Forain, Jean-Louis

1852 – 1931

Forain studied art in Paris surrounded by such luminaries as Manet and Degas. Remarkably, he had enough faith in himself and his vision to restrain from following in their footsteps and relying on the common themes of the Folies Bergere and the glamorization of Paris’ sordid side.

The first half of Forain’s career as a printmaker was devoted almost exclusively to etchings. His subjects were equally divided between the elegant but bored ladies of high society and the less elegant but more common members of the working class. Both sides were illustrated with a naturalism and fidelity to the situation that was uncommon for the time.

During the 1880’s, Forain’s subject matter became more religious, and in the 1890’s he virtually abandoned etching and turned to lithography. He mastered the process and learned to draw directly onto the stone with a grease pencil to achieve the effect he was searching for. He became so proficient and so particular about quality that he printed his own lithographs. He later abandoned lithography stones for transfer paper and continued to monitor the quality and edition sizes very carefully. He also worked extensively as a newspaper illustrator and a poster artist.

Forain’s sensitive images of ballet rehearsals, nudes, women performing their toilette and portraits are lovely examples of print making at its finest.