Louise Abbéma (1853-1927) was a French painter and sculptor. She painted a variety of subjects but was mostly known for her portraits. She often painted her friend and stage actress Sarah Bernhardt (1844-1923).

Louise Abbéma
Self portrait at 18
signed upper left, 1876
oil on canvas


Life and work
Louise Abbéma was born in Étampes on  30th October 1853, into a wealthy Parisian family, who were well connected in the local artistic community. She began painting in her early teens. The first recognition for her work she received at the age 23 when she painted a portrait of Sarah Bernhardt, the famous actress of that time, who was her lifelong friend. She also painted portraits of other contemporary notables, as well as 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. Her style was academic and impressionistic; she painted with light and rapid brushstrokes.
Louise 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 SeasonsApril Morning, Place de la ConcordeAmong the FlowersWinter, and portraits of actress Jeanne Samary, Emperor Dom Pedro II of Brazil, Ferdinand de Lesseps and Charles Garnier.
Louise Abbéma died in Paris on 10th July 1927. She left a great and varied oeuvre of oil paint portraits, water colours and prints. At the end of the 20th century, as contributions by women to the arts in past centuries received more attention, her works began to enjoy a renewed popularity.

Professional education
She studied under such notables of the period as Charles Joshua Chaplin, Jean-Jacques Henner and Carolus-Duran.

Exhibitions & awards
She exhibited regularly at the Pais Salons.
1881 – she received an honorable mention for her panels in 1881 at the Paris Salon.
1887 – she was awarded aPalme Academique and received a nomination as ‘Official Painter of the Third Republic’.
1893 – her work was exhibited at the World Columbian Exposition in Chicago. A bust Sarah Bernhardt sculpted of Abbéma was also exhibited at the exposition.
1900 – she was awarded a bronze medal at the Exposition Universelle.
1906 – she was decorated as Chevalier of the Order of the Légion d’honneur.
2018 – Louise Abbéma was included in the exhibition Women in Paris 1850-1900.

– Madeline, Laurence (2017). Women artists in Paris, 1850-1900. Yale University Press.
– http://www.femmespeintres.net/peintres/rev/abbema.htm
– http://www.corpusetampois.com/cae-19-abbema.html
– Female Artists in History (facebook page)
– wikipedia.org


Louise Abbéma
Sarah Bernhardt, 1875
oil on canvas

Musée de la Vie Romantique, Paris.







Louise Abbéma
Portrait of Sarah Bernhardt, 1876

pen and ink wash and pencil
23.3 x 15.3 cm
signed and dated lower left 1876

private collection.






Louise Abbéma
April Morning, Place De La Concorde, 1894

oil on canvas
105.4 x 129.5 cm.

private collection



Louise Abbéma
An Elegant Woman, said to be Sarah Bernhardt, on a Winter’s Walk

signed lower right, s.d.
oil on canvas
16 1/4 x 12 1/4 in.

private collection.




Louise Abbéma 1853 – 1927
Ladies on the Beach, 1874
oil on paper laid down on canvas
29.8 x 47 cm.
signed, dated and indistinctly inscribed ‘Louise Abbema / […] 74’ (lower left)

private collection.