’s life-changing effects on all levels of French society, including the art world. Historical events force artists relying on patronage for their survival to shift allegiances first from powerful nobles in the court of King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, then to the men who rule during the Reign of Terror, and then again after these leaders too are executed. It’s Adélaïde's success, DESPITE all the obstacles, that held my interest. That, and my own admiration for her art. There are a few places where I thought the pace of the novel slowed and a few significant jumps in time toward the end that felt jarring, like I'd missed something. But overall, highly recommended!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    The Portraitist follows Adelaide, a young woman striving for artistic recognition in Paris in the years leading up to the French Revolution. Escaping from an abusive husband who does not understand her art, Adelaide must make difficult decisions in order to feed herself and afford the supplies to carry on her work. Already skilled with pastels, Adelaide begins to take classes in oil painting from Andre Vincent, starting a partnership that will last for the rest of her life. As Adelaide attempts The Portraitist follows Adelaide, a young woman striving for artistic recognition in Paris in the years leading up to the French Revolution. Escaping from an abusive husband who does not understand her art, Adelaide must make difficult decisions in order to feed herself and afford the supplies to carry on her work. Already skilled with pastels, Adelaide begins to take classes in oil painting from Andre Vincent, starting a partnership that will last for the rest of her life. As Adelaide attempts to get recognition from the Academie, her relationship with Andre becomes a cause for concern, as many believe that Andre has helped her or even painted her works himself. Through the years, Adelaide builds treasured relationships with her own students, but political tensions increase with the coming of the French Revolution, and Adelaide must adapt if she wants to survive. Based on the life of a real woman, The Portraitist is another example of the many recent historical novels that focus on women's history. I've read two other historical novels about female artists recently - one set in regency England, the other in the 1920s and 1930s in New York. Women artists struggled for legitimacy for so many years, and even into the 20th century their work was being questioned and devalued. The Portraitist shows Adelaide's struggles to have her legitimacy recognized in a men's world, sometimes resorting to morally questionable methods in order to survive. She nurtures other female artists in the students she teaches, several of whom she forges long-lasting relationships with. The book is framed by Adelaide's rivalry with Elisabeth Vigee Le Brun, who gets the Academie recognition and royal appointment that Adelaide so desires, seemingly without any struggle. Adelaide's life seemed to be a series of struggles that culminated in the French Revolution. Knowing what was coming, I felt bad for her when things started looking up, because I knew at any moment all she'd built might come crashing down. While the ending wasn't exactly happy, I do think it did a very good job of wrapping up the book, and I was satisfied. This book is full of hope and hard work and tragedy, but at the end, it still remains inspirational. The only downside for me was the author summarized a lot of Adelaide's life without the reader actually getting to see it happening on the page. That being said, none of the scenes that were included in full felt superfluous, so I suppose it was a matter of what the author wanted to focus on. Thanks to NetGalley for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Heather Thorup

    Thank you to Netgalley for the ARC. "...that it was our place as artists to bear witness to the moment, pouring every bit of ourselves into that one endeavor." 18th century Paris, we enter the world of artists. Adelaie Labille-Guiard is working hard to prove herself not only as an artist but a successful woman artist. She's very talented in pastels but enlists a tutor to teach her oils. After several years her tutor becomes her lover. Her skill has grown with her hard work and she is finally ac Thank you to Netgalley for the ARC. "...that it was our place as artists to bear witness to the moment, pouring every bit of ourselves into that one endeavor." 18th century Paris, we enter the world of artists. Adelaie Labille-Guiard is working hard to prove herself not only as an artist but a successful woman artist. She's very talented in pastels but enlists a tutor to teach her oils. After several years her tutor becomes her lover. Her skill has grown with her hard work and she is finally accepted into the elite Academie Royale the same year as her rival, Elizabeth le Brun. In 1789, Adelaide finally receives her first Royal Commission. It's a massive undertaking that will cost her an incredible amount of money to complete. Artists weren't paid up front for their work. She was constantly trying to stay ahead of her bills while teaching her students and working on her own commissions. This commission is from a member of the Royal family and would be her triumph. But it was not to be as politics raged, people starved and her work as an artist was pushed aside. The fall of the Bastille and the Revolution spread across her beloved Paris. No longer feeling safe, she leaves with her lover and closest students. She is forced to bear witness to many paintings being destroyed, including her own. The happenings in Paris with the deposed and massacred monarchy is sort of brushed over in favor of covering and following Adelaide. I didn't mind because I've read several books on the subject. If a reader wasn't as well informed, this might bother them while reading the book. The book ends with her passing away, with Napoleon ruling in Paris and art once again coming alive. I liked getting to know a lesser known woman artist. I enjoyed learning more about the art process and the struggle women especially had to succeed and prove themselves. While Adelaide struggled almost her entire career, her rival had had royal connections, salons and other opportunities that she didn't. Adelaide was like the underdog. I was cheering for her art to be noticed. This book was entertaining and a quick read. 4 stars.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Dorothy Schwab

    In The Portraitist Susanne Dunlap explores the sumptuous world of art in Paris in the 18th century during the tumultuous years leading to the French Revolution. Readers are introduced to the current social and political issues through struggling female artist, Adélaïde Labille-Guitard, and her rival Vigée Le Brun, well known for her royal connections and commissioned portraits. Dunlap’s impeccable research shines a light on the historical backdrop of the storming of the Bastille and the world of In The Portraitist Susanne Dunlap explores the sumptuous world of art in Paris in the 18th century during the tumultuous years leading to the French Revolution. Readers are introduced to the current social and political issues through struggling female artist, Adélaïde Labille-Guitard, and her rival Vigée Le Brun, well known for her royal connections and commissioned portraits. Dunlap’s impeccable research shines a light on the historical backdrop of the storming of the Bastille and the world of the Royalists and the Jacobins. The sounds of angry chants, loud drumming, and marching feet keep readers seeking an end to the bloodshed as the Revolution comes alive on the pages. Dunlap weaves the details of the artists’ lives and attempts at reform of women’s acceptance in the Académie Royale with studios at the Louvre and the palace of Versailles. Marie Antoinette, the Guillotine, the Marquis de Lafayette, and Robespierre add to the suspenseful political intrigue. The spicy details of Adélaïde’s desperate, dangerous solution to earning money, decisions she makes to survive and ideals she’s willing to fight for, make her a character that women will connect with emotionally and socially. The pressures of women in the 18th century are not so unlike those women face today. The Portraitist is filled with luscious period details, the French Revolution and Adélaïde’s attention to advancing women in the arts while seeking equal rights in the Académie Royale. Truly a French masterpiece. C’est très magnifique!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kate Eminhizer

    In this most recent release Dunlap brings to light the oft overlooked 18th century French female artist Adelaide Labuille-Guiard. At a time when women were expected to accept their husband's word as law and not argue with any demands put upon them, Adelaide sought a divorce. At a time when women weren't supposed to do anything more than be a wife and a mother, Adelaide sought a career as an artist. At a time when women weren't encouraged to engage in work outside of the home, Adelaide fought to In this most recent release Dunlap brings to light the oft overlooked 18th century French female artist Adelaide Labuille-Guiard. At a time when women were expected to accept their husband's word as law and not argue with any demands put upon them, Adelaide sought a divorce. At a time when women weren't supposed to do anything more than be a wife and a mother, Adelaide sought a career as an artist. At a time when women weren't encouraged to engage in work outside of the home, Adelaide fought to open her own studio to teach fellow female artists. Adelaide did not have the benefit of family status to secure her place in society like other artists. She had to use any advantage she gained access to, her wits, and her talent to surge her way forward. Susanne Dunlap has become a go-to author for me. She chooses fascinating people/places/events to explore and hasn't fallen into the security of consistently writing about the same topics. Her style of writing is timeless as it is both easy to read and contains vivid descriptions about her characters and locations. Dunlap seems to have found the perfect balance with adding just the right amount of fact and fiction to her books. In The Portraitist she didn't seek out to provide a comprehensive biography about Adelaide. Instead Dunlap created a well crafted tale that highlighted one woman's triumph over adversity. Many thanks to the author and She Writes Press for a copy of this book.

  19. 4 out of 5

    The Page Ladies

    Book Review…The Portraitist: A Novel of Adelaide Labille-Guiard by Susanne Dunlap I love reading books that are both entertaining and filled with historical facts and The Portraitist was both and more! Based on the true story of Adélaïe Labille Guiard's fight to take her rightful place in the competitive art world of eighteenth-century Paris. But Adélaïde faces an uphill battle. Her love affair with her young instructor gives rise to suspicions that he touches up her work, and her decision to mak Book Review…The Portraitist: A Novel of Adelaide Labille-Guiard by Susanne Dunlap I love reading books that are both entertaining and filled with historical facts and The Portraitist was both and more! Based on the true story of Adélaïe Labille Guiard's fight to take her rightful place in the competitive art world of eighteenth-century Paris. But Adélaïde faces an uphill battle. Her love affair with her young instructor gives rise to suspicions that he touches up her work, and her decision to make much-needed money by executing erotic pastels. Meanwhile, her rival goes from strength to strength, becoming Marie Antoinette's official portraitist. When at last Adélaïde earns her own royal appointment the timing couldn't be worse: it's 1789, and with the fall of the Bastille. With danger around every corner in her beloved Paris, she must find a way to carve out a life and a career all over again. This was a beautifully written story full of emotions, depth and wonderful characters! I had never heard of Adélaïde Labille Guiard before but the strength and determination to follow her dreams was inspiring. I especially liked that her father did everything he could to support her. She didn't have it easy but it always helps when you have the support of someone you love. It's a wonderful story with writing that transports the readers right into the artist's life! Thank you Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for sharing this book with me!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Vicki Kondelik

    In The Portraitist, Susanne Dunlap tells the compelling story of a real-life artist, Adélaïde Labille-Guiard, in 18th century France. Adélaïde longs to be recognized as a portraitist, with a royal appointment, but she faces many obstacles. Her husband disparages her art and beats her when he finds out she's exhibited some of her paintings at the Académie de Saint-Luc. At the same exhibition, she realizes she has a rival, Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun, who has better connections and has received more f In The Portraitist, Susanne Dunlap tells the compelling story of a real-life artist, Adélaïde Labille-Guiard, in 18th century France. Adélaïde longs to be recognized as a portraitist, with a royal appointment, but she faces many obstacles. Her husband disparages her art and beats her when he finds out she's exhibited some of her paintings at the Académie de Saint-Luc. At the same exhibition, she realizes she has a rival, Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun, who has better connections and has received more formal training. Vigée Le Brun becomes the official portraitist to Marie Antoinette, while Adélaïde fails to gain a royal appointment. Adélaïde escapes her marriage by returning to her father's house and being granted a legal separation, which was the only recourse she had, since divorce was not possible before the French Revolution. She decides to seek training in oil painting, which at the time was considered a more prestigious medium than the watercolors and pastels which she has already mastered. Adélaïde falls in love with the young artist, André Vincent, who teaches her to paint in oils. At first the two of them keep their affair a secret, but word gets out, and there are rumors that André really painted Adélaïde's paintings. A slanderous pamphlet appears, accusing her of being sexually promiscuous, and Adélaïde suspects that her estranged husband is behind it, even though she is never able to prove it. Eventually, Adélaïde gains admission to the prestigious Académie Royale, even though she is frustrated with their rigid rules. Only four women at a time are allowed to be members of the Académie. One of them, of course, is Adélaïde's rival, Vigée Le Brun. Many male artists don't want any women to be admitted to the Académie at all. In spite of this success, Adélaïde still does not receive enough commissions. She begins to teach female students, and I think one of the great strengths of the novel is the depiction of Adélaïde's teaching. Her students, particularly three of them, become important characters: Marguerite, a young aristocrat in poor health, Gabrielle, a woman of the people, who becomes an adopted daughter to Adélaïde, and Victoire, who joins the studio later and also becomes almost like a daughter. Adélaïde, however, does not earn enough money by teaching and the commissions she receives, and she makes a decision that haunts her the rest of her life. In order to earn the much-needed income, she turns to drawing erotic pastels, first of one of her students, then of herself. She sells them anonymously, but she always feels guilty about it, and is afraid that her secret will be revealed and ruin her reputation. Eventually, Adélaïde gains a royal appointment, but not the one she wanted: she becomes the portraitist to Louis XVI's elderly aunts, who don't even live at Versailles. This leads to a much more prestigious commission, from the king's brother, the Comte de Provence (the future Louis XVIII). He commissions her to paint an enormous group portrait, with himself at the center. This is everything Adélaïde dreamed of, but it comes at precisely the wrong time. By now it is 1789, and the French Revolution turns Adélaïde's world into chaos. At first Adélaïde welcomes the changes the Revolution brings, although she is horrified by the violence she witnesses, and she is afraid she will not be able to complete the Comte de Provence's commission and receive the money he promised. Divorce becomes possible, so she can be free of her husband and marry André, even though this does not actually happen until many years later. The Salon becomes open to all artists, male and female, not just members of the Académie. But it is an uneasy balance. Because she is known to be close to some of the members of the royal family, she becomes suspect in the eyes of the revolutionaries. Her connection to the royal family is more distant than that of her rival Vigée Le Brun, who leaves France early in the Revolution, but still, Adélaïde must be careful. To prove her loyalty to the Revolution, she paints portraits of various members of the National Assembly, including Robespierre. As the Revolution becomes increasingly radical and violent, Adélaïde feels less and less safe in Paris. She also has an enemy in Jacques-Louis David, the leading painter of the Revolution, who despises her as a female artist, probably even more so because he recognizes her talent and thinks only male artists should be so talented. She must learn to survive in this new world, even if it means leaving her beloved Paris. Susanne Dunlap makes Adélaïde's world come to life, and introduces the reader to an amazing woman and gifted artist. I love the way Dunlap goes into loving detail on how Adélaïde creates her paintings, including how she prepares her canvases. I felt like I was in the studio with her. We learn much, all of it fascinating, about the art world of 18th century France, and how some types of art were considered more prestigious than others, and suitable only to men, and how female artists, no matter how talented they were, had to struggle to gain a reputation. Male artists, including Adélaïde's lover André Vincent, were given rooms in the Louvre for free, while women, even members of the Académie, were not allowed to have them. Vigée Le Brun, of course, had certain privileges Adélaïde did not enjoy, because of her position as portraitist to the queen. I loved reading about their rivalry in Dunlap's novel. I have always admired Vigée Le Brun's paintings, and I saw a wonderful exhibition of them at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 2016, an exhibition Dunlap mentions in her author's note. But I knew nothing of Adélaïde Labille-Guiard until I read this novel. I am sure I have seen her self portrait with two of her students, also at the Metropolitan Museum, but I admit I did not remember the name of the artist. Dunlap tells this forgotten artist's fascinating story, and makes the reader care about her. The book made me want to see more of Adélaïde's art. I hope that, because of this novel, Adélaïde Labille-Guiard will become much better known. I highly recommend the book to anyone who likes to read about artists or the French Revolution, or to anyone who enjoys well-written historical fiction.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Chelsie

    This was another great historical read by Susanne. This novel follows Adélaïde Labille-Guiard, a woman who did not live her life as she was expected to as a female in the 1700's. This was a time when women were property of men and you did not go against your husbands wishes, commands or beliefs but Adélaïde as not one to live under a mans thumb. Having found her love of the arts, she was determined to continue painting and making something of herself. She never wanted to rely on a man but this d This was another great historical read by Susanne. This novel follows Adélaïde Labille-Guiard, a woman who did not live her life as she was expected to as a female in the 1700's. This was a time when women were property of men and you did not go against your husbands wishes, commands or beliefs but Adélaïde as not one to live under a mans thumb. Having found her love of the arts, she was determined to continue painting and making something of herself. She never wanted to rely on a man but this did not sit well with her husband. With the help of her father, Adélaïde was able to become her own person and had to prove herself every step of the way, and no matter how hard she worked there was always the fear that all it would take was one rumor to bring down everything she worked for. During the time of the fall of Bastille and the revolution, Adélaïde saw many works of art go up in flames and knew she had then lost what she had worked to achieve as well as the funds she had been counting on to live but she knew this was just another event in her life that she would have to overcome like everything else. This woman as really interesting to read about and all she had to fight against during this time. I really enjoyed learning about her, other artists and the revolution during this time. Thank you to the author for the free novel!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Patricia Lane

    I was lucky enough to receive an advanced copy of this book and if you are a fan of historical fiction, art, or just a compelling read, I can’t recommend it highly enough! Adelaide Labille-Guiard was a real artist but relatively little is known about her life. Weaving historical events, real people, and fictional characters together, Dunlap masterfully transports you to the time just before, during, and after the French Revolution, from a middle-class female perspective. You are right there with I was lucky enough to receive an advanced copy of this book and if you are a fan of historical fiction, art, or just a compelling read, I can’t recommend it highly enough! Adelaide Labille-Guiard was a real artist but relatively little is known about her life. Weaving historical events, real people, and fictional characters together, Dunlap masterfully transports you to the time just before, during, and after the French Revolution, from a middle-class female perspective. You are right there with Adelaide as she struggles to establish herself as an artist in her own right, searching for ways to fund her art-making from taking in students to other more clandestine means. Fully realized ancillary characters like her nefarious not-quite-ex-husband; rival painter Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun; her teacher/lover painter Andre Vincent; and her star student Gabrielle, pull you into Adelaide’s intimate circle. You feel her triumph when she finally lands a commission from the aunts of the king and then panic with her as the revolution comes and she is caught between her palace connections and her working-class origins. I also enjoyed the feminist viewpoint as applied to the prominent male artists of the day; how some gave lip service to including women but wanted their participation in the Academy limited to a certain number; and how Jacque-Louis David (a painter I confess I’ve never liked) threw everyone under the carriage, as it were, when the revolution came along, to save his own prestige. This book is set to be published on August 30, 2022, from She Writes Press and is available for pre-order. I urge you to do so, you won’t be disappointed!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Cheyene Van Dinter

    The Portraitist is a historical fiction about a real historical figure. Although not all aspects represented in the final product really happened, or we don't know for sure, it is still exciting. The book follows an artist named Adelaide in Paris starting around 1770s. We follow many major events throughout her life, like going through a marriage separation, getting commissions for portraits, and teaching students. While reading most of this book, I thought many aspects were on the back burner wh The Portraitist is a historical fiction about a real historical figure. Although not all aspects represented in the final product really happened, or we don't know for sure, it is still exciting. The book follows an artist named Adelaide in Paris starting around 1770s. We follow many major events throughout her life, like going through a marriage separation, getting commissions for portraits, and teaching students. While reading most of this book, I thought many aspects were on the back burner when it was getting written, which makes this book just good and not great. It appears that one major aspect of the book is a rival artist living at the same time as Adelaide. Every time the rival was mentioned, I felt like I was missing the main point on why we fully hate her from the very beginning. It felt that many points throughout the story just appeared out of no where with no build up to get you to that point. Since this story was more about major moments, and not every little aspect, I do understand that some points don't need as much information. Still, I couldn't help feeling that many aspects of the story felt incomplete when looking at it as a whole. The mini storylines were added into the overall plot without giving us the proper information on how we got there. This is a good read and I would recommend.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    The Portraitist: A Novel of Adelaide Labille-Guiard by Susanne Dunlap is a stunning historical fiction that sheds light on a true artist amd a woman that lived before her time. I absolutely loved going on thus journey to learn about this true artist Adélaïe Labille-Guiard’s life, love, work, and journey in 18th century Paris. Sadly, I had not heard of her before picking up this book. I am so glad the author has written such a wonderful, raw, real, and informative at the same time. The author’s pa The Portraitist: A Novel of Adelaide Labille-Guiard by Susanne Dunlap is a stunning historical fiction that sheds light on a true artist amd a woman that lived before her time. I absolutely loved going on thus journey to learn about this true artist Adélaïe Labille-Guiard’s life, love, work, and journey in 18th century Paris. Sadly, I had not heard of her before picking up this book. I am so glad the author has written such a wonderful, raw, real, and informative at the same time. The author’s passion and research were evident in this richly depicted and expertly drawn narrative of a woman that was truly talented, and truly a woman that lived well before the era that would have given her much more than a moment to truly shine. 5/5 stars Thank you NG and Books Go Social/She Writes Press for this wonderful arc and in return I am submitting my unbiased and voluntary review and opinion. I am posting this review to my GR and Bookbub accounts immediately and will post it to my Amazon, Instagram, and B&N accounts upon publication on 8/30/22.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Natalia Weissfeld

    -ARC provided by Publisher in exchange for honest review- This book is a magical journey. It is about the Adelaide Labille-Guiard, a not-that-famous royal portraitist during the French Revolution, and her lifelong rivalry with Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, Marie Antoinette's s favorite painter. Since she was very young Adelaide showed a passionate interest in art and painting. She dedicated her life and her efforts to ensuring that the talent of women is considered as valuable as that of men in the aca -ARC provided by Publisher in exchange for honest review- This book is a magical journey. It is about the Adelaide Labille-Guiard, a not-that-famous royal portraitist during the French Revolution, and her lifelong rivalry with Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, Marie Antoinette's s favorite painter. Since she was very young Adelaide showed a passionate interest in art and painting. She dedicated her life and her efforts to ensuring that the talent of women is considered as valuable as that of men in the academic spheres of pre- and post-revolutionary France. The book is not only well documented in the historical facts but is also beautifully written and it shows a vast knowledge, great respect, and admiration for Adelaide and her work. I found particularly interesting the passages in the book dedicated to her life once the revolution broke out and how he managed to escape the violence unleashed against those considered enemies of the Republic due to their ties to the monarchy, and how she feels torn between the need to complete the jobs she was committed to doing and her deep conviction of the need for change. The novel is a beautiful piece of historical fiction and I would highly recommend it.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Iphigenia

    This is historical fiction at its absolute best. It is beautifully-written, extensively-researched, and about a real-life but little-known artist named Adélaïde Labille-Guiard. This novel tells the story of Adélaïde before, during and after the French Revolution. Despite great talent, she struggles to develop herself as a successful artist in a male-dominated profession where opportunities are handed out easily to men but parceled out parsimoniously to women. I loved how Adélaïde was so strong, This is historical fiction at its absolute best. It is beautifully-written, extensively-researched, and about a real-life but little-known artist named Adélaïde Labille-Guiard. This novel tells the story of Adélaïde before, during and after the French Revolution. Despite great talent, she struggles to develop herself as a successful artist in a male-dominated profession where opportunities are handed out easily to men but parceled out parsimoniously to women. I loved how Adélaïde was so strong, not only in persevering in her pursuit of a professional art career, but also in leaving her rotten husband. Divorce was not a possibility until after the French Revolution, so she went back home to live with her father and eventually found love with another man. She was also a champion of helping other women artists, becoming a teacher and mentor. When the Bastille falls, she has just gained a royal commission and her ties to the royal family place her in great jeopardy. She bravely must balance a fine line between continuing her career and avoiding the ire of the revolutionaries. I loved this novel. A rare five stars from me!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Janilyn Kocher

    An intriguing story about a French female artist who struggled for recognition against the background of the waning days of Louis XVI’s court. I’m not an art person, but I enjoyed the historical details of the book. I liked how the artist posited the story and all the characters included. Most of the book occurs pre Revolution and I liked that. It’s a good contribution to historical fiction. Thanks to She Writes Press and NetGalley for the early read.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Nita

    This book is so rich with history! And the writing is so superb! Absolutely recommend! If you like strong woman, this is a must read! If you like art and true stories and 1800 history of France then read this book!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Veronica Marshall

    The Portraitist by Susanne Dunlap was an enchanting read about an artist I never really knew. I knew all about Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun being an artist and taking art history courses but not really about Adelaide Labille-Guiard. To see the historical points of view of the life of an artist and a woman trying to be famous and competing against Elisabeth vigee Le Brun is insane. Also having to deal with the politics of the art world monarchy it taking place in France and right around the revolution. The Portraitist by Susanne Dunlap was an enchanting read about an artist I never really knew. I knew all about Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun being an artist and taking art history courses but not really about Adelaide Labille-Guiard. To see the historical points of view of the life of an artist and a woman trying to be famous and competing against Elisabeth vigee Le Brun is insane. Also having to deal with the politics of the art world monarchy it taking place in France and right around the revolution. I highly recommend this book because this artist needs to be known and it really gives you a feeling of the different perspectives to be a women artist in france around the time of the revolution. The writing in strong and the research is immense I highly reccomend this book to be read. This Arc was given to me by netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Don't forget to check it out august 30 2022. Also in real life apparently this work is at the Ghetty.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Caroline Palmer

    A wonderful look at a woman artist’s life in the 18th century, and more interesting than a novel of Elisabeth Vigee Le Brun would have been. Adelaide Labille-Guiard was a real woman who struggled, loved, and lived, and this story brings her back to life.

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