A pupil of Jean-Jacques Henner and Carolus-Duran, Louise Abbema achieved her first great success as a young painter in 1876, when she exhibited a portrait of her friend, the actress Sarah Bernhardt. She was a regular participant at the Salon des Artistes Français, winning a gold medal in 1881 for a pair of decorative panels. In her career Abbema provided several such large
for both private homes and public buildings. Among the civic commissions she recieved were panels to decorate the town halls of various
in Paris, the Musée de l’Armee, the Hôtel de Ville and the Théatre Sarah Bernhardt in Paris, as well as the governor’s palace in Dakar, Senegal. On a more intimate scale, Abbema painted several portraits of prominent contemporary figures (for example, one of the engineer Ferdinand de Lesseps, exhibited at the Salon of 1884, and several of Sarah Bernhardt), interiors and genre scenes. She also made a particular speciality of paintings and watercolour studies of flowers, and provided illustrations for such periodicals as the
Gazette des Beaux-Arts
. Abbema enjoyed several exhibitions at the Galerie Georges Petit in Paris between 1892 and 1911, in which she exhibited portraits,
, designs for fans, seascapes and floral still-lives in both watercolour and oils.
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