Marie Bashkirtseff

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Marie Bashkirtseff
Marie Bashkirtseff1878.jpg
Marie Bashkirtseff, 1878
Born (1858-11-24)24 November 1858
Died 31 October 1884(1884-10-31) (aged 25).
Paris, France
Occupation diarist, painter and sculptor

Marie Bashkirtseff (born Maria Konstantinovna Bashkirtseva; Russian: Мари́я Константи́новна Башки́рцева); was a Ukrainian diarist, painter and sculptor.

Life and career[edit]

Born Maria Konstantinovna Bashkirtseva in Gavrontsi near Poltava, to a wealthy noble family, she grew up abroad, traveling with her mother across most of Europe. Educated privately, she studied painting in France at the Académie Julian, one of the few establishments that accepted female students, along with Anna Bilińska-Bohdanowiczowa. The Académie attracted young women from all over Europe and the United States. Another fellow student was Louise Breslau, whom Bashkirtseff viewed as her only rival. Bashkirtseff would go on to produce a remarkable body of work in her short lifetime; her best-known works are the portrait of Paris slum children titled The Meeting (1884; Musée d'Orsay, Paris) and In the Studio, (shown here) a portrait of her fellow artists at work. Unfortunately, a large number of Bashkirtseff's works were destroyed by the Nazis during World War II.

The Studio by Marie Bashkirtseff (1881). Marie Bashkirtseff is the seated central figure

From the age of 13, Bashkirtseff kept a journal, and it is for this that she is most famous. Her personal account of the struggles of women artists is documented in her published journals, which are a revealing story of the bourgeoisie. Titled I Am the Most Interesting Book of All, her popular diary is still in print today. The diary was cited by an American contemporary, Mary MacLane, whose own shockingly confessional diary drew inspiration from Bashkirtseff's. Her letters, consisting of her correspondence with the writer Guy de Maupassant, were published in 1891.

The grave of Marie Bashkirtseff

As a painter, Bashkirtseff took her cue from Jules Bastien-Lepage's admiration for the true forms of reality, an inspiration found in nature.

"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".[1]

She formed a friendship with Bastien-Lepage; both artists succumbed to chronic illness prematurely in the same year, 1884.

Dying of tuberculosis at the age of 25, Bashkirtseff lived just long enough to become an intellectual powerhouse in Paris in the 1880s. A feminist, in 1881, using the nom de plume "Pauline Orrel," she wrote several articles for Hubertine Auclert's feminist newspaper, La Citoyenne. One of her famous quotes is: Let us love dogs, let us love only dogs! Men and cats are unworthy creatures.

She died in Paris, France and she is buried in Cimetière de Passy, Paris. Her monument is a full-sized artist studio that has been declared a historic monument by the government of France.

Discovery of the original diary[edit]

Until recently the accepted date of Bashkirtseff's birth was November 11 [Nov. 23, New Style], 1860. However, after the discovery of the original manuscript of Bashkirtseff‘s diary in the Bibliothèque nationale de France, it was found that her diary had been abridged and censored by her family. Her date of birth (1858 not 1860) was also falsified by her mother. The unabridged edition of the diary, based on the original manuscript, was published in France in 16 volumes, and excerpts (years 1873–76) translated into English (see Reference).

I was born the 11th (elsewhere given as the 12th) of November, 1859. Actually born November 12, 1858, by the Russian calendar; November 24, 1858, by the Gregorian calendar, which is twelve days ahead of the Russian. The family celebrated her birthday each year on the day they claimed she would have been born if she had been a full-term baby— January 12 by the Russian calendar, January 24 by the western calendar. She learns later—in Book 83, December 29, 1878—from her father (but does not apparently accept his statement, as she ignores it here in her preface) that she was a full-term baby, suggesting that she was conceived before her parents had married and that all the mystification about her date of birth was intended to cover up that embarrassment.] It's horrifying just to write it, but I console myself by thinking that I certainly will not have any age when you read me.
I Am the Most Interesting Book of All: The Diary of Marie Bashkirtseff , Author's preface with comment of translator, p. 1


  1. ^ Homage website to Marie Bashkirtseff, a fellow invalid painter inspired by acquaintanceship with her contemporary Bastien-Lepage

Further reading[edit]

  • Bashkirtseff, Marie. Mon journal. Texte intégral., volumes I-XVI (complete text of the journal transcribed by Ginette Apostolescu). Paris: Montesson (5 rue Jean-Claude-Bézanier, 78360 ). Cercle des amis de Marie Bashkirtseff, 2005. ISBN 2-9518398-5-5. (French)
  • "The Journal of Marie Bashkirtseff: I Am the Most Interesting Book of All (Volume I) and Lust for Glory (Volume II)" (English Translation by Katherine Kernberger) E-book version: ISBN 978-1-62652-076-9, Publisher: Fonthill Press (February 27, 2013)
  • "I Am the Most Interesting Book of All: The Diary of Marie Bashkirtseff" (English translation by Phyllis Howard Kernberger, Katherine Kernberger) ISBN 0-8118-0224-8, ISBN 978-0-8118-0224-6, Publisher: Chronicle Books (June 1, 1997)
  • Cronin, Vincent. Four Women in Pursuit of an Ideal. London: Collins, 1965; also published as The Romantic Way. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1966.
  • Hubbard, Tom, Marie B.: A Biographical Novel, Kirkcaldy: Ravenscraig Press, 2008
  •  Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Bashkirtseff, Maria Constantinova". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 

External links[edit]