Monday, January 1, 2018

Boldini, Painter of Belle Epoque Paris

Luisa Casati (1881-1957) with a greyhound

Marthe Bibesco

Montesquiou, Robert de
Today is the first day of the new year but there are some artists born in the last week of the year that are too important to ignore. If the are not considered important by today's art critics, they provide a window into a fascinating, if departed world. 

Giovanni Boldini (31 December 1842 – 11 July 1931) was an Italian genre and portrait painter who lived and worked in Paris for most of his career. According to a 1933 article in Time magazine, he was known as the "Master of Swish" because of his flowing style of painting.

Boldini, Self Portrait
Not too many artists could dash off a portrait with the panache of Giovanni Boldini (1842-1931), who was adored by the glitterati of Belle Epoque Paris. If his taste was rococo and his likenesses not always penetrating, he was clever at catching his subjects - hostesses, actresses, courtesans, musicians, writers and other artists - as they enacted the high life fantasy-drama that played in their heads, conferring on them style and the appearance of aristocracy. 

Boldini's flashy brushwork was different from the calmer, more controlled approach of Whistler and Sargent, his fin de si ecle contemporaries in the creation of a glitzy international portrait style. At top speed, with frenzied swirls and flourishes, he could whip up such the ultimate society portraits.

Yet along with such chichi confections, Boldini could also do work of real character: his vibrant 1897 rendering of a world-weary Whistler, for instance, lounging against a chair back, his head supported by an eloquently ''artistic'' hand; and a wonderful self-portrait of 1911 in which, his portly little body half-turned to the viewer, he seems to regard with jaded eyes a rogue's gallery of subjects visible only to him.

1 comment:

Carla Ives said...

I had never heard of Boldini, but I really love that first piece of work you posted! In fact, I like all of the pieces you posted. I will have to investigate this artist further.