The Poor Side Of Town / by Geoff Harrison

"A Meeting",  193 cm x 177 cm, Oil On Canvas 1884

"A Meeting",  193 cm x 177 cm, Oil On Canvas 1884

This is a painting by Maria Bashkirtseff.  Given the canvas is almost 2 meters tall the boys are depicted life size.  To the far right we can see a little girl walking off.  Bashkirtseff was known to have strong feminist tendencies.  Given the boys' well worn clothing it can be inferred that they are from a working class area, and the surroundings reinforce this impression.  Although this painting was well received at the 1884 Paris salon, Bashkirtseff was furious that it didn’t win a medal.  Her reaction mirrors that of many artists today,

"I am exceedingly indignant [...] because, after all, works that are really rather poor have received prizes" and also "There is nothing more to be done. I am a worthless creature, humiliated, finished".

At the time she was aware she was dying of tuberculosis at age 25, and was concerned she would die a forgotten artist.  She needn’t have worried, as this painting is housed at the Musee d’Orsay.

Among the artists she admired was Jules Bastien-Lepage whose painting "The Potato Gatherers" hangs at the NGV in Melbourne.