Art

Giovanni Boldini Duchess of Marlborough and Her Son 1906 and Gustave Courbet The Young Bather 1866

Giovanni Boldini gained prominence in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as an established portrait painter. Boldini was not able to claim much fame and recognition throughout his life because the subject of most of his works was to document the families of the rich and the famous. His prominence in elite social circles was overwhelming and by the early twentieth century nearly everyone who was someone was looking for Boldini to get a portrait done. Perhaps Boldini’s only remarkable addition to contemporary art was the utilization of his swish style that received wide acclaim. After his death Boldini was also claimed as the Master of Swish1. The distinctive swish present in Boldini’s works was able to attract a number of wealthy patrons including nobility, industrialists and other such patrons. Hence, most of Boldini’s pieces are essentially portraits including the piece currently under scrutiny titled Consuelo Duchess of Marlborough with her son Ivor Spencer Churchill. In contrast to Boldini, Gustave Courbet was more of a maverick both in terms of style as well as the subject of his works. Courbet can be seen as the leader of the Realist movement that was seen in the nineteenth century that took prominence before the Impressionism of Boldini and his contemporaries. While the content of Boldini’s work was documenting the rich and the famous, Courbet instead concentrated on bringing social commentary through his work. Often Courbet’s social commentary was bold and innovative. The current piece under discussion by Courbet also represents somewhat of a social taboo for the time – the nude female figure. Courbet was an early libertarian and his work certainly represented this influence in great detail. While placing the more conventional symbols and techniques in his paintings, Courbet was concentrating instead on the content in order to stir the audiences. This he accomplished through the use of libertarian ideas that became the subject of his paintings2 which applies equally well to his work under scrutiny. It is equally important to contrast the subjects of the works in order to decipher the intent of the artists. The subject chosen by Bouldini was more commercial in nature than anything else. The commercial success of Bouldini made him a favorite for the creation of portraits in Paris. The current work being studied depicts the Duchess of Marlborough, Consuelo Vanderbilt and her young son Lord Ivor Spencer Churchill lounging around in their daily lives. One look at the painting reveals the pleasant atmosphere being carried in the household of the Churchill family. The painting is more or less an attempt by the artist to depict an affluent patroness and her son as being happy and enjoying their time together. The Duchess is shown in a suggestive manner as she glances across the floor depicted towards the artist. Her son is crouched next to her in a kneeling posture. The Duchess is seated on a sofa and is attempting to get up while her son is trying to hold her down as many children would hold down their mothers when they are being adamant. The smile on the Duchess’ face is only interrupted by her apparent beauty depicted in the painting. Much like modern celebrities the Duchess is represented as a

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