Giovanni Boldini, Ferrara 1842 - 1931 Paris
Giovanni Boldini’s stylish paintings conjure the brilliant world of the Belle Epoque, the prosperous, charmed years that opened the twentieth century. Boldini was born in Ferrara in 1842 and moved to Florence in 1864, joining the Macchiaioli movement and the circle of artists that gathered at the Caffe Michelangelo. In 1871, after a sojourn in London, he settled in Paris. He entered the stable of the Goupil Gallery, and like Ernest Meissonier and Mariano Fortuny, began painting exquisite and nostalgic genre paintings favoured by American tourists. Boldini often featured Berthe, his model and mistress, in these sparkling cabinet-sized works. Another lover, the Comtesse Gabrielle de Rasty, introduced Boldini to Parisian high society. By the 1880s, his destiny as fashionable portrait painter was underway, and his Paris studio soon became a destination of social necessity for cosmopolitan beauties and aspiring ladies of the beau monde. Whether portraying a European aristocrat or an American heiress, Boldini’s virtuoso style is unmistakable. Quick, vibrant strokes of paint capture light, form, movement, and expression with dizzying energy. Although some have regarded his dynamic, vertiginous style as a precursor to Futurism, during his lifetime Boldini was a dazzling and sensuous alternative to Impressionism and Post-Impressionism in late nineteenth-century Paris. His thick impasto and bravura effects of light, movement and texture, echoed Hals, Velazquez, and Gainsborough, and place him alongside Whistler and Sargent as a brilliant master of modern luxury. When his works were first shown in New York in 1933, just two years after his death, Time Magazine celebrated him as The Master of Swish.