We have just entered the new year and we are snowed under features and articles reminding us about resolutions, plans, goals, and intentions. A great way to escape them all is filling our eyes with beauty, visiting for example an art exhibition. The State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg is hosting at the moment "Giovanni Boldini. Painter of the Belle Époque" (until 11th March 2017), an exhibition organised in conjunction with Italy's Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Tourism.
The exhibition features works by Italian genre and portrait painter Boldini (1842-1931) and brings together pictures from seven Italian museums, including the Uffizi Gallery, the National Gallery of Modern Art in Rome and museums in Parma, Barletta, Pavia, Treviso and, above all, from the Giovanni Boldini Museum in Ferrara, the largest public collection of the painter's legacy, and includes works from his studio that he did not intend to present to the public.
The event features both early works and famous high-society portraits, characterized by his trademark style with his subjects in soft-focus and represented with elongated silhouettes. Boldini's swift brushstrokes helped him giving a certain dynamic touch to his paintings and a sense of movement to his portraits.
Born in Ferrara, the son of a painter of religious subjects, Boldini enjoyed a long and successful career. Success arrived after he moved to London and became a portraitist. From 1872 he lived in Paris, where he also became a friend of Edgar Degas and where he created images of the stars of Parisian social and intellectual life in the Belle Époque.
The exhibition opens with Boldini's self-portrait painted at the request of the director of the Uffizi Gallery for the famous Vasari Corridor in 1892. The event progresses, including "Door in Montmartre" (c. 1873) and more complicated, unexpected or experimental compositions such as "Leaving a Masked Ball" (c. 1876), "Le Pont des Saints-Pères" (1881-86) and "The Mondona Singer" (c. 1884).
Larger portraits such as "Alaide Banti in a Grey Dress" (1865-66) and "The Lascaraky Sisters" (1869) show a change in direction and style, confirmed by the output from his first decades in Paris including "Countess Gabrielle de Rasty" (c. 1879) and "Portrait of the Artist Joaquín Araújo y Ruano" (c. 1882), triumphing with depictions of elegance and beauty such as "Portrait of Infanta Eulalia of Spain" (1898), "Woman in White" (1902) and "Lady in Pink (Portrait of Olivia de Subercaseaux Concha)" (1916).
Boldini has always been the main inspiration for many artists and fashion designers as well: Galliano at Dior often conjured up visions taken from his paintings like his "Portrait of the Marchesa Luisa Casati".
There is more beauty, though, to discover in the exhibition since the museum decided to feature in the event also other works by Boldini's colleagues and friends - Cristiano Banti, Torello Ancillotti, Federico Zandomeneghi, Giuseppe De Nittis, Antonio Mancini, Filadelfo Simi and Paolo Troubetzkoy.
The best one from this section remains the portrait of Elena Vecchi ("Dreams") by Vittorio Corcos. Critics came to consider this work as an innovative painting and a symbol of the Belle Époque since the young woman portrayed has a bold and brave look in her dreamy eyes.
A separate section of the exhibition is devoted to the Italian advertising placards of the early 20th-century, the Golden Age of the poster, with works by Marcello Dudovich, Aleardo Terzi, Aleardo Villa and Leopoldo Metlicovitz. So, here are enough beautiful inspirations to officially start the new year.