The French painter Élisabeth Louise Vigée-Le Brun was born in Paris on 16th April 1755, the daughter of the painter Louis Vigée (1715–67). She was initially given painting lessons by her father, and following his death, was taught by Gabriel Doyen (1726–1806) and Gabriel Briard (ca. 1729–77). She was also supported by Claude-Joseph Vernet (1714–89). She later taught herself by copying the works of Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640), Rembrandt (1606–69), Antonis van Dyck (1599–1641) and Jean Baptiste Greuze (1725–1805), in particular.
In 1776 she married the art dealer Jean-Baptiste-Pierre Le Brun. She subsequently executed numerous portraits of the nobility, including Marie Antoinette (1755–93). In 1783, she became a member of the "Académie royale et de sculpture", and during the same year and then later in 1785, exhibited at the Academy Salon. Following the outbreak of the French revolution in 1789, Élisabeth Louise Vigée-Le Brun was forced to leave Paris and lived in Italy in exile. Whilst in Rome, Vigée-Le Brun continued to move in aristocratic circles and became a member of the "Accademia di San Luca". She also joined the academies in Parma and Bologna.
The artist visited various Italian cities, moved to Vienna for a short period, and then spent five years living in St Petersburg, where she executed various portraits of the Tsar’s family. In 1800, she was made a member of the Academy of Visual Arts in St Petersburg. In 1801, she left St Petersburg due to ill health and travelled back to Paris via Berlin (where she was made a member of the academy) and Dresden. In 1805, following the 1802 Peace of Amiens (between Britain and France), Vigée-Le Brun travelled to London. In 1809, she purchased a country house in Louveciennes near Marly, and in 1827, she became a member of the Académie de Vaucluse.
In 1835 and 1837 she published her memoirs in three volumes. In 1841, Élisabeth Louise Vigée-Le Brun was crippled by a stroke, and died in Louveciennes on 30th March 1842. Her entire oeuvre includes around 662 portraits and 200 landscape paintings.