Marie-Guillemine Benoist was a French neoclassical and historical genre painter. She studied under lisabeth Vigee-Lebrun and Jacques Louis David, and her paintings show their influence and style. She also painted portraits even of Napoleon and his family-- and subjects that reflected the contemporary issues of her day. Benoist had the privilege to paint right in the breaking point between traditional and modern art, and her paintings reflect this transition.
Benoist s famous painting, Portrait D Une Negress, completed in 1880, was inspired by the decree to abolish slavery. Beniost exhibited her controversial painting at the Salon and it became a symbol for the emancipation of women and the rights of the black people. Not only was it the first western painting to depict an existing African person, but also the figure is not simply a symbol. She is a fully matured subject.
Benoist also found inspiration for her paintings in poetry, feminist theory and mythology.