Giovanni Boldini Biography
The son of a minor painter and restorer in Ferrara, Giovanni Boldini arrived in 1862 in Florence, where he enrolled in the Accademia. Boldini soon came into contact with the Macchiaioli, a group of artists opposed to the strict teachings of the academic system, and from them was inspired to paint out of doors.
Prominent among early Boldini paintings are a series of landscape frescoe paintings for the Villa ‘La Falconiera’, near Pistoia, painted by Boldini in 1870. Boldini's preference was for portraits, however, and from the earliest years of his career he displayed a remarkable talent as a portrait painter. During a trip to London in 1870 Boldini was able to obtain several portrait painting commissions, and by 1871 he had settled in Paris, taking a studio on the Place Pigalle and making his public debut in 1874 at the Salon de Mars.
Boldini began to paint society portraits and soon developed a reputation for his dazzling, elegant depictions of the fashionable society women of Paris, executed with a virtuoso technique of bold, fluid brushstrokes. Within a few years Boldini had risen to a position of prominence in Parisian art circles, and enjoyed an exclusive contract with the eminent art dealer Adolphe Goupil, for whom he produced small, brightly coloured 18th century costume paintings that were popular with the dealer"s Parisian clientele.
Boldini befriended other society portrait painters, such as Paul-César Helleu, John Singer Sargent and James A. McNeill Whistler, and was also friendly with two of the greatest draughtsmen of the day, Adolph von Menzel and Edgar Degas; the latter is said to have once told Boldini, “Vous êtes un monstre de talent!”. By the turn of the century Boldini had become the most sought-after painter of portrait paintings in Belle Epoque Paris, achieving such success that his reputation rivalled that of his friend Sargent in London.