Artists Illustrating Boys' Fashions: Marie Bashkirtseff (France/Ukraine, 1858-84)



Figure 1.--This painting by Marie Bashkirtseff was painted in 1884, the years she died at a very young age. It is a wonderful depiction of French schoolboys in the late 19th century.

Here we have an interesting painting, a reproduction of which is shown, at the Musee d'Orsay in Paris. It's a painting by the famous Ukrainian-French painter, Marie Bashkirtseff (1858-1884). The painting is entitled "A Meeting" (1884) and shows a group of boys congregating in a playground somewhere in the Paris suburbs. It is particularly interesting because it depicts French schoolwear in the late 19th century.

The Artist

THis painting is by the famous Ukrainian-French painter, Marie Bashkirtseff (1858-1884). Marie Bashkirtseff was a kind of prodigy. She was a friend of writers and painters, a pianist, a singer, a talented painter in her own right, a proto-feminist who mastered five different languages, a sculptor, a prolific writer and diarist, and a romantic lover of literature. She died of tuberculosis at the early age of 25, having become already known in France as a teenager. She was born in the Ukraine during 1858. The Ukraine at the time was part of the Russian Empire. At the age of 12 she left the Ukraine and traveled in western Europe with various relatives. Her parents were separated. She settled near Nice and began writing her famous diary at the age of 14. She played the piano as well as the harp and also became singer who aspired to a career in opera. When illness ruined her prospects as a singer, she began to paint, and her paintings are now in several important museums. At the age of 18 she moved to Paris and studied under the supervision of Tony Robert Fleury, Gustave Boulanger, and Jules-Joseph Lefebvre at Rodolphe Julian's Academy. She corresponded with the French writer Maupassant though she never met him. Her Diary, the original manuscript of which was discovered in 1964, has become her most famous writing.

The Painting

The painting is entitled "A Meeting" (1884) and shows a group of boys congregating in a playground somewhere in the Paris suburbs. Their dress is quite interesting. Notice that three of the boys appear to be wearing smocks and are probably enjoying a recess during a school day. Two of the smocks are black while another is a sort of gray-blue in color. They button down the back. One of the boys wears knee length breeches with red ribbed stockings while the other boys appear to wear longer trousers that come down to below the calf or almost to the ankle. The small boy whose back is turned to us may be wearing knee breeches which have come unbuckled and so hang rather low. His knee socks are also falling down. The oldest boy wears a black military-style cap with a peak and carries a book satchel on a strap over his shoulder. He seems to be showing the younger boys something that I can't quite make out in the painting. The fascination is nicely captured in the faces of the younger boys. This painting illustrates Bashkirtseff's almost photographic realism in the depiction of French street life.








HBC





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Created: 10:17 PM 11/28/2004
Last updated: 10:18 PM 11/28/2004