Jean-Louis Forain

(1852 - 1931)

Le Dialogue

Signed, lower right: Forain
Oil on canvas
27½ x 21¾ in – 70 x 55.3 cm
Painted circa 1890

Tel.: +44 (0)20 7839 7693


Galerie Georges Petit, Paris;
Georges Bernheim, Paris;
Antonio Santamarina, Buenos Aires (acquired from the above);
Mercedes Santamarina, Buenos Aires (by descent from the above);
Sale, Ungaro y Barbara, Buenos Aires, 25-27 September 1946, Lot 28
(titled El Dialogo Entretelones de Teatro);
Private collection, USA;
MacConnal-Mason Gallery, London, 2007;
Private collection, UK


Jean-Louis Forain, painter illustrator, engraver and lithographer, was born in Reims on 23rd October 1852. Circa 1860 the family moved to Paris and Forain subsequently enrolled in the studio of Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824-1904) at the École des Beaux-Arts where he studied under Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux (1827-1875) and André Gill (1840-1885).

Following the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871 in which he fought, Forain worked as an illustrator much in the manner of Honoré-Victorin Daumier (1808-1879) for Monde Parisienne, Revue Illustre and Journal Amusante, however his reputation was made through his vivid satirical illustrations for Courier Francaise and ‘Rire’. Forain also worked for La Vie Parisienne, Figaro and L’Echo de Paris, many of his drawings later being published, L’Album Forain - La Comédie Parisienne 1892, Les Temps Difficiles 1893, Nous Vous Eux 1893 and Doux Pays 1897. In 1898 Forain founded with Caran d’Ache the journal Psst and was one of the founders of the Society Les Humouristes.

Forain was a significant and widely connected figure in the artistic milieu of Paris in the 1870’s and 1880’s. A friend of the poets Paul Verlaine (1844-1896) and Arthur Rimbaud (1854-1891) it was Forain’s portrait of the latter which is believed to have influenced Manet’s ‘Mallarme’ of 1876 (Paris, Louvre). Forain had met Édouard Manet (1832-1883) through his friendship with Edgar Degas (1834-1917), who owned a number of works by Forain, and the latter in his ‘Café Scene’ (New York, Brooklyn Museum) of 1878, is thought to have once again been a significant influence on Manet in his iconic ‘Bar at the Folies Bergeres’ 1881-1882 (London, Courtauld Institute Galleries).

Forain exhibited with the Impressionists and at the Salon in 1884 and 1885 where his works created much interest. His work was regularly published to great acclaim, Forain’s dealer being Ambroise Vollard, whom he shared with Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919) amongst others. He was appointed Chevalier de Legion d’Honneur in 1893.

Forain is renowned as a painter above all of the Ballet, Opera and, as with Daumier, court room scenes. He was a widely respected and significant artist of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

His work is represented in numerous museums worldwide.

Forain Jean-Louis