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Victoria Dubourg

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Victoria Dubourg Biography


Paris 1840 – 1926 Buré


Victoria Dubourg was born in Paris in 1840, the daughter of Philippe Dubourg, a teacher of French from Buré, Normandy, and Françoise Bienvenu. The family lived for some years in Frankfurt-am-Main, where Victoria studied at the Städel Institute and taught drawing at the Institute of Mary. Returning to Paris, Dubourg studied with Fanny Chéron (b.1830) and obtained a permit to copy paintings at the Louvre. In 1866 she was commissioned by the Ministry of Fine Arts to copy Pietro da Cortona’s Virgin and Child with Saint Martina as part of a scheme to disseminate the Louvre’s collection to churches and government offices throughout France. 


Dubourg produced portraits and floral still lifes from the early 1860s. She became associated with the progressive artistic circle of Edouard Manet (1832-1883), Berthe Morisot (1841-1895) and Edgar Degas (1834-1917) and in 1866 met Henri Fantin-Latour (1836-1904) who was also copying paintings in the Louvre. They married in 1876, with Manet as a witness. Dubourg was a fine pianist and shared with her husband a love of music, particularly Wagner. They shared a studio at 8 Rue des Beaux-Arts and hosted their artistic and intellectual circle in the apartment above, where Dubourg would read extracts from art and book reviews translated from English and her translations from German philosophers such as Hegel.


The Fantin-Latours specialised in flower painting, working side by side. Victoria’s work was close in style to that of her husband in his lifetime, with dramatically-lit blooms set against a plain, often brown or grey background. Later her brushwork became freer, giving a shimmering, velvety effect. She exhibited at the Paris Salon 1868-1902, the Royal Academy, London 1882-1896, the Society of British Artists 1882-1899 and at the Amis des Arts, Pau, always signing with her maiden name, V. Dubourg, or the monogram V.D. She was painted several times by her husband and also by Degas (Musée d’Orsay, Paris).


In 1880 Victoria inherited a house at Buré from her uncle. The Fantin-Latours annually spent from the end of June until mid-October in the country, drawing inspiration from their beautiful cottage garden. Both preferred to choose their blooms and to paint them in the studio, rather than painting en plein air like the Impressionists. Arsène Alexandre commented of Victoria’s floral still lifes: ‘Her canvases are seemingly modest, but the flowers in them talk and breathe’[1].


After Henri Fantin-Latour’s death in 1904, Victoria organised a retrospective exhibition of his paintings at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in 1906 and published a catalogue raisonné of his work in 1911. Arsène Alexandre wrote in Le Figaro that she was ‘one of the most important women artists of today’. She exhibited at the San Francisco World’s Fair in 1915 and was made a Chevalier of the Légion d’Honneur in 1920. Victoria’s last dated painting is a flowerpiece of 1916. She died at Buré in 1926.


The work of Victoria Dubourg is represented in the Musée d’Art Moderne, Paris; the Musée de Grenoble; the Musée de Nimes and the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Alençon.


[1] ‘Histoire sommaire des femmes artistes’, Comoedia, 12th February 1910, p.3.

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