Giovanni Boldini was born in Ferrara, Italy in 1845, the eighth of thirteen children. He moved to Florence in 1862-65, where he came into contact with members of the Barbizon school and the Macchiaioli – a group of artists opposed to the strict teachings of the Accademia. The Macchiaioli worked to emphasise painterly immediacy and freshness, notions that were also tied to the French Impressionists. A great influence upon Boldini’s work was his friendship with the influential thinker and art critic Diego Martelli who, himself, would help mould and champion the ideas of Impressionism in Italy.

From the beginning of his career Boldini displayed a remarkable talent as a portrait painter, and during a trip to London in 1869 was able to obtain numerous commissions. He would carry this forward, residing in London on-and-off for the next five years. Boldini also produced landscape paintings, including a series of frescoes at the Villa ‘La Falconiera’, near Pistoia in 1870.

No matter his skill for landscapes his talent and love was clearly for portraiture. In 1872 he settled in Paris at the age of 30, taking a studio on the Place Pigalle. Beginning in 1874 he exhibited frequently at the annual Salons and quickly rose to prominence in Parisian art circles. He enjoyed an exclusive contract with the eminent art dealer Adolphe Goupil, and produced for him small, brightly coloured, 18th century costume pieces such as Young Woman Writing that were popular with his Parisian clientele.

Boldini’s public debut of 1874 at the Salon de Mars with his bold, fluid style of painting soon proved immensely popular. He began to paint society portraits and quickly developed a reputation for his dazzling, elegant depictions of the fashionable women, executed with these bold, fluid brushstrokes.

It is believed Boldini first met artist John Singer Sargent in the summer of 1880 (Sargent was 24 and Boldini 38) and it was in the early 80’s that Boldini painted Sargent. He would paint portraits of other painters such as James A. McNeill Whistler, and Paul-César Helleu along with Paul’s wife. He became a close friend of Degas (Degas drew Boldini); and like Degas, he began to use pastel extensively in the 1880’s.

  • Portrait of a Woman, C.1888

    by Giovanni Boldini

    £110,000
    DIMENSIONS: (unframed)8.0 x 6.0 ins/ 20.3 x 15.2 cm SIGNATURE: Signed lower right MEDIUM: Watercolour
  • Ritratto di Giovane Signora

    by Giovanni Boldini

    £38,000
    Ritratto di Giovane Signora is a rare early portrait by the Italian master Giovanni Boldini from 1863-65. In this work a beautiful young woman stares knowingly out towards us. The black of her dress, which engulfs her body, is a stark contrast to her unblemished white skin. She is presented against a grey background in a formal portraiture composition, which gives reference to traditional portraiture while simultaneously beckoning in a new style for the genre. The empty background signals Boldini’s early style in which he quickly painted small portraits that focused upon the image of the sitter. With just the lady’s face to hold our attention all detail is on how it expresses her personality. With light illuminating on her face, we are given a real insight into Boldini’s skill in transforming portraiture in his early Tuscan years. DIMENSIONS: (unframed) 7.00 x 7.25 ins/ 17.78 x 18.42 cm SIGNATURE: Signed 'Boldini' (lower right) MEDIUM: Oil on canvas
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