The Portraitist: A Novel of Adelaide Labille-Guiard by Susanne Dunlap
Publication Date: August 30, 2022
She Writes Press
Genre: Historical Fiction
Based on a true story, this is the tale of Adélaïde Labille-Guiard’s fight to take her rightful place in the competitive art world of eighteenth-century Paris.
With a beautiful rival who’s better connected and better trained than she is, Adélaïde faces an uphill battle. Her love affair with her young instructor in oil painting gives rise to suspicions that he touches up her work, and her decision to make much-needed money by executing erotic pastels threatens to create as many problems as it solves. Meanwhile, her rival goes from strength to strength, becoming Marie Antoinette’s official portraitist and gaining entrance to the elite Académie Royale at the same time as Adélaïde.
When at last Adélaïde earns her own royal appointment and receives a massive commission from a member of the royal family, the timing couldn’t be worse: it’s 1789, and with the fall of the Bastille her world is turned upside down by political chaos and revolution. With danger around every corner in her beloved Paris, she must find a way to adjust to the new order, carving out a life and a career all over again—and stay alive in the process.
Buy The Portraitist
“An imaginative work that brings the story of a little-known artist to vivid life.” –Kirkus Reviews
“Deeply researched and imagined, The Portraitist offers a fascinating and dramatic plunge into the world of a brilliant female artist, struggling to make her mark before and during the turbulent and treacherous era of the French Revolution. I loved this novel.” –Sandra Gulland, international bestselling author of The Josephine Trilogy
“Written with breathless drama, The Portraitist follows the rise of the gifted portraitist Adélaïde Labille-Guiard in Paris during the last years of the late eighteenth century. The novel is a luminous depiction of Paris and those terrible times seen through the astute, compassionate eyes of a woman who had to paint. Every bit of lace, or royal carriage or bloody cobblestone is alive in the writing. The rain drumming on the skylight and a misbuttoned coat speak. Go to those streets with this book in your hand to follow her footsteps and those long-gone turbulent times will come alive to you as if they were yesterday.” –Stephanie Cowell, award-winning author of Claude and Camille
“In The Portraitist, Susanne Dunlap skillfully paints a portrait of a woman struggling to make her way in a man’s world — a topic as relevant today as it was in Ancien Regime France. Impeccably researched, rich with period detail, Dunlap brings to life the little known true story of Adélaïde Labille-Guiard, who fought her husband and society to make a name for herself as a painter to the royal family, the very apex of success– only to find everything she had built threatened by the Revolution. A stunning story of determination, talent, and reversals of fortune. As a lifelong Elisabeth Vigée-LeBrun fan, I am now questioning my allegiances!” –Lauren Willig, New York Times bestselling author of The Summer Country and Band of Sisters
“[The Portraitist is a] luminous novel of Adélaïde Labille-Guiard, whose livelihood and longing for respect are threatened by the institutions that deny women artists their due, compounded by the tumultuous events of the French Revolution. Deftly written and impeccably researched. Highly recommended.” –Michelle Cameron, award-winning author of Beyond the Ghetto Gates
About the Author
Susanne Dunlap is the author of twelve works of historical fiction for adults and teens, as well as an Author Accelerator Certified Book Coach. Her love of historical fiction arose partly from her studies in music history at Yale University (PhD, 1999), partly from her lifelong interest in women in the arts as a pianist and non-profit performing arts executive. Her novel The Paris Affair won first place in its category in the CIBA Dante Rossetti awards for Young Adult Fiction. The Musician’s Daughter was a Junior Library Guild Selection and a Bank Street Children’s Book of the Year, and was nominated for the Utah Book Award and the Missouri Gateway Reader’s Prize. In the Shadow of the Lamp was an Eliot Rosewater Indiana High School Book Award nominee. Susanne earned her BA and an MA (musicology) from Smith College, and lives in Biddeford, ME, with her little dog Betty.
For more information, please visit Susanne Dunlap’s website. You can follow author Susanne Dunlap on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Instagram, Pinterest, and BookBub.
Review by Coffee & Ink
From the opening sentence of the powerful first paragraph and every page thereafter, we know Adelaide is a woman unlike many of the women of Paris in the late 18th century. Every sentence is soaked in the colors and landscape of Adelaide’s discerning artist’s eye. She is running from her marriage into the unknown with only the beating soul of art to both push and guide her.
I love Adelaide’s voice—both practical and poetic. Nothing is ever easy for her, not the separation or supporting herself. She fights hard to paint every moment she has, to learn and grow her art.
It almost goes without saying there are tremendous barriers to being a woman artist in pre-Revolution Paris, to come to the attention of the massive male-dominated world of the Académie and its world. To be a part of it and gain the coveted patronage of the royal family, with the aim of becoming the royal portraitist.
I love the other characters in the story—students, lover, her ex. The artist rival Mademoiselle Vigee. Very well drawn and believable, stepping out of history to take part in Adelaide’s story.
I found the story hard to put down, guided effortlessly around late 18th century Paris and the life of the artist Adelaide Labille-Guiard.
Highly recommended, a ten-star read for history and art lovers.
Blog Tour Schedule
Tuesday, August 30
Review at Gwendalyn’s Books
Review at A Potpourri of Opinions
Wednesday, August 31
Review at Little But Fierce Book Diary
Thursday, September 1
Review at Coffee and Ink
Feature at Books, Ramblings, and Tea
Friday, September 2
Review at The Page Ladies
Sunday, September 4
Review at 100 Pages a Day
Monday, September 5
Feature at The Cozy Book Blog
Review at History from a Woman’s Perspective
Tuesday, September 6
Review at Reading is My Remedy
Wednesday, September 7
Review at Pursuing Stacie
Thursday, September 8
Excerpt at Books, Cooks, Looks
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