Jean Louis Forain, French (1852 - 1931)

(b Reims, 23 Oct 1852; d Paris, 11 July 1931). French painter, printmaker and illustrator. Around 1860 he moved with his family to Paris, where he was taught by Jacquesson de la Chevreuse (1839–1903), Jean Baptiste Carpeaux and André Gill.

He participated in the Franco-Prussian War (1870–71) and was a friend of the poets Paul Verlaine and Arthur Rimbaud; the latter is the presumed subject of a portrait (1874; priv. col., see 1982 exh. cat., no. 1) that may have influenced Manet’s late portrait of Mallarmé (1876; Paris, Louvre).

Forain first met Manet through his friendship with Degas in the early 1870s at the salon of Nina de Callias. He continued to associate with Manet, meeting the group of young Impressionists at the Café Guerbois and the Café de la Nouvelle Athènes. In 1878 Forain painted a small gouache, Café Scene (New York, Brooklyn Mus.), which probably influenced Manet’s Bar at the Folies-Bergère (1881–2; London, Courtauld Inst. Gals).

Forain was one of the most important artists of the first few decades of the twentieth century, frequently compared to Rembrandt for his emotional power as an etcher. His drawings were regularly reproduced just as Daumier's had been in the mid-19th century, but Forain's not only ridicule follies but sympathisize with the poor and the unfortunate. He was one of Ambroise Vollard's stable of artists (along with Renoir, Rouault, Chagall, Dufy, and many others), and the works included in our exhibition—four lithographic figure studies—were commissioned by Vollard for a portfolio of nudes by his artists (including Renoir and Cezanne) that, like many of his other projects, never materialized. We are also including seven drawings acquired since our last exhibition.

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