Georgina Kelman :: Works on Paper
George Bottini "A Goya of Montmartre"
George Bottini "A Goya of Montmartre"
What to say about the enigma that is George Bottini? A cult figure whose work is treasured by those in the know, Bottini’s life remains shrouded in mystery.
The son of an Italian hairdresser and a Spanish washerwoman, Bottini was born, raised and died within the confines of the village of Montmartre. It was this milieu, the underbelly of fin de siècle Paris, that he brought to life in his watercolors, oils and especially prints. His color etchings, lithographs and woodblocks capture habitués of bars, cafés and theatre with a sympathetic realism.
Like many who moved in bohemian circles at that time, Bottini contracted syphilis and died in an asylum at the age of 33. Though there are no official plaques or even a grave marker to commemorate his life, he is immortalized on paper as a perceptive draftsman and a brilliant colorist.
George Bottini "Le Sortie de la Loge (Southard 65)", 1906
For Bottini in particular, color etching served a sensibility far removed from the gentility of an artist like Mary Cassatt. Bottini used dark tones of brown and black; he left ink smeared on the surface of the plate that printed like a monotype: this was set off by strategically placed dabs of yellow, green or red...The work of Bottini...was created with a very personal manipulation of surface inks and with dark or subdued colors printed from irregularly bitten and scraped plates.
Phillip Dennis Cate "From Pissarro to Picasso: The Revival of Color Etching in France" p. 77
View of Bottini's Paris: Le Moulin de la Galette, c. 1900
Portrait of a Man, said to be a Self Portrait, n.d.
Detail from "L'Arrivée au bal masqué (Southard 12)", 1897
"La Lanterne rouge (Southard 16)"
7 ½" x 5 ½"
Bears stamp of Henri Marie Petiet (L. 5031)
Edition of 25. Artist's red stamp in image. Signed numbered in pencil in margin by H. van der Zee. Signed and dated in pencil in margin.
The short life of George Alfred Bottini produced a small but lasting œuvre of canvas’, watercolors, drawings and prints. Born in 1874, he began his exploration into the art world as a teenager with an apprenticeship to the paintings restorer Gatti. It was there that he learned techniques of paint and canvas manipulation that he later applied to his own works. His further academic training at Cormon’s studio was augmented by his own investigation of Japanese woodblocks and Persian miniatures as well as studies of anatomy. But more than formal education, Bottini was influenced by the world in which he lived – the demi-monde of Belle Epoque Paris.
Bottini was never financially well off, but he enjoyed steady moderate success selling his watercolors and prints and he managed to affect the air of a bon vivant. Enamored of Anglo style, he signed his name with the English spelling “George”, sported a yellow overcoat made in Britain and frequented English bars in Paris where he played gentleman’s games such as poker and checkers.
An admirer and contemporary of Toulouse-Lautrec, Bottini depicted similar subjects in the world of the fin-de-siècle, but with a completely different aesthetic. Other artist friends included Manuel Robbe and Louis Anquetin and he is said to have made a strong impression on a young Picasso while both were partaking in the nightlife of the Pigalle.
Bottini’s graphic œuvre is documented in the 1984 catalogue “George Bottini: Painter of Montmartre” by Edna Carter Southard. Here one will find his color wood cuts, created in collaboration with his friend Harry Van der Zee (and signed in pencil by both men), his softly colored etchings and his more vivid color lithographs, all published in very limited editions by the venerable Ed. Sagot.
The profusion of brothels and prostitutes in his Montmartre neighborhood not only influenced his subject matter, it also caused his premature demise. By the age of 15, Bottini had contracted syphilis and though he continued to work, his mental state deteriorated and he was imprisoned before succumbing to the disease at the age of 33. He was interred in Villejuif, but 10 years later his remains were dug up and relocated to an unknown location due to non-payment of burial expenses. A pitiful end to such a gifted artist’s life.