Bashkirtseff, Maria

BORN 11 Nov 1858, Gavronzi (Poltawa) - DIED 31 Oct 1884, Paris: Rue Ampère
BIRTH NAME Bashkirtseff, Maria Constantinova
CAUSE OF DEATH tuberculosis
GRAVE LOCATION Paris: Passy Cimetière, 2 Rue du Commandant Schloesing (division 11)

Maria Bashkirtseff was born into a wealthy family in Gavronzi near Poltawa (Ukrain). Her parents separated when she was seven years old and her mother took her to France (where she had a house on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice) and Italy in the winters and to Germany in the summers.

She was well educated, knew four languages and could read the original Plato. She was a good musician and wanted to be a singer, but her voice failed her and she turned to drawing and painting.

She was virtually unable to marry without her father at her mother's side and in 1876 she travelled to Ukraine to convince him to come to France as well. The magnate Hryts Myloradovych courted her, but she refused to marry him. In 1877 she was back in Nice and Count Larderal asked for her hand, probably having his eye on her money as well. Her mother refused to give her permission.

She turned her full attention to painting now and her mother bought her an appartment in Paris. At the Académie Julian she was taught by Tony Robert Fleury. Rudolphe Julian himself was her mentor as well as a father figure during that time.

She was a promising painter, mainly of portraits. In 1880 she refused to marry Prince Soutzo and she exhibited at the salon. During the same year she contracted tuberculosis. Around this time she became a feminist and in 1881 she wrote articles for Hubertine Auclert's feminist newspaper using the name Pauline Orrel.

Her health had always been fragile and in 1881 it was worsening. She went to Kyiv with her family and visited Pecherska Lavra, but it seems that her health got worse. She visited Spain, where her health improved and the works of Velasquez impressed her. Apart from painting she also tried her hand as a sculptor.

In 1882 she fell under the influence of Jules Bastien-Lepage, with whom she had a platonic affair. She also started a correspondence with Guy de Maupassant and Alexandre Dumas fils. In 1883 her condition worsened and she suffered from deafness. At the same time Bastien-Lepage suffered from stomach cancer. She died on 31 Oct 1884 at the apartment in Paris, aged only 25. Lepage died shorty afterwards on 10 Dec 1884.

She was buried at Passy Cemetery in Paris where a large mausoleum was erected to her memory. It has a Byzantine dome by Emile Bastien-Lepage, Jules' brother.

After her death her diaries were published. They express the stuggles of a female artist and are full of loneliness and disappointment.

Most of her works ended up in the Russian Museum in St. Petersburg, but many were destroyed during the Second World War. Some of her paitings are at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Nice.

Related persons
• corresponded with Maupassant, Guy de
• influenced Pozzi, Catherine


The mausoleum of Maria Bashkirtseff at Passy Cimetière, Paris.
Picture by Androom (21 May 1999)


(Nice: Musée des Beaux-Arts Jules Chéret)

"Portrait de jeune femme au chapeau".
(Nice: Musée des Beaux-Arts Jules Chéret)

"Autoportrait à la palette".
   (1880 or 1883, Nice: Musée des Beaux-Arts Jules Chéret)

"Portrait de Paul, frère de l'artiste".
   (1883, Nice: Musée des Beaux-Arts Jules Chéret)

• Culbertson, Judi & Tom Randall, Permanent Parisians, Robson Books, London, 1991
NRC Handelsblad, Dagbladunie, Rotterdam

Basile, Arturo

Published: 01 Jan 2006
Last update: 25 Apr 2022