Synopses & Reviews
Artists in late 19th-century France produced some of Europe's most celebrated and revolutionary works of art. Among those innovators are Edgar Degas, Jean-Louis Forain, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, who captured the renowned dancers of Paris in paintings, pastels, drawings, prints, and sculptures, creating potent icons of a unique time, place, and culture. Each sought to portray rapidly changing urban life, concentrating on the human figure in its social context. The dancer proved to be a fruitful subject for their investigations of modernity. Degas focused on the artifice of the performance and the harsh daily life of the dancer. Drawing on his background as a newspaper illustrator, Forain's vignettes focus on backstage flirtations between social unequals, especially their exploitative aspects. By contrast, Lautrec's paintings, prints, and posters of celebrity dancers reveal his uncritical acceptance of the sexual commerce that was part of the popular entertainment scene of Montmartre. Annette Dixon is curator of prints and drawings at the Portland Art Museum, Other contributors include Mary Weaver Chapin, Jill DeVonyar, Richard Kendall, and Florence Vald?s-Forain.