The life of Marie Bashkirtseff was tragically cut short by a disease that was all too common in the 19th century, tuberculosis. Yet in her 25 years she left a remarkable body of work.
Born into a wealthy, noble family on November 24, 1858, in Gavrontsi (present day Ukraine), Marie had the benefit of extensive travel throughout Europe during her childhood. Her parents separated and Marie eventually settled with her mother in Paris.
She was educated privately and had early ambitions to become a singer, but when illness affected her voice, she decided to become an artist instead. She studied at the Robert-Fleury studio and at the Académie Julian. Her work was accepted at the Paris Salon each year from 1880 until her death in 1884 with the exception of 1883. Her work was inspired by the realism and naturalism of Jules Bastien-Lepage, but rather than paint nature, she focused on urban themes. Many of her works were destroyed during WWII, but at least 60 remain. Two of her most well-known works are The Meeting and In the Studio, (shown below.)
Today, Marie is probably most well-known for the journal she kept from the age of 13 until her death. It was published in 1887 and was only the second to be published in France by a woman. Immediately successful, an English translation was published two years later entitled Marie Bashkirtseff: The Journal of a Young Artist 1860-1884. The journal covers her coming-of-age, her intense desire to achieve fame, and as she realizes her life will be short, her desire to have her story told. “When I am dead, my life, which appears to me a remarkable one, will be read. (The only thing wanting is that it should have been different).”
The early published versions of her journal was heavily edited by her family, including giving her birthdate as 1860 rather than 1858, but the original was discovered in the Bibliothèque nationale de France and has since been published in its entirety in French (2005) and two volumes in English (2013).
She died October 31, 1884 and is buried in Cimetière de Passy, Paris, in a full-size artist studio which has been declared a historic monument.
Find out what else happened on November 24 in Women’s History.