Although only one signed work survives of the talented artist Marie-Geneviève Navarre, her ability to create compelling pastel portraits earned her recognition among some of the most esteemed pastelists of the eighteenth century.
Born in Paris in 1737, Navarre worked in oils and pastel, and in order to earn a living, created miniature portraits for sale. Devoted to her work, her brief marriage ended in legal separation in 1779 and produced no children.
Pastel portraiture was made fashionable in France by Rosalba Carriera, a Venetian artist that created society portraits for the Paris elite in 1720 and 1721. Marie-Geneviève Navarre studied pastel portraiture under Maurice Quentin de la Tour. As a female artist under male instruction, Navarre’s work was praised for its excellence and for having been executed entirely without help. She also worked as a copyist, studying existing works of art and creating replicas. Navarre exhibited her work at the Hotel d’Aligre in the Rue St. Honoré in 1762 and 1764 and in 1774 at the Salon de la Correspondence with another student of la Tour, Adélaïde Labille-Guiard.
Although both her paintings and drawings were accepted to the Académie de Saint-Luc, Navarre’s skill with pastel was considered superior to her skill with oils and was highly praised. The Académie de Saint-Luc offered artists, including those rejected from the Académie Royale, an opportunity to exhibit their work. Because women artists were seldom represented in the Académie Royale, they often sought acceptance in the Académie de Saint-Luc, whose membership of 4,500 artists included 130 women. It was in this Académie that Navarre exhibited her work in 1762, 1764, and 1774.
Navarre died in Paris in 1795. Her skill as a pastel portraitist is widely appreciated for the level of realism and warmth conveyed by her animated line-work used to distinctively render her subjects.
student of Maurice Quentin de la Tour
colleague of Adelaïde Labille-Guiard
Member, Académie de Saint-Luc, Paris, France (ca. 1762)