On the occasion of the 180th anniversary of Giovanni Boldini’s birth
Giovanni Boldini was born in Ferrara, Italy, on 31 December 1842 and he moved to first to London and then to Paris in his 30s, It was in the capital of the Belle Époque that in he spent most of his adult life and became a representative member of the artistic movement of the impressionist painters. His speciality was painting portraits and he became one of the most popular artists of his era in Parisian society. He was considered to be the best portrait painter of his time for his ability to capture with imagination the psychology of his models. His paintings were known for their elegance, sophistication, and social status. Boldini had an excellent sense of colour and he also used light beautifully in his paintings.
Giovanni Boldini was a painter who started his career in the artistic circles in Florence, where the Italian painting school of precursors of the French impressionists was known as the “macchiaioli” a dispregiativo term originated with the word for stain in Italian. During this time he followed the innovative approach to painting developed by the macchiaioli school and focused on landscape paintings, When he moved to London and then to Paris he started focusing more on portraits, especially of fashionable women in Parisian high society during the Belle Époque. His work took a very original twist, for which he is often called the “Master of Swish”, due to his unmistakable flowing style, which is his unequivocal trademark.
After his initial period of artistic training in Florence, Boldini started travelling abroad and he began to prefer Paris to London. France, at that time, was at the dawn of the Third Republic and Paris in particular took on the contours of a modern city, dynamic and full of ideas, including literary cafes, museums, circles. Thus, Boldini moved there permanently in 1871. As a lover of worldly life, Boldini wanted to settle in the Montmartre neighbourhood and began to attend the Café de la Nouvelle Athènes, which was right in front of his home. Here it was customary to gather the artists who shortly after would give life to the Impressionist movement. Attending the Café, Boldini met and befriended Degas, the one who had hit him at the Universal Exhibition.
In this same period, between 1871 and 1878, Boldini entered the circle of the art dealer Adolphe Goupil, who had brought together under his protection several innovative artists including Giuseppe Palizzi and Giuseppe De Nittis. Thanks to this collaboration, Boldini not only obtained a certain economic stability, but was welcomed in the most important exhibitions and became the leading artist of Parisian salons.
Boldini surely made his fame as a very sought-after portrait painter but he was recognised as an ambassador of Italian culture in Paris. in 1889 he was nominated commissioner for the Italian section of the Paris a exposition and he received a Legion d’honneur for this role, Later in life he participated in several editions of the Venice Biennale around the turn of the century.
Boldini, despite the strong link with the French capital, never stopped travelling. He went to the Netherlands in 1876, where he came into contact with the painting of Frans Hals, in 1889 he travelled to Spain and Egypt with his friend Degas and finally in 1897 exhibited some works in New York. With the arrival of the twentieth century, Boldini often returned to Italy to participate several times in the Venice Biennale and receive the honour of great officer of the Order of the Crown of Italy. He died in Paris on January 11, 1931, and his remains are, at his explicit request, in the monumental cemetery of the Certosa in Ferrara.
Essential online bibliography:
- Page of artworks by Giovanni Boldini on Wikiart
- Website dedicated to the life and works by Giovanni Boldini
- Website with updated information on exhibitions and the legacy of Giovanni Boldini
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