Marie Bashkirtseff's Life in Self-Portraits (1858-1884): Woman as Artist in 19th Century France

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This scholarly monograph on the Ukranian-born Russian diarist, artist, and sculptor Marie Bashkirtseff (1858-1884) makes an important contribution to a better understanding of the life and art of this important figure as well as to the general fields of art history, social history, and also women’s studies through its depiction of how a woman attempted to chart her own course as an artist in the male-dominated world of French society. Bashkirtseff’s whole approach to life was that of an artist, with her very person itself being a work of art that was on exhibit for the world to see. The author’s fascinating work examines the many ways that Bashkirtseff used the techniques of what she terms “disguise and disclosure” as she experimented with a variety of constructions of herself as a number of different characters over her short life. The twenty-six illustrations that have been included in this book will add greatly to its value.


“In this book, Louly Konz has articulated what is most central to Marie Bashkirtseff’s self-imaging: the artist’s whole life as a work of art ... Throughout her insightful account of Bashkirtseff’s disguises and disclosures, Konz prefers the logic of both/and, a logic that articulates brilliantly the complex nature of self-representation ... The account does much more than bring Marie Bashkirtseff to our attention. It offers the first sustained interpretation of the journal, self-portraits and photographs based on a reading of the journal volumes in manuscript ... This book speaks not only to Baskhirtseff, but also to the general conditions in which women artists worked and pursued their careers ... In animating the self-portraits of Marie Bashkirtseff, Louly Konz brings us face-to-face with a woman artist whose creative life has fascinated for more than a century.” – (from the Commendatory Preface) Mary D. Sheriff, Daniel W. Patterson Distinguished Term Professor and Art Department Chair, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

“Marie Bashkirtseff was a precocious, highly self-conscious, and deeply sensitive artist whose life illuminates not only artistic culture in nineteenth-century France but also the social experience of women and the strictures of Europe’s class systems during a tumultuous era ... Konz portrays the life, untimely death, and hagiography of an elusive figure in nineteenth-century arts and letters. In so doing, she provides an astute theoretical prism through which to comprehend the empowering and performative dimensions of femininity, as well as its restrictions, and the interplay of notions of self and identity with meditations on a certain and imminent death.” – Meredith J. Gill, Associate Professor, Department of Art History and Archaeology, University of Maryland

“More than twenty years after the death of artist Marie Bashkirtseff, her mother continued to honor admirers’ requests for photographs of her beautiful daughter and for tours of her rooms and studios. Why did such a personality, dead from tuberculosis at the tender age of twenty-six, warrant such sustained, romantic fascination? In an unprecedented study of Bashkirtseff’s newly available unexpurgated journal, Louly Konz offers many timely answers to this question ... This book should prove immensely valuable not only to Bashkirtseff scholars but also to anyone interested in biography, female artists, feminist theory, and the artistic conditions of nineteenth-century France.” – Jessica Dallow, Assistant Professor, Department of Art and Art History, University of Alabama at Birmingham

Table of Contents

Foreword by Mary D. Sheriff, Ph.D.
1. The Mask of Purity
2. The Masks in the Mirror
3. The Many Masks of the Grande Artiste
4. The Russian Ophelia
5. Sainte-Marie
6. Conclusion

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