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Marcellin Desboutin
Birth Date: 
Birth Place: 
Cérilly, France
Death Date: 
Death Place: 
An aristocrat turned bohemian after spending his inheritance, Marcellin Desboutin became well-known for his etched portraits of Impressionist artists and their circle during the 1870s in Paris, as well as for his paintings. Born into a wealthy, aristocratic family, Desboutin trained as a lawyer but did not practice law and turned instead to art. Desboutin studied at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris from 1845 until 1849. His inherited wealth enabled him to travel to England, Belgium, the Netherlands and finally to Italy. He purchased a home in Bellosguardo, near Florence, called the Villa del’Ombrellino, and lived there until 1872. During his years in Italy he painted, learned etching and collected art. He also wrote plays, one of which, “Maurice de Saxe”, was produced at the Comédie Française, Paris, in 1870. Desboutin returned to Paris in 1872, having spent his fortune, and set out making a living as an artist, particularly a printmaker. He exhibited his prints at the Paris Salons from 1866 through 1899, and began showing his paintings at the Salon in 1872, receiving medals in the Salons of 1879 and 1889. He achieved a fashionable reputation for his work as a printmaker, particularly for his drypoint portraits of members of the artistic elite of Paris and of his friends. His ability to draw directly on a copper plate with drypoint tools brought praise from artists and critics alike. His portraits of August Rodin (1840-1917), Edgar Degas (1834-1917), Berthe Morisot (1841-1895) and Édouard Manet (1832-1883) are thought to be among his finest works. Many of his prints were published by the noted Parisian publisher and art dealer Alfred Cadart (1828-1875). He became friends with several of the Impressionists, who joined him at his favorite haunts, the Café Guerbois, and later at La Nouvelle Athènes. In 1875, Desboutin was one of the models (along with actress Hélène Andrée [1857-1925]) for Degas’s painting L’Absinthe (Musée d’Orsay, Paris) and was chosen by Manet as the model for his painting L’Artiste (Museu de Arte Moderna, São Paulo). He participated in the second Impressionist exhibition in 1876, showing etchings, drypoints and at least one painting. In 1880 he left Paris for Nice, where he continued to make prints and painted a number of portraits of the town’s well-to-do citizens. A painting of his was included in the Parisian art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel’s (1831-1922) exhibition of Impressionist art in New York City in 1886. Returning to Paris in 1888, Desboutin was a founder of the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts in 1890. He was named a member of the Legion of Honor in 1895 and was honored with a grand prize at the 1900 Paris Exposition Universelle. He had returned to Nice in 1896 and died there in 1902. (TNB 3/2010) Selected bibliography: Bailly-Herzberg, Janine, “Marcellin Desboutin and his World,” Apollo, v. 95, June 1972, pp 496-500. Galerie des Ponchettes, Nice. Marcellin Desboutin. Exhibition catalog. Nice: Musées de Nice, 1967. Weisberg, Gabriel. P. The Realist Tradition: French Painting and Drawing, 1830–1900. Exhibition catalog. Cleveland: Cleveland Museum of Art; Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press, 1980.