More about Victoria Dubourg

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The woman in this painting is Victoria Dubourg, an acquaintance of Degas and mostly known for her still life paintings of flowers in vases.  

Degas was known not only for his scenes of Parisian life, but also for portraits dedicated to close acquaintances and friends.

Dubourg was the wife of Henri-Fantin Latour, who she married in 1878.  Along with her husband, she was the most prolific painter of flowers in the 19th century.  It may have been both a blessing and a curse that Dubourg and Latour were both still life painters: they could bond over a common style, but Dubourg would be eclipsed by her husband’s fame and would not be fully recognized on her own merits until after Latour’s passing.  Despite this, she won awards at the Paris Salon in 1894 and 1895, outlived her husband by twenty years, and held enough renown and skill to be given tribute by Degas himself, a vase of lilacs subtly indicating her forte.

The painting went through several revisions.  If you look closely, there’s two frames on the wall, their outlines leaving a ghostly remainder.  Come on, Edgar, you ain’t slick.

The donor of this particular piece of Degas’ retinue, William E. Levis, was the grandson of the founder of Illinois Glass, Edvard Levis, who started the company in 1873.  He studied law at the University of Illinois, earning his degree in 1913.  William was well on his way until his father convinced him to partake in the family business.  Initially he loaded cars, but his career mobility constantly brought him into work as an assistant secretary, treasurer, vice president, and general manager.  It went on until he was appointed president of Illinois Glass in 1928.  One could guess it was mostly hard work with a dash of nepotism.  Under his twenty-year term, the company would merge with Owens Bottle Company and expand exponentially.  He retired from the company as a board member in 1950, living a calm, unremarkable life until his death on November 7th, 1962.