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Marie Bashkirtseff.

Marie Bashkirtseff, the journal of a young artist, 1860-1884, Volumes 1-2 online

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boys; and the " Holy Women " in an entirely black frame, and
below, the text: " And he rolled a great stone to the door of
the sepulchre and departed; and there was Mary Magdalen,
and the other Mary, sitting over against the sepulchre." And
a statue, " Nausicaa " or " Ariadne;" the casts are all made
and "Ariadne" would create a sensation. They would say that
it was I, myself, abandoned by — ^whom? And "Nausicaa?" I
love them both.

There are three things (two pictures and a statue) that I
desire so strongly to do that I have become really supersti-
tious about the matter.

Love can not absorb me completely; it will be a charm-
ing accessory, the crowning of the edifice. Well, we shall
see.

Sunday, July 22d. — I had a burning pain last night in my
right side, at the place where the lung is affected. I have
decided at last to submit to a yellow stain for three or four
months, for I do not want to die of consumption.



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276 JOURNAL OF MARIE BASHKIRTSEFF.

Wednesday^ Jufy 2 5 />%.— Monsieur X — brought us the two
busts, which we had purchased for 100 francs apiece. We
kept him to dinner.

He seemed very ill-at-ease, although he affected an air of
composure; I felt for him, imagining that he must be longing
to get away. They say that he is poor; that thought pained
me, and made me ashamed that I had paid for two works
of art only about as much as a new hat would have cost
Instead of making me more amiable, all this gave my manners
a seeming lack of cordiality, and I was angry at myself for it.
The poor fellow brought his overcoat into the salon and
placed it upon the divan. He scarcely uttered a word; we
had a little music, and that produced a Certain diversion; he
must have suffered terribly from timidity. I can not see that
he has much brains, yet, with his talents^ he must be intelli-
gent; but we did not know how to put him at his ease; besides,
his is a wild sort of nature; he must be very proud and very
unhappy. At all events, it is certain that he is poor and that I
bought two busts of him for 200 francs. It makes me ashamed.
I should like to send him 100 francs more; for I have 150
francs in my purse, but I don't know how.

Thursday y July 26th. — The weather is so uncertain that I
have been forced to stop work on my picture, and I destroyed
all my groups in clay except one, which is not yet entirely
finished; and then, of course, Saint-Marceaux came to call.

What heart-beatings, crystallization, etc.! I put on, took
off, and put on again two or three dresses, made him wait a
long time, and, finally, went down to see him, badly dressed
and very red.

He is very amusing, with his indignation against the mod-
ern school and the disciples of realism. He says one must
seek a certain something, which is art> and which can not be
^explained in words.

I understand what he means, but — He saw only that paltry
^oup, and, from that he told me to continue. It is disconcect-



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JOURNAL OF MARIE BASHKIRTSEFF. 2T7

ing; the recliniag man, of which C — advised me to have a c»$t
mad^ in order to preserve it, was in the hands of the work-
men, and so Saint-Marceaux did not see it. I have had no
compliments except for that everlasting portrait of Dioa,
which everybody thinks so good. Saint-Maxceaux is charm-
ing, original, clever, and very nervous; he does not hesitate
to criticise everything, which is better than that hypocrisy
which praises everything and everybody. He saw my picture
of the street boys, and said that it was easy to paint ordinary,
common^place things — peasants and such things — but the
difficult thing was to paint beautiful, delicate things, full of
cbaracten

"And, above all, strive to put in your pictures a certain
nameless something which can not be taught, which we find
only in ourselves, and which, in short, is art."

Have I not said that? Down with the vile copyists, the
photographers, the naturalists!

But I can not help a feeling of pain that I was neither
bright, nor pretty, nor witty during Saint- Marceaux's call.

Friday^ August ^d, — Bastien- Lepage is enough to drive one
wild. When you study nature closely, when you wish to imi-
tate perfectly, it is impossible not to think all the time of that
great artist.

He possesses all the secrets of flesh-tints. What others make
is painting; his works are nature itself. We hear much about
the realists; but the realists do not know what reality is; they
coarsen everything, and think they are representing the
truth. Realism does not consist in the reproduction of a
vulgar thing, but in executing the thing in the most perfect
manner possible. I do not wish what I do to be painting; I
want it to be flesh and alive.

When one has worked like a dog all day long, it is hard to
realize that one's work has been of no avail, and only a dry
.and worthless thing has been produced.

And the memory of that monster of Damvillers paralyzes



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278 JOURNAL OF MARIE BASHKIRTSEFF.

me. The picture is broad, simple, true, and all the details of
nature are there. Ah, misery!

Sundayy August ^th, — They say that I have had a love affair
with C— , and that that is the reason I do not marry; for
otherwise people can not understand why, as I have a fine
dowry, I have not yet become a countess or a marquise.

The fools! Fortunately, you handful of the upper crust,
superior beings, you dearly beloved friends who are reading
these pages, now know how correct your conjectures were.
But when the time comes for you to read me, all those of
whom I speak will probably be dead, and C — will carry to
the tomb the sweet conviction that he was loved by a young
and beautiful foreigner, who, captivated by his graces, etc.
The idiot! And others will also believe it. The idiots! But you
know well that it is not so. It would be poetical, perhaps, to
refuse little marquises for love's sweet sake; but, alas! I refuse
them through plain common sense.

Tuesday^ August ph, — The blood rushed to my face as I
thought that, in a week, it will be five months since I finished
my Salon picture. What have I done in five months? Nothing
yet. To be sure, I have accomplished something in sculpture;
but that does not count. The "Street Boys" is not fin-
ished.

I am very unhappy — seriously unhappy. N. N — dined
here, and he retailed to me his catalogue of the Museum of
the Louvre, speaking of the position of almost every picture.
He had learned it by heart to conquer my good graces. He
believes that he can do so, and that there is a possibility of
my marrying him. To have such an opinion, he must believe
that I am at my wits' ends for a husband. Is .it, perhaps^
because he thinks my beauty is fading?

After his departure, I nearly fainted away with grief and
indignation. What have I done to God that He should strike
me blow after blow in this way? What does that modern
Potiphar believe? If he is not convinced that I shall never



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JOURNAL OF MARIE BASHKIRTSEFF. 279

love anything but art, what does he think? And yet a mar-
riage of love is out of the question, it seems.

Then what is it that makes me cross and impatient? What
makes my every-day life so miserable? It is a strong force
within me, something that there are no words in my scanty
vocabulary to express.

The idea of a picture or a statue will keep me awake night
after night; the thought of a handsome man has never had
that effect.

I have been to the Louvre this morning to look at Raphael's
pictures, in consequence of something I, read in Stendhal.
Well, do what I may, from what I saw there, I can not like
him. I like better the ingenuous effects of the earliest painters.

Raphael is paltry and false.'

Divine, divine, you say. Divine— is he divine? Anything
divine should carry us out of ourselves and transport our
thoughts to celestial regions.

Raphael wearies me.

Who, then, is divine? I do not know. Why does Stendhal
say that Raphael paints souls? In which of his pictures?

That is an admiration which I can not attain to. No, I
prefer the early artists, simple and wonderful men, amoi^g
whom is the great Perugino. But what do I care for those
enormous, absurd canvases, full of technique and knowledge,
or even Rubens' masses of flesh? They bore me! What do I
say to Raphael's Madonnas, or " The Marriage in Cana?"
Why, there is nothing divine about them. His Madonnas
are ordinary — ^and his children! Well, I must see again his
pictures that are in Italy. The memory that I have of them
is not pleasant. The "Madonna della Sedia" is a pretty,
delicate woman of the Italian type. I see more divinity in
Michael Angelo's. Raphael Sanzio, Listen to that high-
sounding name!

I would like to paint only things which move one, make the
pulses throb, or set one dreaming — something which touches



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280 JOURNAL OF MARIE BASHKIRTSEFF.

the heart like the simple little pictures of Cazin; the size
matters little, but if one could achieve that effect in a large
picture it would be superb. But how many are there wha
appreciate Cazin?

Saturday^ August Jiih, — I have been reading Stendhal's^
history of painting, and the intelligent man thinks exactly
as I do. Yet it seems to me that he strives too hard to be
sarcastic and original.

I felt a painful surprise when I read his opinion that, to
paint grief, one ought to be well-posted in physiology.

Why?

If I do not feel the sentiment, how can physiology teach
me to do so? The muscles! Oh, Lord! A painter who
attempts to depict grief physiologically, without having seen
it, understood it, felt it (literally), will never be anything but
a cold, dry artist. It is as if one should advise some one in
trouble to grieve according to certain rules.

Feel first, and then, if you wish, use your reason. Analysis
can do nothing but confirm the first impression. The study
would simply be one of pure curiosity.

You can analyze the component parts of tears, if you like,
to learn logically and scientifically what color they should be
painted. But I prefer to paint them as I see them, without
even knowing why they art what they are, and not something
else.

Sunday y August X2th, — The idea that Bastien-Lepage was
to come, unnerved me to such a degree that I could do
nothing. It is really ridiculous to be so impresstonable.

The Pope dined with ust We talked all through dinner.
Bastien-Lepage is exceedingly intelligent, but less brilliant
than Saint-Marceaux. I did not show him any of my paint-
ings — not one, not one, not one! I said nothing; that is to
say, I was not brilliant, and when he began an interesting con-
versation, I did not know how to answer him, nor could I
even follow his crisp, bright sentences which were so like his.



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paintings. If it had been Julian, I should have answered him,
for that is the sort of conversation that suits unte best. He is
intelligent, he imderstands everything, he is even learned, and
I feared to display smy ignorance.

When he said things to which I should have responded in
a manner to display the best qualities of my mind and heart,
I was stupidly silent.

I can not even write; I am completely disorganized to-day.

I long to remain alone — all alone by myself, to think about
the powerful impression this man has made upon me. Ten
minutes after he arrived, I had mentally capitulated and
accepted his influence over me.

I said nothing that I ought to have said. He is a doni-god,
and he knows it. I have even strengthened him in that belief.
To ordinary eyes, he is small and ugly; but, to me and people
of my stamp, his face is charming. What does he think of
me? I was awkward and I laughed too much. He said he
was jealous of Saint-Marceaux. A fine triumph for me!

Thursday y August idth, — ^To say that I had met with a great
misfortune would, perhaps, be an exaggeration; but what has
happened can really be considered, even by the most sensible
people, as a heavy blow.

It is stupid, too, as all misfortunes are.

I was going to send my picture to the Triennial the 20th of
August, the last day of grace; and it is not the 20th, but
to-day, the i6th, which is the last day of grace.

My nostrils dilate, I have pains in my back, and my hands
tremble as though I had the palsy.

After having been beaten, one must feel as I do.

I went and hid in the bath-room to weep out my misery; it
was not a very romantic spot, but it was the only place where
I would not be interrupted.

If I had shut myself up in my room, they would guess
why I had done so after having received such a blow. It is,
I think, the first time that I have hidden myself to cry, with



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282 JOURNAL OF MARIE BASHKIRTSEFF.

my eyes closed and my mouth twisted up like a child or a
clown. And after that? Well, after that, I went to my study
and remained there until my eyes had lost their redness.

Once, some time ago, I wept in mamma's arms; and this
grief, shared, so to speak, was such a cruel humiliation to me
for months afterward, that I will never again weep for a per-
sonal misfortune before anyone. One can shed tears in the
presence of anyone, no matter who, from anger or for the death
of Gambetta, for instance; but to parade one's weakness,
poverty of spirit, misery, humiliation — never! It may be a
consolation for the time being, but you will repent it ever
afterward.

While weeping in the bath-room, I found the expression I
want for my Magdalen, who can not look at the sepulchre,
and who stares fixedly before her, as I did at that moment. I
must paint her with her eyes wide open, just after having
wept bitterly.

God is unjust, and if He does not exist, to whom can I
appeal? He punishes me for having doubted Him. He does
everjrthing to make me doubt Him, and then, when I do
doubt Him, He strikes me over the head; and when I persist
in believing in Him and praying to Him, He strikes me harder
still, to teach me patience.

Friday^ August i*jth, — People do not believe in my timidity;
.it is due, however, to an excess of pride.

I have a horror and a terror of asking anything; it must be
offered to me. If, after I have worked myself up to the
proper degree of courage, I determine to ask for something, I
never get what I want; it is almost always too late.

I turn white and red twenty times before I dare to say that
I intend to paint or exhibit a picture; it seems to me that
people are laughing at me; that I don't know anything, that I
am pretentious and ridiculous.

When anyone looks at a picture of mine (anyone means an
artist, of course), I retire as far away as I can, I am so afraid



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JOURNAL OF MARIE BASHKIRTSEFF. 283

of an adverse word or look. However, Robert-Fleury does
not suspect that I have so little confidence in myself. As I
:speak in a boasting sort of way, he thinks that I have a high
opinion of myself, and believe myself to have great talent.
-Consequently, he thinks that there is no need of encouraging
me, and if I should tell him my doubts and hesitations he
i¥Ould laugh at me. I spoke to him on the subject once, and
he took it as a joke. That is a great error into which I have
fallen. Bastien-Lepage knows, I think, that I am frightfully
afraid of him, and he believes himself to be a god.

Monday^ August 20M. — I have been singing; it is a beautiful
night, and the moonlight streams in through the large window
of the studio. One ought to be able to be happy. Yes, if
one had the luck to fall in love. In love with whom?

Tuesday y August 21st, — No, I shall not die until I am forty
years old, like Mademoiselle Colignon. When I am about
thirty-five I shall be very ill, and at thirty-six or seven I shall
spend a winter in bed. And my last wishes? I shall simply
ask a statue and a portrait from Saint-Marceaux and Jules
Bastien-Lepage, to be placed in a prominent place in some
chapel of Paris, surrounded by flowers; and, forever, at each
anniversary of my death, masses by Verdi and Pergolese,
and other music shall be sung by the most celebrated sing-
«ers.

And then I will found a prize for artists, both male and
female.

Instead of thinking about that, however, I want to live.
But I have no genius, and it is much better to die.

Monday y August 21th, — I have given my picture of the
angler to the ischia lottery; tickets are for sale at Petit's in
the Rue de S^ze. My angler is good, and the water is well
painted, they say. I would never have believed it. We are all
fools. What is the use of doing artistic work? The multi-
tude will never appreciate it Do you care for what the
multitude thinks of you? Yes; that is, I should like to have



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284 JOURNAL OF MARIE BASHKIRTSEFF.

everybody familiar with my name, in order that I might have
the more admiration.

Wednesddr^, August tgtk. — I cough all the time, in spite of
the warm weather; and this afternoon, while the model was
resting, I laid down on the divan and had a vision of myself
stretched out with a tall, lighted candle beside me.

That will be the end of all my troubles.

Death? I am terribly afraid of it.

And I don't want to die. It would be frightful. I don't
know how happy people feel, but I am right to complain, since
I have nothing more to expect of God. When that supreme
refuge fails, one has hothing to do but to die. Without God
there can be no poetry, no affection, no genius, no love, no
ambition.

The passions cause us doubts, aspirations, desires, furious
thoughts. We need a Being above all this— a God to Whom
we can tell our enthusiasms and address our prayers; a God
AVho is all powerful, and of Whom we can ask anything^
to Whom we can disclose our most secret thoughts. I
should like to have all remarkable men confess the truth,,
and say if, when they have been very much in love, very
ambitious, or very unhappy, they have not had recourse to
God. ^

Vulgar natures, however intelligent and learned they may
be, can dispense -virith Him; but those who "have the sparky
even if they are learned in all sciences, even if their reason
bids them doubt, such people are possessed, at least at times,,
by a passionate belief.

lam not very learned, but all ray reflections lead to this
conclusion: The God that we ate taught to believe in is an
invention. Let us speak no more of the God of religion, or
religions, rather.

But the God of men of genhis, the God of philosophers^
the God of people who are possessed of more'thian average
intelligence, like you and I — that God is unjust if He does not



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JOURNAL OP ftfARIK »ASHKIRTSEFF. 285

listen to Ms; ot, if He is a wicked God, I don't see whatt busi-
ness He has to exist.

But ff He does not exist, why has there been this tmnrersal
craving for sctooething to adore, among all nations and in all
ages?' Is it possible th'at there is n&tMng which can answer
to these aspirations, whieh are inborn in all men; to this
instinct whic^ leads us to seek the Supreme Being, the ^cat
Master, God?

Saturday^ Septembsr %$h, — ^This has been a good day. I
have finished the portrait of Loais. We went to Versaiiles,
and in the evening, after a call on the Mar^chate, Claire and
I threw ourselves dO!Wfl on the floor in the salon, as we do
every evening. We talked JS^nt art, aus we also do every
evening; but to-night there was more real intimacy than usual,
and it is at such times: jespccially that I think of my picture.
It shall be something full of poetry — calm, simple, broad.

You see my aspirations are not soloCty but that they may
well be realized. Well, we shall see.

My new picture should be grand and simple.

Thursday, September 13M. — I ^ead in "Stendhal" that our
sorrows appear less bitter when we idealize them. This is
exceedingly true. But how can I ideaHzemine? It is impos-
sible! They are so bitter, so miserable, so frightful, that I
can not speak of them even in ^hese pages without wounding
myself horribly. How can I say that at times I don^ hear
w^ll? Well, maythe will of God ^be done! This phrase comes
to me mechanicariy, and I almost believe it; for I am going to
die quite naturally in my bed without violence.

I am reconciled, for I am uneasy about my eyes. I did not
work or read for a fortnight, and they wete no better. I have
palpitations, and see .floating. species tn the air.

It i^, perliaps, because for the last two weeks I had had
brontthkis, wfelch wotfld keep in bed any one else in the world,
and yet J walk about as if nothing were the matter with
me. '



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286 JOURNAL OF MARIE BASHKIRT8BFF.

I have been working on Dina's portrait, but with spirits so
depressed that it will probably give me more white hairs.

Saturday y September 15M. — This morning I went to the
Salon to see Bastien's pictures. What can I say.^ He is the
jewel of jewels. There are three portraits, which, to use the
words of Julian, who dined with us to-night, are enough to
drive one wild. Never has anything like them been done
before. They are alive; they have souls. In execution there
is nothing which can be compared to them, for they are nature
itself. It is foolish to attempt to paint after seeing the
products of his brush.

He has a little picture entitled " Ripe Wheat." It repre-
sents a man mowing with his back toward the spectator. It
is an excellent picture.

Then there are two life-size paintings — " Haymaking " and
"The Potato Diggers."

What color 1 what drawing! what execution! There is the
wealth of tones which is to be found only in nature itself.
And the figures live!

The coloring enchants you with its divine simplicity, and
you gaze at the canvas in pure delight.

I entered the room without knowing what was there, and I
stopped short as my eyes rested upon " Haymaking," as one
would stop at the unexpected sight of a lovely landscape
through an open window.

I can do no justice to the beauty of this picture. Bastien-
Lepage is a hundred leagues above anyone else. No one can
be compared to him.

I am really ill, and I have applied an enormous blister to
my chest. After that, doubt my courage and my desire to
live, if you like. No one knows it except Rosalie; I walk
about the' studio, read, laugh and sing with something of my
old beauty of voice. As I often do nothing on Sundays, it
astonishes no one that I am idle to-day.



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JOURNAL OF MARIE BASHKIRTSEFF. 28T

Tuesday^ September i8M. — It appears that the interest the
Russian press has shown in me has inspired a certain interest
in everybody else, and among others in the Grand Duchess
Catharine. Mamma is very intimate with her grand chamber-
lain and his family, and they have spoken seriously of my being
appointed to the post of lady of honor. But I must be pre-
sented to the Grand Ehichess first. The subject was much
talked about; but mamma was wrong to return here, and let
the matter progress without her.

And then — my lofty soul demands a sister soul — I shall
never have a woman friend. Claire says that I can never have
a girl friend, because I have none of the little secrets and
stories that a young girl usually has.

" You are too good; you have nothing to hide."

Wednesday^ September 26th, — Now that the vexations are
forgotten, I recall that my father had something good, original,
and witty about him. He was thoughtless, and seemed frivo-
lous and rude to many people. He was a little cold and tricky,
perhaps; but who is without his faults? Have I myself none?
I blame myself for my treatment of him, and it brings the tears
to my eyes.

Perhaps I should have gone to him. It would have been
through a sense of what was proper, for I had no feeling about
the matter.

But would it have been a meritorious action? I think not.

I had no feeling, and God will punish me for it; but is it my
fault? And then, will the more softened sentiments I feel this
evening be charged up to my credit?

Are we responsible for the good or bad sentiments we really
feel?

One should do one's duty, you reply. It was not a question
of duty. We were speaking of sentiments, and as I did not
feel the necessity of going, how would God judge me?

Yes, I regret that I did not feel the tenderness I do this
evening. He is dead, and it is too late to repair my mistake*



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288 JOURNAL OF MARIE BA6HKIRTSEFF.

What would it have cost me to go aad^ do my duty,, for it was
my duty to g,o to my dying father. I did not understand it at



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