January 25 1761 - May 18 1837
Jean-Honoré Fragonard, Portrait of Marguerite Gérard, unknown date. Wash drawing on paper. 5 x 5 inches (13 x 13 cm). Musée du Louvre, D.A.G, Paris, France. (c) Photo RMN/Michèle Bellot
Place of Birth:
Drawings and prints, Painting
Etcher, Illustrator, Miniaturist, Oil Painter, Painter, Portraitist, Printmaker
Although she also produced oil portraits, portrait miniatures, and etchings, Marguerite Gérard is best known for her intimate domestic genre scenes. In the hierarchy of subject types in eighteenth-century France, such paintings ranked higher than portraits or still lifes but considerably lower than history paintings. Yet Gérard, who was something of a rebel (she never married and apparently never demonstrated any interest in joining the Academy), was tremendously successful in her career, which lasted more than forty years. Gérard 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 such luminaries as Napoleon and King Louis XVII; she also acquired considerable wealth and real estate.
Gérard was born in the Provençal town of Grasse. Her interest in art was shaped by her brother-in-law the popular Rococo painter Jean-Honoré Fragonard, beginning in 1775, when she moved 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-twenties, Gérard had developed her signature style, which featured painstakingly accurate details rendered with subtly blended brush strokes, both traits borrowed from seventeenth-century Dutch genre specialists, notably Gabriel Metsu. Gérard’s work is not only technically impressive but also practical: these relatively small-scale, portable canvases were designed to appeal to wealthy collectors who preferred to display in their homes meticulously painted still lifes and genre scenes rather than large history paintings. The numerous engraved versions of Gérard’s paintings made them accessible to less affluent art lovers and helped increase her reputation.
sister of Marie-Anne Gérard
sister of and collaborated with Henri Gérard
sister-in-law, student of and collaborated with Jean Honoré Fragonard
collaborated with Nicolas de Launay
Médaille de Première Classe, Le Salon, Académie des Beaux-Arts, Paris, France (1806)
Prix d'Encouragement, Le Salon, Académie des Beaux-Arts, Paris, France (1801)