The Italian Almanac

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a painting by Boldini

Italian Art - September 7

Paris's glittering high society at the turn of the last century is the focus of a new exhibit in Castiglioncello, near Livorno, exploring the work of three artists that came to typify the Belle Epoque. The show features around 70 pieces by Giovanni Boldini, an Italian artist who moved to Paris at the age of 30, and his two close friends, Paul Cesar Helleu and Georges Goursat, who was known as Sem.

Divided into six sections, the exhibition highlights the complexity of relations between art and society, typical of Paris during that era. It also draws out links between the work of the three artists, introduced by the art critic and poet Robert de Montesquie, who became firm friends, despite the differences in their age, background, styles and training. While the work of all three focused on Parisian high society, particularly its fashion and women, they approached their subject matters in very different ways.

Boldini gained international renown for his fashion and portrait paintings, Sem focused on caricatures and newspaper illustrations, while Helleu's drypoint etchings and pastel portraits were closer to sketches.

The show features a number of famous works, mainly by Boldini, who was the best known of the three. Boldini was hugely popular in turn-of-the-century Paris, capturing the lifestyle and faces of the era's fashionable celebrities in numerous portraits and cityscapes. He started out with small-scale works, concentrating on scenes of city life and elegantly dressed women but quickly rose to prominence in Parisian art circles. He began to paint society portraits and developed a reputation for his elegant depictions of fashionable society women.

Boldini, Helleu, Sem - Protagonisti e Miti della Belle Epoque (Boldini, Helleu, Sem - The Protagonists And Myths Of The Belle Epoque) runs in the Castello Pasquini until November 12.