Marie Bashkirtseff was a Ukrainian artist, born to a wealthy and noble family, whose parents separated when she was quite young. As a consequence of it she grew up mostly out of Ukraine, travelling with her mother throughout Europe, until they settled in Paris, where she lived and worked.
She received a private education, and she had musical talent, however, she lost the chance of becoming a singer when her voice got destroyed due to an illness. According to some scholars, it was then when she decided to become an artist and to study painting at the Robert-Fleury studio at the Académie Julien, which was one of the few establishments that accepted female students.
She created a remarkable body of work, even if it’s considered as quite conventional, in a very short lifetime, since Bashkirtseff died at a very young age, only 25. In life she exhibited her works at the Paris Salon, for the first time in 1880 and every year thereafter until her death, except in 1882. In 1884, Bashkirtseff presented at Le Salon a portrait of Paris slum children entitled The Meeting and a pastel portrait of her cousin.
As a painter, Bashkirtseff followed the steps of her friend Jules-Bastien-Lepage and his admiration for realism and naturalism. However, if Bastien-Lepage felt inspired by nature, she found her inspiration and the urban scene. Unfortunately, both artists succumbed prematurely to chronic illness in the same year, in the later pages of her diary, Bashkirtseff record her visits to the dying painter.
“I say nothing of the fields because Bastien-Lepage reigns over them as a sovereign; but the streets, however, have not yet had their… Bastien.”
She lived long enough to emerge as an intellectual in Paris during the 1880s. In 1881, she authored several articles for the feminist newspaper of Hubertine Auclert called La Citoyenne under the pseudonym Pauline Orrel, and one of her best-known sayings is “Let us love dogs, let us love only dogs! Men and cats are unworthy creatures”. Bashkirtseff died of tuberculosis in 1884 at the age of 25 in Paris. She is buried in Cimetière de Passy.
- In 1884, Bashkirtseff received an honourable mention for the portrait of her cousin she made in pastel and exhibited at Le Salon.
- A large number of her work were destroyed by the Nazis, but at least 60 survive.
- Her most famous works are The Meeting, which is now at Musée d’Orsay, in Paris. And a painting of 1881 entitled In the Studio, which is a portrait of her fellow artists at work, she portrayed herself as the central figure seated in the foreground.
- Probably she is most famous today for her journal than for her paintings. Since she was (approximately) 13 years old, Bashkirtseff kept a journal, which is considered to offer an almost novelistic account of the late 19th century European bourgeoisie. The journal was first published in 1887.
- Bashkirtseff was included in the 2018 exhibition Women in Paris 1850-1900.