Desboutin, Marcellin



Impressionism: partaking the 2nd ‘impressionist’ exposition

Marcellin Desboutin


A portraitist and engraver

with ‘impressionist’ connections

Was Marcellin Desboutin an Impressionist?
Early on in Italy Desboutin was befriended with Degas and De Nittis. 1873 onwards in Paris in Café Guerbois and Café Nouvelles Athènes he had contacts with Impressionists and related artists. He made many portraits of them including the Impressionists Degas, Renoir, Morisot, Lepic and also of related painters like Puvis de Chavannes, Goeneutte, Courbet, Manet and also of related art-critics like Zola, Burty, Duranty and also the art-collector Hoschedé and the art-dealer Durand-Ruel. Desboutin himself posed for Renoir, Degas, Somm and Manet. In this way you could say he was part of the impressionist art-movement. Desboutin made his debut at the Salon in 1869. 1873 onwards, after he moved to Paris, Desboutin would exhibit yearly at the Salon. He only joined the 2nd ‘impressionist’ exposition in 1876. In that sense he was not part of the impressionist art-movement.
Desboutin most of all is famous for his portraits in (dry point) etchings (iR4). He rendered his portraits in a free, lively, informal and improvised way (iR4). His (oil) portraits were in a neo-baroque, dark and detailed style (R3). He mostly is seen as a Realist (R158). In reviews he is not seen as an Impressionist (R90I). In his paintings Desboutin used many browns and blacks and didn’t use a juxtaposed brushstroke. The influence of light on the colours seems absent. In that way he didn’t paint in an impressionistic style.

Marcellin Desboutin only joined the 2nd ‘impressionist’ exposition:
At the 2nd ‘impressionist’ exposition Desboutin showed about 20 art-works, including one outside the catalogue (=hc) and at least 12 dry point etchings, all depicting portraits / figures (catalogue numbers 60-72+hc1) (R2,p161). Of several assumed oil paintings, only etchings excit. Pothey reviewed that Desboutin excelled in engraving (R90I,p104). Bigot (1876/04/08) reviewed that ‘These (drypoint) portraits are certainly the most remarkable feature of this exhibition’. (R90I,p62) Dax / Rivière praised his ‘series of drypoint portraits, which are marvels of composition and execution… like the etchings of Rembrandt.’ and wrote ‘Mr Desboutins (sic) is not an intransigent in the strict sense of the word.’ (R90I,p71+70). Bigot (1876/04/08) called him ‘not one of them’ and wrote ‘This is a painter who strives for clarity and simplicity, who also aims at the sensation of the open air; but this painter, at least, has tried to address the difficulties of art. The author was not content with a few touches thrown in here and there.’ (R90I,p61). Chaumelin asked ‘What reason does Mr. Desboutin have to be among the intransigent?’ (R90I,p68).
See link for his art-works exhibited in 1876. See link for an account.

Marcellin(-Gilbert) Desboutin and the Salon and other expositions:
Desboutin made his debut at the Salon in 1869 (iR1;aR11,p80; not in 1868; R3). 1873 onwards, after he had moved to Paris, he would yearly exhibit at the Salon, even in 1876 when he also joined with the 2nd ‘impressionist’ exposition. He would do so until 1889 (at the Salon de la Société des Artistes Français =SdAF). Only at the Salon of 1877 Desboutin is called a pupil of Drölling and Robert-Fleury (iR1). In 1879 he received a 3rd class medal (for his etchings) (R231/iR40;R88I,p196;aR9). In 1882 and 1883 he exhibited exempté with his etchings (iR1). In 1883 he received a ‘mention honorably’ for a painting (aR9). From 1890-1902 he exhibited at the independent Salon de la Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts (=SNBA). (iR1). He was one of the founders (R3;R9;iR3;R88;aR10). Desboutin exhibited in 1889 at the Exposition Universelle and received a 2nd class medal (R85XIII,p33;R231). 1895/06/08 Desboutin was appointed Chevalier de la ‘Legion d’Honneur‘ (R3;iR3;R88;R9;aR9;aR10;R158,p156). In 1900 at the Exposition Décennale he exhibited 3 portraits (R158,p276) and he received the large price at l’Exposition Universelle (R88;R3;R9).
Already in 1873, Desboutin had exhibited 3 art-works in Ghent (R158,p74). In 1886 4 paintings of Desboutin were part of the  exposition ‘Works in oil and pastel by the Impressionists of Paris’, organised by Durand-Ruel in New York (R1,p544). Desboutin exhibited with Les XX in 1889, at the Salon de la Rose+Croix (=SRC) in 1892 + 1893 and at several other exhibitions. Also posthumously his work were exhibited at several exhibitions, including a retrospective exposition at the École des Beaux-Arts (R88;aR7;aR9).
See link for his art-works at the Salon. See link for an account.

Marcellin Desboutin as an artist:
Desboutin entered in 1845 the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris (iR70). In 1845 he studied under the sculptor Louis-Jules Etex (R88;R3;iR70;iR3;R9;aR9;aR10aR11,p80). From 1847-48 he studied under Thomas Couture (R88;iR70;iR65;R3;R9;aR9;aR10). From 1849-54 Desboutin traveled to England, Belgium, the Netherlands (and Italy) (R158,p10;iR70;iR3;R88;aR9). From around 1854 till 1870 ‘baron Desboutin de Rochefort’ lived in the ‘villa dell’Ombrellino’ in Florence , and was a host for many, among them Degas (1857 or 1858/59) and De Nittis (iR65;R3;iR1;R9;R259;R88;R158,p37+113). From 1857-74 Desboutin was influential on Italian artists within the ‘Macchiaioli’ group (iR70). Desboutin had lived in Florence a life of luxery (R71,p108;R88). By speculating in real estate he was ruined and in 1870 he had to sell L’Ombrellino (R88;R3;R9;iR3;aR10). After that he spent several years in Geneva (R88;R3). August 1872 Desboutin moved to Paris en Spring 1873 lived at 10, Rue d’Arcet (Batignolles) (R158,p73;iR1;R3). Since than he lived in Paris (with his dog) in a bohemien way, without money, his studio being a ruin (R71,p108;R1,p235), and also with his second wife and his children (R3;R88;iR4;R158). I don’t know if this image of being a bohemien, which is recorded in many sources, is fully correct. It is true that Desboutin dwelled at many different addresses from 1873-1895 (iR1;R158). But when we look at the pictures of his children, we see a baby carriage, a walker form little children and all sorts of toys, which doesn’t seem to indicate severe poverty. Already in 1873 Durand-Ruel bought a painting of Desboutin and Desboutin decorated a salon of his friend Simonnet (R158,p74). Marz 1873 he spent time in London, together with Giuseppe de Nittis (R158,p112). In 1881 he bought a villa in Nice (R158,p107). All these things don’t indicate a bohemian / poor way of live.
Around 1875/76 Deboutin had contacts with Degas and Manet. Manet portrayed him as a tormented bohemien in 1875 (R71,no202). Desboutin met them and others like Émile Zola, Philippe Burty, Duranty, Fantin Latour and Hippolyte Babou in Café Guerbois (according to Armand Sylvestre since 1872; aR9;R158,p89/90). Around 1876 Desboutin was one of the first to frequent Café de la Nouvelle Athènes; others soon would follow (R1,p399;R3;R88); Desboutin together with Zandomeneghi introduced the Italian art-critic Diego Martelli (R89,p96). In sources on Impressionism Desboutin is mostly mentioned for these contacts and for portraying his friends and being portrayed and living the life of a bohemian (R5,p190;R8,p22+230;R1;R3,p180).
Silvestre called him one of the most striking personalities (R88). Rewald writes that Desboutin was ‘full of original ideas and conversant in many fields of knowledge (…) His presence was highly appreciated…’ (R1,p235;R158,p90). Around 1874 Desboutin met Zola at Manet’s house (iR3;R88); Zola in 1889 would call him ‘an unforgettable figure’ (aR9). Puvis de Chavannes was the friend Desboutin was mostly attracted to (R158,p116). In 1880 Desboutin introduced Henri Rochefort, a communard who had been exiled and recently returned, to Manet. They both portray him (R5,p123). In the 1880s he lived many years in Nice. He would decorate a church, he gave painting lessons in a studio, painted and made etchings after paintings of Fragonard (de Grasse) (R158,p125). 1895/06/08 Desboutin was appointed Chevalier de la ‘Legion d’Honneur‘ (R3;iR3;R88;R9;aR9;aR10;R158,p156). This let to a quarrel with Degas and they wouldn’t see each other anymore (R158,p157/8). In 1895 Desboutin would definitively return to Nice, where he died in 1902 (R88;R3;iR3).
Some sources mention that his palet brightened under influence of the ‘impressionists’ (R88;R9), but when I look at his pictures I see subdued colours, dominated by browns, so not very impressionistic. Most sources see him as a Realist, because ‘didnot correct nature’ (R158,p184).
Desboutin also wrote poems and together with Jules Amigues he wrote a drama play ‘Maurice de Sax’, which was performed at the Comédie-Française in Paris 1870/06/02 onwards (R158,p46;R88;aR9;aR10).

Marcellin Desboutin as an etcher:
Desboutin started with engraving according to Beraldi in 1850 (R85V,p188) and according to Clément-Janin in Florence around 1856, when he made ‘Ma première gravure, Florence (R158,p195). From 1875-1881 he made the largest part of his engraving oeuvre (R85V,p188).
In 1876 Desboutin made some small portraits (after photographes) for the Opéra (R85V,p191;R85XIII,no134-141;R158,p200). Mainly in the 1870s, Desboutin portrayed many from the artistic environment in Paris, including several partakers of the ‘impressionist’ expositions, other artists, art-collectors and art-critics (R88;R85XIII). Deboutin also made several portraits to be illustrations for publications by the bookseller Rouquette, whom he also portrayed (R85V,p189;R85XIII,no107). In the 1880s Desboutin worked on 5 dry points of paintings by Fragonard (aR9;R85XIII,no.163-167;R158). He also made reproductions of paintings by Delacroix, Rembrandt and Frans Hals (R158,p198-200). Later on Desboutin also used heliographic printing (in which the picture isn’t rendered reversed) (R158,p208).
Beraldi (1886) called his dry points more full-bodied, than those of his pale disciples (R85V,p191). Others mention his spontaneous technique, his transparant effects (R88;aR10). As an etcher he was innovative (R158,p172). At the 2nd ‘impressionist’ exposition Desboutin is praised for his dry points (R90I). In Januar 1889 Durand-Ruel organised an exhibition with 167 dry point etchings by Desboutin; Zola wrote the introduction to the catalogue (R85XIII,p33;iR65;R3;R88R158,p145-147). His talent for engraving, especially for using dry point, is most remarquable (aR10). In his portraits he rendered the psychology of the sitter (aR10). Desboutin created sharply characterized portraits in a rather neo-baroque, dark, detailed style. He was a ‘Realist who knows how to choose between the thousand expressions that intertwine on a human face, the one that must be retained because it reveals his personality’ (R158,p181).
In 1873 Desboutin inspired De Nittis in printmaking (iR70) and in 1875 (or later) he inspired Goeneutte in engraving, etching and dry point (iR70). In 1879 Degas planned to include Desboutin for a monthly, illustrated journal of prints, to be entitled ‘Le jour et la nuit’ (R4,p205).

Marcellin Desboutin as an Intimist:
Desboutin often depicted his family, especially his children. In this sense he can be called an Intimist avant-la-lettre (see iR3). He depicted his children and wife in many drawings, especially in Nice from 1881-1887 (R158,p192), but also on paintings and etchings, which he just seldom exhibited.
Sources indicate that his daughter Marie was born, from his first wife, in 1854. And from his second wife, his son André (Mycho) was born in 1870, his son Jean-François (Tchiquine) in 1878 and his daughter Jeanne-Françoise in 1880. Clément-Janin wrote that 3 of the 9 children from his second wife survived (R158,p107). I think, that is why we find titles of his works made in 1873, like a ‘baby chair’, a ‘mother breastfeeding her child’, ‘baby’, ‘baby playing’ and ’the cradle’ and again in 1874 ‘baby’ (R158,p261).


Marcellin-Gilbert Desboutin, a short biography: 

  • 1823/08/26 Marcellin-Gilbert Desboutin was born in Cérilly (Allier), west of Moulins and about 300km south of Paris (iR24;iR26;iR70;iR79;aR10;R158)
    Note: Beraldi (1886) wrote that Desboutin was born in 1822 (R85V,p188)
    Desboutin was born into a wealthy, aristocratic family and signed as ‘Baron de Rochefort’, after his mother Anne-Sophie Dalie Farges de Rochefort (iR79;iR70;iR3;R85V,p192;R88)
  • 1828: his sister Louise Virginie was born; she would mary Jacquelin Dubuisson in 1847 and die in 1852 in Paris, she had 2 children (iR79;aR9)
  • 1842: his father died (iR79;aR9)
    His mother moved to Clermont-Ferrand (aR9)
  • Desboutin studied law (R88;R9;aR9)
  • 1854/04/13: Desboutin married his first wife Justine Gaultier de Biauzat in London / England or in Issoire (iR79;aR7;R88), south of Clermont-Ferrand; another source mentions this was 1854/01/13 (aR9)
  • end 1854: his daughter Marie Desboutin de Rochefort was born (R158;iR79;iR4)
  • 1854 till about 1870 Desboutin lived in Italy, especially in ‘villa dell’Ombrellino’ in Florence (R85V,p188;R88;aR7)
    Note: Beraldi (1886) wrongly mentioned that Desboutin lived untill 1875 in Florence (R85V,p188). Others mention that he came to live in Florence in 1857 (R9).
  • 1869: Desboutin lived at Florence, villa dell’Ombrellino; his correspondence address was: chez M. J. Amigues, rue Bellechasse, 29 (iR1)
  • 1870/04/29: his mother died in Clermont-Ferrand (R158,p60;iR79;aR9)
  • 18??: Desboutin married his second wife Dominica Teresa Bellardi (iR79). Note: maybe Desboutin, who had left Florence, where his first wife had stayed with their daughter Marie, had gotten a second relationship, with whom he would get a son 1870/09/01 and with whom he would officially marry 1877/02/22.
  • 1870/09/01: his son Andréa Filippo Marsilio, mostly mentioned André (or nicknamed Mycho or Michaud) Bellardi Desboutin was born (he would die in 1937; iR79;iR4;aR9;R158,p122)
  • 1870-73: Desboutin spend time in Geneva (R88;R3;aR7)
  • 1871ca: his daughter Marie married William Brackken (R158,p67;aR9)
  • 1873: his first wife died on a winter morning, staying with her married daughter Marie in Florence (R158,p67;iR79;aR9); other suggest this was in 1870 (aR10)
  • 1873 Desboutin moved to Paris, 10, Rue d’Arcet (Batignolles) (iR1;R3)
  • 1874+75 lived at 32, Rue des Dames (Batignolles) (iR1)
  • 1876 moved to 21, Rue de Bréda (iR1;R2,p161). I could only find this adres in Montluçon, which is 40km south of his birth place Cérilly. There is not such an address in Paris.
  • 1877/02/22: Desboutin married his second wife Dominica Teresa Bellardi (aR9), other sources suggest this was at the end of the 1860s (iR79)
  • 1878-80: Desboutin rendered as his (correspondence) address rue Rochechouart, 38, Paris, where he rented a studio (iR1;R158,p82+140)
  • 1878/09/01 his son (Jean-)François (or in Italien Francesco or Franceschino or Cecchino in french verbalized to Tchiquine or Chiquine; later called Jean Desboutin) was born in Paris; he also would become a painter and would die in 1951 (R158,p120/122;iR4;iR79); another source mentions his name was Pierre-François and that he was born 1873/11/13 (aR9); in 1922 he owned several of his father’s art-works (R158).
  • 1880/02/27: his daughter Jeanne-Françoise Desboutin was born in Paris (she would die in 1962) (iR79;aR9)
  • 1880/12/23: sale at Hôtel Drouot of art-works and furniture, before leaving for Nice; with a preface by Jules Claretie; Durand-Ruel would buy around 81 art-works; the sale yielded  18.147 francs (R158,p35+36+124;aR15)
  • 1881/10/09 Desboutin bought a villa, at 179, rue de France in Nice, for 33.000 francs, which he (later) also rented to others (R158,p107+124+159)
    Desboutin would live till 1888 in Nice (R3;R9;iR3;R88)
    Some sources mention that he dwelled again in Geneva (around 1887/88) (R88)
    Note: that the Salon database mentions that he lived in Nice in 1884 + 85 + 86 +87 and before (also) in Paris (iR1):
    1881: Desboutin lived at rue Lepeletier, 47, Paris (iR1)
    1882+83: Desboutin lived at rue Pasquier, 31, Paris (iR1)
    1884-87?: Desboutin lived at Nice, rue de France, 179 (iR1;R158,p82), close to the Mediterrenean Sea (iR9)
    In 1884 his correspondence address was: Paris, chez M. E. Berend, rue Rochechouard, 38 (iR1). Note: from 1878-80 he had a studio there (iR1;R158,p140).
    In 1885: chez M. Eberstadt, rue des Abbesses, 11, Paris (iR1)
  • 1887 April: Desboutin returned to his studio rue Rochechouart, 38, which he rented for a year (R158,p140;iR1)
  • 1887 Autumn: probably works of Desboutin were exhibited in Geneva (R158,p142)
  • 1888/01/12: Desboutin returned to Nice, where he had his family left behind (R158,p142/3)
  • 1888 March: probably there was an exhibition at Bernheim-Jeune in Paris (R158,p142)
  • 1888/07/03: Desboutin arrived in Geneva and dwelled at 9, rue de l’École in Paquis for some time (R158,p144); maybe now (iR9)
  • 1888/12/30: probably an exhibition at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Geneva with 180 etchings (R158,p144-146)
  • 1889/01: There was an exhibition ‘Peintres-graveurs à Paris’ showing 167 dry point etchings of Desboutin, organised by Durand-Ruel, with a preface by Zola (R158,p145-147;R85XIII,p33;iR65;R3;R88)
  • 1889/02/01: Desboutin joined ‘Les Vingts‘ in Brussels with maybe 80 ‘cadres d’epreuves’ (R158,p145/6).
  • 1889: Desboutin lived at rue Rochechouart, 74, Paris (iR1)
  • 1890+91: Desboutin lived at 5, impasse de Guelma (Paris-Montmartre) (iR1;R158,p82+149)
  • 1892+93: Desboutin lived at 9, cité Véron (place Blanche) (iR1;R158,p82+149)
  • 1894: Desboutin lived at 5, rue Bréda* (iR1), according to Clément-Janin from 1891-95 (R158,p82+150)
    Note: I couldn’t find the address on Google maps (iR9).
  • 1895+1896: Desboutin lived at 15, rue Bréda (iR1), according to Clément-Janin only in 1896, which doesn’t seem right; Clément-Janin mentioned that Desboutin changed from appartement in the same building (R158,p82+150)
  • 1895 Signorini and Uzielli worked on a book about Desboutin (iR70)
  • 1896: Desboutin exhibited 3 art-works in Moulins (aR9;M207), 45km west of his native city (iR9)
  • 1896-1902 lived again in Nice (R3;iR3;R88)
  • 1896-1899?: Desboutin lived at the Villa Mossa, route du Var, Nice (Alpes-Maritimes), close to the pond Magnan (iR1;R158,p82+159); I couldn’t find this location; Clément-Janin suggests this was his first house during his second stay in Nice since 1896.
  • 1901: Desboutin lived at rue Saint-François-de-Paul, 24, Nice (iR1;R158,p82)
  • 1900 his daughter Marie died (iR79;iR4)
  • 1902/02/18 Marcellin-Gilbert Desboutin died in Nice, along the French Riviera (iR24;iR26;R88;iR79). According to Clément-Janin at Rue Saint-François-de-Paule (R158,p82). Other sources mention he died the 17th (aR10). Note: it is well possible that the death certificate was date the 18th, noting that Desboutin died the day before, so the 17th.
    Other sources (wrongly) mention he died in 1901 (iR23)
    Desboutin left behind 2000 paintings, 300 engravings and many drawings (aR9)
  • 1902/12/11-31: there was a retrospective exposition at the École des Beaux-Arts (R88;aR7;aR9), according to Clément-Janin with 194 paintings, 477 (or 297) engravings and a legion of drawings (or 34) (R158,p112+167).
  • 1912: 1 self-portrait was exhibited at the Centennial exhibition in Saint-Petersbourg (aR3=iR261)
  • 1922: publication of Clément-Janin: La curieuse vie de Marcellin Desboutin: peintre, graveur, poète. Paris, 1922 (R158;iR24;iR65;iR3;aR9).
  • 1923: there was an exposition held at the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts (R88)
  • 1925: a large retrospective was held in Moulins (aR7;M207)
  • 2018/2019: large exposition ‘Marcellin Desboutin, à la pointe du portrait’ in the Musée Anne-de-Beaujeu in Moulins (aR5;aR6;aR8;M207)

My main sources are Rewald (1973=R1), Moffett (1986=R2), Walther (2013=R3,p659), Roe (2006=R4), Denvir (1993=R5), Schurr & Cabanne (2008=R9,p234), Beraldi (1886=R85V+1885-92=R85XIII), Monneret (1978-81=R88I,p196/7), Adler (1998=R89), Clément-Janin (1922=R158), the Salon database (iR1), (iR19), Wikipedia (iR3;iR4), RKD (iR24), BNF / gallica (iR26;iR40), Benezit (iR69), Grove Art Online (iR70) and Marques (iR65). My main sources (for the pictures) from the internet are the Athenaeum (iR2), Wikimedia (iR6), Mutualart (iR11), artnet (iR13), Sothebys (iR14) Christies (iR15), invaluable (iR17), gallica (iR40), Pinterest (iR64), Flickr (iR94) and Google images (iR10). See link for other general references (=R) and for other references to internet sites (=iR). For other additional references (=aR) see below. See links for practical hints and abbreviations and for the subscription of the paintings.
For further reading see:
Page, Alexandre + Maud Leyoudee (and others): Marcellin Desboutin, 1823-1902; à la pointe du portrait; exhibition catalogue. MAB Moulins, 2018 (R275;aR11;aR9).
?: Marcellin Desboutin. Musées de Nice, 1967 (iR24)
Bénézit (1976=R75=iR69), Busse (1977=R77), Witt Library (1978=R78), Allgemeines Künstlerlexikon Vol.26 (2000=R81=iR75) (see iR24).


Additional references:

  1. (the entire 5th Volume of Henri Beraldi: Les graveurs du XIXe siècle with works about Desboutin; =iR40 = R85V)
  2. (the entire 13th Volume of Henri Beraldi: Les graveurs du XIXe siècle with supplements about Desboutin; =iR40 = R85XIII)
  3. “Marcellin Desboutin.” In Database of Modern Exhibitions (DoME). European Paintings and Drawings 1905-1915. Last modified Nov 4, 2019.  =iR261; overview of contributions of Desboutin in exhibitions and auctions from 1910+1912 (3 entries).
  4. (overview of his etchings)
  5. (impression of a large exposition about Desboutin in 2018 in the Musée Anne-de-Beaujeu in Moulins (Allier, Auvergne); =M207)
  6. (11 minutes of information in French about a large exposition about Desboutin in 2018 in the Musée Anne-de-Beaujeu in Moulins (Allier, Auvergne); =M207)
  7. (info and pictures on Desboutin; =M207)
  8. (article on the 2018 exposition)
  9. (article on the 2018 exposition)
  10. (sale catalogue of 150 works by Desboutin; 2016/12, Paris)
  11. (preview of the 2018 exhibition catalogue)
  12. (PDF of Clément-Janin: La curieuse vie de Marcellin Desboutin: peintre, graveur, poète. Paris, 1922 (=R158=iR19); note many pages are quite vague.
  13. (PDF of Clément-Janin: La curieuse vie de Marcellin Desboutin: peintre, graveur, poète. Paris, 1922 (=R158=iR364); note some pages are not rendered, only when you pay).
  14. (starting page with links to engravings of Desboutin; =iR40)
  15. (auction catalogue of works of Desboutin at Hôtel Drouot 1880/12/23; =iR40)
  16. (article on Desboutin and pictures)


Recommanded citation: “Impressionism: Marcellin-Gilbert Desboutin, a portraitist and engraver with ‘impressionist’ connections, joining the 2nd ‘impressionist’ exposition. Last modified 2024/01/28.