Raffaelli, Jean-Francois

Description: Jean-François RAFFAELLI (1850-1924) Snow landscape Etching, color print, signed lower right and numbered 129 in pencil lower left 46 x 57.5 cm

Jean-François Raffaëlli (April 20, 1850 – February 11, 1924) was a French realist painter, sculptor, and printmaker who exhibited with the Impressionists. He was also active as an actor and writer.

Much like his friend, Edgar Degas, Jean-François Raffaëlli embodied what the French critic Charles Baudelaire famously described as ‘the painter of modern life’. A detached observer amid the crowds on the grand boulevards of the newly ‘Haussmann-ized’ Paris, Raffaëlli captured the spectacle of fin-de-siècle society in the French capital.

A true Renaissance man, Rafaëlli was an accomplished actor, musician, printmaker, draftsman, sculptor and author as well as an innovative painter. Though Rafaëlli did not consider himself a part of any one movement and rejected all attempts to classify his art, he was above all a realist whose central belief was that an artist’s duty was to render the essence of the contemporary society in which he lived. ‘My subject is all Paris, I aim to paint the beauty of Paris as well as its wretchedness’ (A Talk by Mr. Rafaëlli,’ The Art Amateur, April 1895, p. 135).

In 1880 and 1881, at the urging of Edgar Degas, Raffaëlli exhibited in the Impressionist exhibitions despite having little affinity with the movement. Even though his work was for the most part either overlooked or not understood within the context of the exhibition, not everyone found Raffaëlli’s singularity within the Impressionist exhibitions undesirable. In reviewing the 1881 Impressionist exhibition, Le Petit Parisien noted, ‘M. Raffaëlli seems to us to differ noticeably from the artists known as Impressionists: he paints with an extreme meticulousness, leaves out no detail…’, while the reviewer for L’Art commented that the artist ‘does not content himself with the approximate. He pursues to the very end what he undertakes’ (quoted in M. Young, ‘Heroic Indolence: Realism and the Politics of Time in Raffaëlli’s Absinthe Drinkers,’ Art Bulletin, June 2008, vol. XC, no. 2, pp. 237-238). It is in fact this distinction which so startled participants, viewers and critics of the Impressionist exhibitions that in time led to Raffaëlli’s enduring appeal.Indeed, Raffaëlli’s inclusion in the 1881 exhibition upstaged the works of those artists who had helped found the new movement and regarded themselves as bona fide Impressionists.

In the early 1890s, Rafaëlli produced numerous views and street scenes of the French capital, many of which were exhibited at the Salon.

Also by this Artist: