Elizabeth Jane Gardner USA

10-4-1837 Exeter, USA – 1-28-1922 Paris, FRA

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Gardner, Elizabeth Jane

Elizabeth Jane Gardner was an American academic and salon painter. She studied in Paris under the figurative painter Hugues Merle, the well-known salon painter Jules Joseph Lefebvre, and finally under William-Adolphe Bouguereau. 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.

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.

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.

Gardner was a very independent woman. Like the artist 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.

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

Art Movement: Academic
Influences: Hugues Merle, Jules Lefebvre, Adolphe Bouguereau
Traveled: France
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