Elizabeth Jane Gardner

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Portrait by William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 1879

Elizabeth Jane Gardner (October 4, 1837 – January 28, 1922) was an American academic and salon painter, who was born in Exeter, New Hampshire. She was an American expatriate who died in Paris where she had lived most of her life. She studied in Paris under the figurative painter Hugues Merle (1823–1881), the well-known salon painter Jules Joseph Lefebvre (1836–1911), and finally under William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825–1905). After Bouguereau's wife died, Gardner became his paramour and after the death of his mother, who bitterly opposed the union, she married him in 1896. She adopted his subjects, compositions and even his smooth facture, channeling his style so successfully that some of her work might be mistaken for his. In fact, she was quoted as saying, "I know I am censured for not more boldly asserting my individuality, but I would rather be known as the best imitator of Bouguereau than be nobody!"[1]

Gardner's best known work may be The Shepherd David Triumphant (1895), which shows the young shepherd with the lamb he has rescued. Among her other works were Cinderella, Cornelia and Her Jewels, Corinne, Fortune Teller, Maud Muller, Daphne and Chloe, Ruth and Naomi, The Farmer's Daughter, The Breton Wedding, and some portraits.

Relationship with Bouguereau[edit]

Elizabeth Gardner's relationship with Bouguereau was widely known and discussed within the Parisian artistic community. They made no secret of their relationship over the course of an engagement that was to last seventeen years. Mary French, the wife of the major American sculptor Daniel Chester French later recalled that she had "interesting memories...of Bouguereau's studio, where we used to go often, and where was also Miss Jennie Gardner of Exeter, New Hampshire, whom he either married or didn't marry – I have forgotten the details. There was a certain glamour of that young woman of puritan birth, a contemporary of my puritan aunts, living there in the latin quarter and doing something that all Paris talked about.

In 1866, Gardner was the first American woman to exhibit at the Paris Salon. Awarded a gold medal at the 1872 Salon, she became the first woman ever to receive such an honor. Elizabeth Gardner Bouguereau was accepted to the Salon more than any other woman painter in history and all but a few of the men.

Personal attributes[edit]

Gardner was a very independent woman. Like the sculptor Rosa Bonheur, she applied to the police for a permit that would allow her to wear men's attire so she could attend life classes at the famous Gobelin works. She was an astute businesswoman and an excellent linguist, switching from her native English to French, Italian or German, to make her guests and potential clients feel at ease. She excelled in the social graces and knew how to manage publicity and nurture relationships that would help her further her career. Her ability to work her way into the social networks in Paris earned her sales and portrait commissions.

Gallery[edit]

Elizabeth Jane Gardner's work bears a strong resemblance to her husband's William-Adolphe Bouguereau

References[edit]

  1. ^ Wissman, Fronia E. Bouguereau. Pomegranate Artbooks, 1996, p. 116.

Bibliography[edit]

  • Pearo, Charles. "Elizabeth Jane Gardner (1837–1922): Tracing the Construction of Artistic Identity" (Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh, 2002).
  • Pearo, Charles. "Elizabeth Jane Gardner: 'the Best Imitator of Bouguereau'." In In the Studios of Paris: William Bouguereau and His American Students, edited by James Frederick Peck, 59–78. New Haven: Exhibition catalog from the Philbrook Museum of Art distributed by Yale University Press, 2006.
  • Fidell-Beaufort, "Elizabeth Jane Gardner Bouguereau: A Parisian Artist from New Hampshire," Archives of American Art Journal 24 (1984), 2–3.
  • Adler, Hirscher, Weinberg, Americans in Paris: 1860–1900, Exhibition Catalog, National Gallery Company Limited, 2006

External links[edit]

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainGilman, D. C.; Thurston, H. T.; Moore, F., eds. (1905). "article name needed". New International Encyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead.