Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Marie Bashkirtseff: A Brief Life Lived Fully

Art history has not been very accepting of art her-story. One of those women, who was famous in her time and passed over in the history of art, was Marie Bashkirtseff (1858-1884 Ukraine)

In spite of her short life of 25 years, she was a noted visual artist as well as a writer. Ill health plagued her much of her life. Her initial interest and passion for singing was ended when she developed a throat illness that ended her ability to sing. (This could have been incipient tuberculosis which was undiagnosed at the early stage and lead to her death.)

Bashkirtseff was nothing if not very talented, resilient and resourceful. When she had to give up singing, she turned to her interest in drawing and painting. At the time, the famous Academie Belle Artes school was not accepting women. Being ever resolute, she attended Academie Julian in Paris, which did accept women

As early as 1880, her art was being accepted in the Paris Salon. She was accepted every year thereafter until her death.


 She was a prolific painter. We may never know how many paintings she completed since the Nazis destroyed many of her works. However, 60 paintings survived - a remarkable number! At the same time, she was writing under the name of "Pauline Orrel." 



Writing was also part of her creative life. Beyond her correspondence, she wrote letters and articles to newspapers mainly on behalf of feminist issues. She also kept a diary starting at age 13.



Printed posthumously, her diary has been translated and continues to be popular right into modern times. This journal has been referred to as,  "a strikingly modern psychological self-portrait of a young, gifted mind,..." 




Given her intermittent bouts with TB, she hoped that she might have enough time to be regarded as a great artist and, if not, she wanted her diary be published. It's apparent that more than anything, she wanted to not be forgotten. (Directly below is her painting, "The Meeting" now in the Musee d' Orsay in Paris.)

This one is titled, "Despair." Given the illness that she lived with, I wonder if she was painting her own emotional sense of mortality.



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