Marie Bashkirtseff

Marie Bashkirtseff (Мария Константиновна Башкирцева; November 11, 1858October 31,1884) was a Ukrainian-born Russian diarist, painter and sculptor.

Born Maria Konstantinovna Bashkirtseva in Gavrontsy 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. The Académie attracted young women from all over Europe and the United States. One fellow student was Louise Breslau who Marie viewed as her only rival. Marie would go on to produce a remarkable body of work in her short lifetime, the most famous being the portrait of Paris slum children titled The Meeting 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.

From the age of 13, she began keeping a journal, and it is for this 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.

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 is buried in Cimetière de Passy, Paris, France. 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

Until recently accepted date of Bashkirtseff's birth was 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 original manuscript, was published in France in 16 volumes, and excerpts (years 1873-1876) 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.]

("I Am the Most Interesting Book of All: The Diary of Marie Bashkirtseff") , Author's preface with comment of translator, p. 1

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.


1. Bashkirtseff, Marie "Mon journal", volumes I-XVI; texte intégral transcrit par Ginette Apostolescu. - Montesson (5 rue Jean-Claude-Bézanier, 78360 ) : Cercle des amis de Marie Bashkirtseff, 2005 (Paris : Impr. diff. graphique). - 1 vol. (326 p.) ; 21 cm. Index. - DLE-20051207-57368. - 848.803 oeuvre (21) . - ISBN 2-9518398-5-5 (br.) : 22 EUR. - EAN 9782951839854.

2. "I Am the Most Interesting Book of All: The Diary of Marie Bashkirtseff" (English translation by Phyllis Howard Kernberger, Katherine Kernberger) ISBN-10: 0811802248, ISBN-13: 978-0811802246, Publisher: Chronicle Books (June 1, 1997)


Further reading

  • Cronin, Vincent. Four Women in Pursuit of an Ideal. London: Collins, 1965; also published as The Romantic Way. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1966.

External links

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