Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Frou Frou (1882)

Georges Jules Victor Clairin: Frou Frou

Born in Paris in 1843, Georges Clairin received his artist education at the École des Beaux-Arts under the tutelage of Isidore Pils and François Edouard Picot beginning in 1861. He accompanied Henri Regnault on his travels throughout Spain and Morocco, and went to Italy with François Flameng and Jean Léon Gérôme. During his stay in Morocco, Clairin met the Catalan artist Mariano Fortuny and together they visited Tetuan. In 1895, Clairin traveled to Egypt with the composer Camille Saint-Saëns. Clairin was awarded the Silver Medal at the Exposition universelle in 1889 and was made an officer of the Legion of Honor in 1897.

Clairin is best known for his portraits of Sarah Bernhardt, with whom he had an enduring friendship, and he painted her in a number of roles. In addition to these stage portraits, Clairin painted her several times in more intimate surroundings. His 1876 portrait of the famous actress made the artist's reputation and was very well received at the Salon of that year. 'Le portrait de Madame Sara Bernhardt est assurément une des oeuvres les plus saillantes du Salon, tant par l'originalit de la composition que par la splendeur du coloris.' (Théodore Véron, Le salon de 1876: mémorial de l'art et des artistes de mon temps, Poitiers, 1876).

Clairin's association with the theatre and Paris Opèra shaped his artistic development. His oeuvre is dominated by extraordinary images of larger than life characters, and Frou Frou certainly falls into this milieu. David B. Shepp writes in 1897: 'Frou-Frou is a character familiar to the world through the famous French drama of that name and the picture by Clairin is an ideal portrayal of the heroine of that play. She is perfectly typical -- a beautiful, coquettish, light-hearted merry young woman, committing perhaps many follies, never bad at heart and erring though thoughtlessness rather than through intent. The picture portrays her in a gown a waving flounces, plumed hat and jaunty slippers, tripping along with all the buoyancy of joyous youth. Painted in 1882, it was suggested to the artist by Bernhardt's notable and versatile presentation of that play, though it is by no means a portrait of that actress' (Daniel B. Shepp, Shepp's Library of History and Art, 1897, p. 202). [Christie's]

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