Louise Abbéma (30 October 1853 (and not 1858, as commonly
stated) – 10 July 1927) was a French painter, sculptor, and designer
of the Belle Époque
Abbéma was born in Étampes, Essonne. She began painting in her early
teens, and studied under such notables of the period as Charles
Joshua Chaplin, Jean-Jacques Henner and Carolus-Duran. She first
received recognition for her work at age 23 when she painted a
portrait of Sarah Bernhardt, her life-long friend and, many believe,
She went on to paint portraits of
other contemporary notables, and also painted panels and murals
which adorned the Paris Town Hall, the Paris Opera House, numerous
theatres including the "Theatre Sarah Bernhardt", and the "Palace of
the Colonial Governor" at Dakar, Senegal.
She was a regular exhibitor at the
Paris Salon, where she received an honorable mention for her panels
in 1881. Abbéma was also among the female artists whose works were
exhibited in the Women's Building at the 1893 World Columbian
Exposition in Chicago. A bust Sarah Bernhardt sculpted of Abbéma was
also exhibited at the exposition.
Abbéma specialized in oil portraits
and watercolors, and many of her works showed the influence from
Chinese and Japanese painters, as well as contemporary masters such
as Édouard Manet. She frequently depicted flowers in her works.
Among her best known works are The Seasons, April Morning, Place de
la Concorde, Among the Flowers, Winter, and portraits of actress
Jeanne Samary, Emperor Dom Pedro II of Brazil, Ferdinand de Lesseps,
and Charles Garnier.
Abbéma was also an accomplished
printmaker, sculptor, and designer, as well as a writer who made
regular contributions to the journals Gazette des Beaux-Arts and
Among the many honors conferred
upon Abbéma was nomination as "Official Painter of the Third
Republic." She was also awarded a bronze medal at the 1900
Exposition Universelle and in 1906 made a Chevalier of the Order of
the Légion d'honneur.
Abbéma died in Paris in 1927. At
the end of the 20th century, as contributions by women to the arts
in past centuries received more critical and historical attention,
her works have been enjoying a renewed popularity.