Jean-François Raffaëlli was a unique voice in the Paris art establishment in the late nineteenth century. During his lifetime he was both critically acclaimed at the Salon, where like Manet, he tenaciously sought inclusion, but he also participated in the landmark Impressionist exhibitions. Raffaëlli trained in the studio of Jean-Léon Gérôme, and also befriended Degas, who would become his ardent supporter.
Unlike most of the "pure" Impressionists of the 1870s, Raffaëlli, like Degas shared a predilection for drawing, which may well have been the basis for the sympathetic relationship between the two artists. By the 1890s, Raffaëlli was proud to call himself an Impressionist.
In 1879, , Raffaëlli left Paris and settled in the suburb of Asnières. With its incessantly spewing smokestacks, this desolate region provided the backdrop for Raffaëlli's paintings from this period. There, among the faces and expressions of its inhabitants - retired workmen, rag pickers, beggars, garlic sellers and chimney sweepers - Raffaëlli found his inspiration."
Raffaelli enrolled at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in order to study under Gerome. He remained exclusively a painter until 1876 when he did his first etching. From this time on he was passionately devoted to print making, experimenting extensively with color etching. He became very proficient at this technique and in 1904 founded the “Salon de l’eau forte en couleurs.”
Raffaelli was a great friend of the Impressionists—particularly of Edgar Degas, Camille Pissarro, and Mary Cassatt. Bitter quarrels with Degas and his own growing success in the Salon, however, eventually caused him to move away from that group and increasingly into the world of the official art establishment. However, he did remain on good terms with Cassatt and Pissarro, artists who shared his love of color etching. He was basically an Impressionist and remained true to the subjects he knew best, such as the suburbs of Paris, the landscapes and villages along the Seine, and the animals of the countryside. With rare acuity of vision, Raffaelli also depicted the downtrodden or work weary figures, carefully individualized in their accustomed milieu.
Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY; Maryhill Museum of Fine Arts, Goldendale, WA; Goteborg Art Gallery, Sweden; Museum of Pictorial Art, Leipzig; Ball State University Art Gallery, Muncie, IN; Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY; Melton Park Gallery, Oklahoma City; National Gallery, Oslo; Kroller-Muller National Museum, Otterloo, Netherlands; John G. Johnson Collection, Philadelphia; Phoenix Art Museum, AZ; Telfair Academy of Arts and Science, Savannah; Municipal Museum of Fine Arts, Tandil, Argentina; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Musee du Louvre, Paris; Museum of Fine Arts, Brussels, Belgium, Copenhagen