Eugenie Lavender, portraitist and history painter, the oldest daughter of Étienne and Julienne Antoinette (Fortin) Aubenel, was born in Paris, France, on December 25, 1817. She studied art at the École des Beaux Arts under Ary Scheffer and Paul Delaroche and was a colleague and friend of French artist Rosa Bonheur. In Paris she painted copies of historical and religious scenes and family portraits from old masters in the Louvre; she also painted scenes from Goethe's Faust. In 1848 she received a medal from the academy for her painting The Greek, presented to her directly by king Louis Philippe. Her father was mayor of Lorris and brother to one of Napoleon's most trusted generals and had intended that she marry a wealthy French nobleman. She refused, however, and on February 14, 1846, married Englishman Charles Lavender, an Oxford graduate and professor of science at the University of Paris.
In 1852 with two children the Lavenders traveled to New Orleans. There they bought two prairie schooners and headed for Dallas. On this journey they lost a wagon, were attacked by Indians, and saw prairie fires; on the trip Eugenie gave birth to a third child. The family passed through Houston and eventually settled in Waco. They were the seventh family to settle in the area. Drawing on his science background, Lavender became the doctor in the Waco region. During this period Mrs. Lavender continued to paint, using native pigments and clay to create her own art supplies. Her subjects were portraits of local people and Texas landscape scenes. After living in Waco for only one year, the Lavenders returned to New Orleans, where Lavender established Audubon College, sometimes referred to as "Lavender School." During the period after the Civil War the Lavenders frequently visited Brownsville, Texas, where their daughter and her husband lived.
In the late 1870s Lavender died, and Eugenie moved to Corpus Christi. She spent the next twenty years painting and teaching art to family members and the Sisters of the Incarnate Word of Brownsville, Corpus Christi, and Victoria. Her work from this period consists mostly of still lifes and religious subjects. She painted a Crucifixion scene and a large picture of St. Patrick for St. Patrick's Cathedral in Corpus Christi. In the 1880s she sold The Greek to Mifflin Kenedy. Her earliest paintings display the romanticized realism characteristic of nineteenth-century artists trained at the École des Beaux Arts, but her later work is not quite as accomplished and shows evidence of a lack of continued formal study. Eugenie Lavender died in Corpus Christi on September 2, 1898. One of her still lifes is in the collection of the San Antonio Museum Association.
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