Saturday, March 15, 2014

"The Master of Swish"

Giovanni Boldini (1842 - 1931)

Boldini— even the name conjures up the energetic brushstrokes that characterized his work. I'd always thought Sargent breathed life into his portraits of Belle Epoque ladies and gents. His contemporary Giovanni Boldini has them jumping off the canvas.

What a heady time that must have been— so many innovations from electricity to telephone to automobiles— all mostly for the very rich of course. And the rich, well, they were really rich. Portrait painters were the Richard Avedons/Annie Lebowitzs of their time. To have your portrait painted by one of the best...

Although Boldini painted theater, dance and opera stars of the day (most of their fame lost to history), his bread and butter were society portraits. Many subjects are not well known, though the Duchess of Marlborough (nee Cornelia Vanderbilt), certainly is:

Cornelia was a beauty. I'm not sure of some of the other ladies, but the man knew how to flatter. Amazing what a swish can do.


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