The Journal of Marie Bashkirtseff

The Final Days

Marie Bashkirtseff

The Umbrella, Marie Bashkirtseff

[Editor’s Note: In October of 1884, Marie Bashkirtseff was dying of Tuberculosis. She spent her last weeks with her friend and fellow painter, Jules Bastien-Lepage. Jules was also dying, of cancer — he would pass just two months later, on December 10th.]

Wednesday, October 1.

Nothing but sorrow and annoyance!

But why write all this down ?

My aunt left for Russia on Monday; she will arrive there at one in the morning.

Bastien-Lepage goes from bad to worse.

I am unable to work.

My picture will not be finished.

Here are misfortunes enough!

He is dying, and he suffers intensely. When I am with him I feel as if he were no longer of this earth; he already soars above us; there are days when I feel as if I too soared above this earth. I see the people around me; they speak to me, I answer them, but I am no longer of them. I feel a passive indifference to everything a sensation somewhat like that produced by opium.

At last he is dying; I still go to see him, but only from habit; it is only his shadow that is there: I myself am hardly more than a shadow.

He is scarcely conscious of my presence. I am of no use to him; his eyes do not brighten when he sees me; he likes me to be there, that is all.

Yes, he is dying, and the thought does not move me; I am indifferent to it; something is fading out of sight that is all.

And then everything will be ended.

Everything will be ended.

I shall die with the dying year.

Thursday, October 9.

It is as you see I do nothing. I am never without fever; my physicians are a pair of imbeciles. I have sent for Potain and put myself into his hands again. He cured me once before. He is kind, attentive, and conscientious. After all, it seems that my emaciation, and all the rest of it, do not come from the lungs, but from some malady I contracted without knowing when, and to which I paid no attention, thinking it would go away of itself; as for my lungs, they are no worse than before.

But it is not necessary for me to trouble you with my ailments; what is certain, however, is that I can do nothing.


Yesterday I went to dress myself to go to the Bois, and twice I was on the point of giving up, I was so overcome with weakness.

I succedeed at last; however.

Mme. Bastien-Lepage has been at Damvillers since Monday last, for the vintage, and, although there are women enough about him, he was glad to see us.

Sunday, October 12.

I have not been able to go out for the past few days. I am very ill, although I am not confined to bed.

Potain and his substitute come to see me on alternate days.

Ah, my God! and my picture, my picture, my picture?

Julian has come to see me. They have told him, then, that I was ill.

Alas! how could it be concealed? And how shall I be able to go see Bastien-Lepage?

Thursday October 16.

I have a constant fever that is sapping my strength. I spend the whole day in the drawing-room, going from the easy-chair to the sofa and back again.

Dina reads novels to me. Potain came yesterday, and is to come again tomorrow. This man is no longer in need of money, and if he comes to see me so often, it must be because he takes some little interest in me.

I cannot leave the house at all, but poor Bastien-Lepage is still able to go out, so he had himself brought here and installed in an easy-chair, his feet supported by cushions. I was by his side, in another easychair, and so we remained until six o'clock.

I was dressed in a white plush morning-gown, trimmed with white lace, but of a different shade; Bastien-Lepage's eyes dilated with pleasure as they rested on me.

"Ah, if I could only paint!" he said.

And I!

There is an end to this year's picture!

Saturday, October 18.

Bastien-Lepage comes almost every day. His mother has returned, and all three came today.

Potain came yesterday : I am no better.

Sunday, October 19.

Tony and Julian are to dine with us to-night.

Monday, October 20.

Although the weather is magnificient, Bastien-Lepage comes here instead of going to the Bois. He can scarcely walk at all now ; his brother supports him under each arm; he almost carries him.

By the time he is seated in his easychair the poor fellow is exhausted. Woe is me! And how many porters there are who do not know what it is to be ill! Emile is an admirable brother. He it is who carries Jules on his shoulders up and down their three flights of stairs. Dina is equally devoted to me. For the last two days my bed has been in the drawing-room, but as this is very large, and divided by screens, poufs, and the piano, it is not noticed. I find it too difficult to go upstairs.

The journal stops here. Marie Bashkirtseff died eleven days later, on the 31st of October, 1884.