Raffaelli’s style was clearly different from most of the Impressionist painters yet he was invited to participate in the 1880 and 1881 Salons due to the sponsorship of Edgar Degas. In fact in 1881 he had more paintings in the show than any other painter.
Although his works in the Impressionist salons aroused the attention of critics who showered Raffaelli with much attention and praise, he didn’t fare as well with his fellow artists. Gaugin and Guillamin both issued a public declaration that if Raffaelli were included in 1882’s exhibition, they would not show their work. History may have treated Raffaelli much differently had this not taken place!
Raffaelli’s subject matter is equally as interesting today as it was during his lifetime. His philosophical bent and naturalistic tendencies can be interpreted to show a highly evolved and quite futuristic thinker. His observations of the absinthe drinkers and rag-pickers, chiffonnières as they were dubbed at the time, are still extremely poignant today. Raffaelli keenly observed life in the suburbs of Paris where he had taken residence. He was an ecologist of sorts. He documented various aspects of a changing reality. Unlike most other artists of the day, who were observing landscapes and city streets, Raffaelli noted the effects of the changing urban landscapes and the effects it had on peoples’ lives. Where there had been farms, albeit quite barren land due it having been worked so often due to its proximity to Paris, there were now urban developments and factories. The Chiffonnière who may have been a tenant farmer or even a small landowner was now scavenging rags to be gathered from house to house and then sold to be recycled into sacks or paper. He keenly portrayed the underside of the prosperity gained from the industrial revolution.
During the 1890’s, at the height of his career, his works enjoyed even greater acceptance and brought him increased prosperity, evidenced by his light-hearted scenes of Parisian monuments and boulevards.
By the early 1900s his primary work was printmaking in color. In the 1890s he had co-founded the French Society of Color Etching with Mary Cassatt and Camille Pissarro. He introduced a new technique in printmaking whereby up to five plates were used to create a drypoint etching.
Raffaelli died in 1924 after a long and illustrious career. His paintings hang today in major museums throughout the world, reminding us not only of his tremendous originality, but also his extraordinary efforts as a color etcher. All told Raffaelli executed one hundred and eighty-three original prints. He is a great example of the painter-printmaker.
Museum collections include: