Elisabeth Bollee de Vautibault

Elisabeth Bollee de Vautibault (1908-1984) was the daughter of Léon Bollée, a French automobile manufacturer who passed away in 1913 and left her a considerable estate. She was the goddaughter to Wilbur Wright, who dedicated his first flight in France to her. In 1927 she married Count Jean Maurice Gilbert de Vautibault and published several volumes of poems in French under the name Elisabeth de Vauitbault. In 1932, Julien Binford moved to Paris and spent three years studying there. In that time he met Elisabeth, who eventually divorced her then current husband to marry Binford. She moved back to Virginia with him in 1936, where they started renovations on their home, The Foundry. During the first few years in Virginia, The Foundry was uninhabitable, and the couple lived in a shack with no water, lights, or heat, and relied on farming for survival.

Julien Binford, Untitled (Elisabeth nude), paint on board, promised gift of Maureen Paige, L.2023.MP215.

“I met him one such time when he was residing in a seventeenth-century dwelling hung with damasks, antichambered with marble, altogether fitted with comfort moderne, mysterious gilt carvings and hidden stairs. I saw him at Biarritz, in Normandy, on a granite island in the English Channel. Then he went off to Spain, and when I saw him again there he was, broke again, under the skylight of the Rue Daguerre.”

– Elisabeth Bollee de Vautibault about Julien Binford in “A Wife’s View,” (1959)

As she continued to write, now in both French and English, she published the article A Wife’s View of an American Painter: Julien Binford, which presents a thorough biography of Binford’s life, and depicts her own talent in prose. Her quoting of Paul Valery became the inspiration for this exhibition’s title, as it encompassed Binford’s lifelong dedication to his exploration of color. Elisabeth passed away on July 11th, 1984, leaving behind countless sketches and paintings Binford made of her image, as well as her own volumes and writings.

Julien Binford, Untitled (portrait of Elisabeth), paint on board, promised gift of Maureen Paige, L.2023.MP222.

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