This Week’s Art: Boldini’s Newspaperman in Paris


Some of my favorite art pieces are those that show emotion, that have an energy to them. True, most beloved pieces have an energy all their own, even if it’s subtle. But there are some pieces where that energy is something more evocative.

I’ve seen many of Giovanni Boldini’s paintings over the years, often of the women that he painted. He seemed to work in portraiture quite often, and I came across a painting of his that seemed different than his others.

Here’s Boldini’s Newspaperman in Paris (a.k.a., The Newspaper; 1878, oil on panel, 18.5 in. x 11.42 in.):

Giovanni Boldini, Newspaperman in Paris

It comes across as darker, even grittier, than many of Boldini’s paintings that I’ve seen. It seems to me like a more aggressive piece, both emotionally and in his brushstrokes.  It could be the content, a rough, harried man versus the beautifully painted women that I usually see in his work.

That may be why I like this painting, the sheer sense of emotion and movement in it. Boldini paints a man that seems hurried, frustrated, and hardly organized. He seems just as adept at engaging the viewer in this harried emotional state, as much as he can soften the image of a beautiful woman. Boldini has such energy in his paintings, and this one has a great energy to it.

There’s a lot of detail here, but at the same time there’s a loose brush in many areas. Your eye is brought to the papers on the left, and his then his face, and it’s a nice mix of detailed and more open brushstrokes.

It’s a piece that your eye can wander around, and get so many interesting areas. The hand harshly clutching the wild papers. The seeming fact that he’s on a bridge or lined street, possibly among a large crowd (or even just a few people he’s yelling for). The dark, compacted city behind him, across the bridge.

It’s what I love about good art pieces, that you can get lost in them. Boldini’s harried newspaperman might be hurried, but we’re happy to stop and live here in his world for awhile.


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