November 01, 1996

In Search of La Gloire

Nineteenth century Russian creative genius Maria Bashkirtseva may not be a household name. But interest in her all too short life (she lived only to the age of 24) has resurfaced. Bashkirtseva was forgotten for 50 years after her premature death in 1884, until poetess Marina Tsvetayeva dedicated her first book of poetry Evening Album to Bashkirtseva, and corresponded with her mother. Then followed another 50-odd years of oblivion. This has now been broken by another, post-perestroika, reassessment of this multi-talented child prodigy.

Why so much interest in a girl who lived only 24 years? Perhaps because of her early maturity and perspicacity, and ideas well ahead of her time, which made her alone to, and incomprehensible to, her contemporaries.

Maria Bashkirtseva was born in 1860 near the Ukrainian town of Poltava in her family’s luxurious estate. At the age of ten she was sent to Nice, where she spent the rest of her life except for three brief visits to Russia.

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