Watercolour: 30,5 x 21 cm
Signed ‘Marie B’ lower left
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Bashkirtseff was a rising young painter and daughter of wealthy Russian/Ukrainian expatriates in Paris in the 1880s. She died tragically at the youthful age of 25, but left a rich artistic legacy.
At the time of her death, she had already enjoyed considerable success as a painter, but her artistic achievements were destined to be overshadowed by the voluminous and revealing diary that she left behind. Covering the last ten years of her life, the journal was soon published, albeit in a shortened and expurgated form by Marie’s mother. A sensation at the time, the diary has fascinated readers, including many accomplished women, since it first appeared.
Bashkirtseff was born Maria Konstantinovna Bashkirtseva in Gavrontsi near Poltava, Russian Empire (present-day Ukraine), to a wealthy noble family. Her father was a local marshal of nobility, Konstantin Pavlovich Bashkirtsev. Her mother Maria Stepanovna Babanina (1833—1920) also belonged to Russian nobles. Her parents separated when she was 12. As a result, she grew up mostly abroad, traveling with her mother throughout most of Europe, with longer spells in Germany and on the Riviera, until the family settled in Paris. Educated privately and with early musical talent, she lost her chance at a career as a singer when illness destroyed her voice. She then determined to become an artist, and she studied painting in France at the Robert-Fleury studio and at the Académie Julian.
The Académie, as one of the few establishments that accepted female students, attracted young women from all over Europe and the United States. Bashkirtseff would go on to produce a remarkable, if fairly conventional, body of work in her short lifetime, exhibiting at the Paris Salon as early as 1880 and every year thereafter until her death (except 1883).
Bashkirtseff’s breakthrough came in 1881, when she became the first woman artist to have a painting accepted for exhibition at the prestigious Salon de Paris, which was held at the Louvre Museum. Bashkirtseff’s first painting to be exhibited at the Louvre was a portrait titled “The Meeting”, which was included in the 1881 Salon exhibition.
“If I don’t die young, I hope to live as a great artist. But if I die young, I intend to have my diary published. It cannot fail to be interesting.” These were the words Marie just six months before she passed away aged 25. She was a gifted painter, sculptor, writer and emancipation activist.