MARCELLIN DESBOUTIN (Cérilly 26 August 1823-18 February 1902 Nice)
Oil on canvas
11 × 16 inches (27.9 × 40.6 cm)
Signed M Desboutin and dated 1900 at lower right
Painter, printmaker, and writer Marcellin Desboutin came from a wealthy and aristocratic family. He trained as lawyer before turning his attention to art. He studied with the sculptor Louis-Jules Etex (1810-1889) at the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris from 1845 to 1849, and then with painter Thomas Couture (1815-1879). Desboutins traveled in Britain, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Italy, before acquiring the Villa dell’Ombrellino, Bellosguardo in 1857 located outside the Porta Romana in Florence. There he painted, learned etching, and wrote plays, including “Maurice de Saxe,” which was produced at the Comédie Française in Paris in 1870.
In 1877, after having spent his fortune, Desboutin returned to Paris and began earning a living as an artist and printmaker. He exhibited prints at the Paris Salons from 1866 to 1899, began showing paintings at the Salon in 1872, and exhibited in the second Impressionist exhibition of 1876. Desboutin made many portraits of his artist friends, including August Renoir, Berthe Morisot, Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, and Edgar Degas, for whom he also posed. In Degas’ famous painting L’Absinthe (1875-1876; fig. 1), located in the permanent collections of Musée d’Orsay, Paris, Desboutin appears seated at a café table alongside the actress Ellen Andrée.
Desboutin resided in Nice from 1880 to 1888 before returning to Paris, where he helped found the Sociéte Nationale des Beaux-Arts, was appointed to the order of the Legion of Honor in 1895 and won the grand prize at the Exposition Universelle of 1900. He moved back to Nice in 1896, where he remained until his death in 1902.
His works are in numerous museums in France, England, and the United States, including the Musée d’Orsay, Paris; the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Art Institute of Chicago; and The Sterling and Francine Clark Institute, Williamstown, Ma., amongst others.