Forain was a friend of Degas and actually exhibited with the Impressionists four times between 1879 and 1886. His chief subjects in this period were everyday scenes of Parisian life, primarily theaters and cafes. Later in his career he turned both as painter and caricaturist to more satirical themes commenting on social and judicial issues. This early work, which is very possibly one of the four Scenes of the Folies-Bergère that he showed at the 1879 exhibition, is still a bit awkward in its rendering of the fashionable crowd jostling on the floor of one of Paris’s most popular night spots, the music hall called the Folies-Bergère. While reminiscent of Manet, Forain’s talent and intent are more modest. None of the figures really engage the viewer’s eye, as they all seem to be hurrying in different directions, but the watercolor medium serves well to capture the harsh light and sense of activity. As writers commented at the time: “Forain, a very young man, follows Degas with one foot and the caricaturist Grevin with the other. Despite that, his watercolors are stamped with originality…Above all he renders interiors of the Folies-Bergère, the evening refuge of the cocottes with a completely Parisian sensibility.”

Jean Louis Forain
French, 1852–1931
Crowd at the Folies-Bergère, c. 1878
Watercolor and gouache on paper
Bequest of George A. Gay, 1941.170

From Our Collection

Applebroog, 1985 1910, Bergeres 1860, Pena 1868, Tissot

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