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date. 2022

city. Washington, DC

size. 30" x 20"

medium. mixed media painting

Artist Bex holding whale painting that is the story of Jeanne Villepreux-Power
Blue whale mixed media painting about the life of Jeanne Villepreux-Power

This mixed media painting is the story of Jeanne Villepreux-Power. Jeanne was an industrious woman, a self-taught scientist, an artist, and perhaps most notably - the inventor of the aquarium. She invented not one, but three types of aquariums in her lifetime. However, she never received proper recognition for her work. This was mostly due to a tragic shipwreck in 1843, that carried her research and books to the bottom of the ocean. 

Jeanne’s life was somewhat of a tragic fairy-tale. She married well and could have lived a life of leisure. But she didn’t. Instead, she chose to roll up her sleeves and became a scientist. Jeanne and her husband lived on the island of Sicily, and she fell in love with the environment of the island, in particular it’s aquatic life. She traveled around the island collecting specimens of shells and studied countless fish and cephalopods including nautilus, cuttlefish, and octopus.


Jeanne was not satisfied with merely studying dead specimens. She was excited by life and its mysteries and wanted to bring these enchanting sea creatures inside. So in 1832 she invented the aquarium. She designed not one, but three different types of aquaria.


In 1843, most of her marine collections, written records, and scientific research were lost in a tragic shipwreck. Not all of her discoveries were forgotten, thanks to previous publications and other researchers. In biology circles, Jeanne is known as the “Mother of Aquariophily”.


This painting is to honor this incredible woman - a woman ahead of her time. The image on the bottom left is an imprint of Jeanne's own artwork. The title in the “iceberg” is from her first book “Observations et expériences physiques sur plusieurs animaux marins et terrestres” (Observations and Experiments on Several Marine and Terrestrial Animals), published in 1839. The girl in the boat touching the whale is Jeanne exploring as a young woman. Jeanne’s portrait is in the moon.

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