La Confidence by Elizabeth Jane Gardner (1837–1922) (Public Domain)
Date: circa 1880
Medium: oil on canvas mounted on aluminium
Dimensions: Height: 172.7 cm (67.9 in); Width: 119.7 cm (47.1 in)
About this painting, via Wikipedia:
Cultural Significance: One of Gardner’s most well-known works, La Confidence (ca. 1880) is in the collection of the Georgia Museum of Art. This painting depicts an intimate, whispered secret between two young peasant girls. The painting was given to the Lucy Cobb Institute, an all-girls school in Athens, Georgia. Hung in the drawing room parlor of the school, the work was beloved in the school’s collection and was viewed as having a “moralizing purpose” for the young girls enrolled in the finishing school. In 1991, painter, filmmaker and University of Georgia filmmaker James Herbert (director) appropriated Gardner’s painting and several others from the Georgia Museum of Art’s collection and reinterpreted the image in the video for Athens band R.E.M.‘s song “Low” from the album Out of Time.
About the Artist, via Wikipedia:
Elizabeth Jane Gardner (October 4, 1837 – January 28, 1922) was an American academic and salon painter, who was born in Exeter, New Hampshire. She was an American expatriate who died in Paris where she had lived most of her life. She studied in Paris under the figurative painter Hugues Merle (1823–1881), the well-known salon painter Jules Joseph Lefebvre (1836–1911), and finally under William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825–1905). 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. In fact, she was quoted as saying, “I know I am censured for not more boldly asserting my individuality, but I would rather be known as the best imitator of Bouguereau than be nobody!”
Gardner’s best known work may be The Shepherd David Triumphant (1895), which shows the young shepherd with the lamb he has rescued. Among her other works were Cinderella, Cornelia and Her Jewels, Corinne, Fortune Teller, Maud Muller, Daphne and Chloe, Ruth and Naomi, The Farmer’s Daughter, The Breton Wedding, and some portraits.
Gardner was very independent and feisty. 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 Gobelins tapestry works. She was an astute businesswoman and an excellent linguist, switching easily from her native English to French, Italian or German in order 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 further her career. Her ability to work her way into the social networks in Paris earned her sales and portrait commissions.
Credits and Attributions:
Wikipedia contributors, “Elizabeth Jane Gardner,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Elizabeth_Jane_Gardner&oldid=1007847173 (accessed April 22, 2021).
Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Elizabeth Jane Gardner – La Confidence (1880).jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Elizabeth_Jane_Gardner_-_La_Confidence_(1880).jpg&oldid=540767709 (accessed April 22, 2021).