View portrait and figurative paintings by Gabriela Gonzalez Dellosso, who pays homage to historic women artists in her new exhibition.
by Leslie Gilbert Elman
For the artist Gabriela Gonzalez Dellosso (b. 1968), a career-defining inspiration struck during a casual visit to New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art with her mother in 2008. There she came upon the 1785 “Self-Portrait with Two Pupils” painted by Adélaïde Labille-Guiard (1749–1803). Dellosso recalls, “The painting haunted me for months. I was so surprised I had never heard of Adélaïde or anything about her.” She began researching, and the more she learned, the more she felt a kinship with — and admiration for — the French artist.
A student of Maurice Quentin de la Tour, Labille-Guiard was an outstanding portraitist admitted to Paris’s Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture in 1783. (Now more famous, Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun [1755–1842] was admitted at the same time.) While the acceptance of women into the Académie was significant, a royal decree had capped the total number of female members at four. That was fine for Labille-Guiard and Vigée Le Brun, but it left little opportunity for other equally deserving women.
“Because the Académie only allowed four women at any one time as members, Adélaïde’s students were not allowed to show in the bi-annual royal exhibition at the Louvre,” Dellosso explains. “‘Self-Portrait with Two Pupils’ shows her sitting at an easel, staring at the viewer, with her two students standing behind her. Via this painting, she included them in the exhibition. I thought that was an incredibly clever and defiant thing to do.”
At the time of her visit to the Met, Dellosso was preparing for a solo exhibition. Yet the Labille-Guiard painting stayed in her mind, calling her attention to the many female painters who preceded her, whose stories deserved to be told. Thus, the last three paintings Dellosso made for that 2008 show were small self-portraits in the style of female masters: Frida Kahlo, Artemisia Gentileschi, and Lila Cabot Perry. “I had no idea what people would think,” she says, “and they all sold. I thought, ‘This is a good sign.’”
“Homage to Lila Cabot Perry (Self-Portrait),” now in a private collection, is one of the works that is being exhibited this season in “A Brush with HerStory: Paintings by Gabriela Gonzalez Dellosso” at the Heckscher Museum of Art in Huntington, Long Island.
Raised in Astoria, Queens, and now based in New Jersey, Dellosso earned a B.F.A. from New York’s School of Visual Arts and studied at the Art Students League and National Academy School of Fine Arts. But her art education began when she was a child, during visits to the Met with her father, who studied painting as a young man in Cuba. “My dad loves Rembrandt,” Dellosso says, “especially ‘Aristotle with a Bust of Homer.’ So we were always in front of the Rembrandt paintings. I feel like he is a dear friend.”
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Not surprisingly, given her earliest influences, Dellosso draws meticulously, but oils are her preferred medium. “Oils are so rich,” she notes. “I am always discovering new things about them. Also, I love painting on a large scale, and oils are perfect for that.” The most recent works in the exhibition, however, are smaller mixed media Homage Odes that resemble illuminated manuscripts and are accompanied by Dellosso’s poetry.
“A Brush with HerStory” runs at the Heckscher Museum of Art (heckscher.org) through November 10, and at the Polk Museum of Art (polkmuseumofart.org) in Lakeland, Florida, from December 14, 2019, through April 12, 2020. The Prado show (museodelprado.es) runs through February 2, 2020. Dellosso is represented by harmonmeekgallery.com.
Article excerpt reprinted with permission from Fine Art Connoisseur magazine
Learn more about the contemporary paintings of Gabriela Gonzalez Dellosso at www.gabrieladellossoart.com, and study with her in person November 10–13, 2019, in Williamsburg, Virginia, at the Figurative Art Convention & Expo.