Giovanni Boldini

No artwork matches

Biography of Giovanni Boldini ( 1842-1931 )

Born in Ferrara, in Italy, Giovanni Boldini is renowned for his illustrations and portraits, which have built his international reputation. He became one of the most fashionable portrait painters in Paris at the beginning of the 20th century and managed to make a comfortable living from his painting. 

Born into a large family, Giovanni Boldini's father was a painter and restorer of canvases, who also engaged in the practice of copying paintings by Raphael and subjects by Francesco Guardi, an eighteenth-century Venetian painter. Boldini, who was particularly talented, was initiated to the practice of painting and frequented a group of painters from Ferrara, particularly inspired by Dosso Dossi, an Italian painter of the Ferrara school renowned for his mythological subjects, as well as other great artists from the Quattrocento - 15th century Italian period, that initiated the First Renaissance, announcing the beginning of the Renaissance in Europe. 

Boldini's reputation, already firmly established, allowed him to move to Florence in 1862. He chose to settle there in order to perfect his training and joined the Academy of Drawing, one of the first art academies that appeared in Europe. Under the direction of Enrico Pollastrini, an Italian academic painter renowned for his figurative style, he perfected his plastic technique. 

In this context, Boldini met the Macchiaioli group, which developed in Florence and then in Tuscany during the 19th century. This group is made up of artists influenced by the Impressionists, who broke with academism and are today considered the initiators of modern Italian painting. They also met Diego Martelli, the 19th century Italian art critic and patron of the arts, who established himself as the cultural reference point for the Macchiaioli movement. The latter succeeded in popularizing the principles of French Impressionism.

Boldini's work, in the early stages of his career, consisted of landscape painting. He also produced wall panels, but in 1867 he met Edgar Degas, a painter, sculptor, engraver and naturalist and impressionist photographer, during the Universal Exhibition. He also met great names in painting such as Édouard Manet, Alfred Sisley, Gustave Caillebotte, but he became particularly close to Jean-Baptiste Corot. 

Boldini travels to Holland and discovers the painting of Frans Hals. This painter marks a turning point in the artist's style. Boldini shows a tendency to restrict the range of his palette, and to suggest colour rather than express it, he moves to darker shades and black is even more present. His brushstrokes become more relaxed, with the overall impression overriding the more subtle details. While his early paintings were cheerful and lively, his later portraits emphasize the stature and dignity of the people portrayed.

After his stay in Paris, the artist chose to move to London. Following an in-depth study of English portraits and caricatures, and in particular those of Thomas Gainsborough - one of the most famous portrait and landscape painters of 18th century Great Britain - Boldini devoted himself to this painting of a new genre. He thus multiplied the portraits of British high society, which earned him great success and established his reputation: the commissions were particularly numerous.

Boldini returned to the French capital: he set up a workshop near the Place Pigalle and became friends with the art dealer Adolphe Goupil, French captain of industry and one of the most important 19th century art dealers and publishers. Then his career was launched: customers flocked to the doors of his studio to be portrayed and the value of his paintings and pastels exploded. His genre paintings, depicting figures in 18th century costumes, were a great success, but his female portraits were particularly popular. These elegant figurations, translated by the artist with fluidity and a lively touch, are a real eye-catcher. Accompanied by Degas in 1889, the artist travelled throughout Spain and Morocco and also stayed in Italy in 1892. 

Giovanni Boldini took part in the Universal Exhibitions of Paris in 1889 and Brussels in 1897, as well as in the first edition of the Venice Biennale. He then exhibited in New York, and portrayed many famous figures such as Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, founder of the Whitney Museum of American Art, Marthe de Florien, a great French actress and courtesan of the Belle Époque, known for her affair with Georges Clémenceau. She also had an affair with the artist. He also portrayed Cornelius Vanderbilt, a great American businessman.

Until 1923-1924, Boldini produced nudes, still lifes and landscapes of Venice, Rome and the French province. His eyesight weakened and he died in 1931.

32 avenue Marceau
75008 Paris, France
Monday to Friday from 10am to 7pm
Saturdays from 2 to 7 p.m.
NEWSLETTER: If you would like to receive our newsletter, please enter your email address: