Marie-Guillemine Benoist 1768-1826 | French Neoclassical painter
Marie Guillemine Benoist was born in Paris. Her training as an artist began in 1781 under Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, and she entered Jacques-Louis David's atelier in 1786 along with her sister Marie-Élisabeth Laville-Leroux. The poet Charles-Albert Demoustier, who met her in 1784, was inspired by her in creating the character Émile in his work Lettres à Émilie sur la mythologie (1801). In 1791 she exhibited for the first time in the Salon de Paris, displaying her mythology-inspired picture Psyché faisant ses adieux à sa famille. Another of her paintings of this period, L'Innocence entre la vertu et le vice, is similarly mythological and reveals her feminist interests, vice is represented by a man, although it was traditionally represented by a woman. In 1800, she exhibited Portrait d'une négresse in the Salon. Six years previously, slavery had been abolished, and this image became a symbol for women's emancipation and black people's rights. This picture was acquired by Louis XVIII for France in 1818.