Jean-louis Forain: The Chronicler of 19th Century Parisian Life
Depicting the scenes of modern Parisian nightlife, entertainment, racetracks, and cafes and creating satirical illustrations for various Paris journals, the French painter, lithographer, and caricaturist, Jean-Louis Forain, is highly revered for his numerous drawings chronicling and commenting on Parisian city life at the end of the 19th century.
Celebrated as one of the most significant living artists during his time, Forain was born on October 23, 1852, in Reims, Marne, and during his childhood, his family moved to Paris. Being his career as a caricaturist, he later enrolled at the École des Beaux Arts, studying under Jean-Léon Gérôme. Afterwards, he affiliated with the sculptor Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux, only to be thrown out of Carpeaux's studio for ostensibly damaging a sculpture in 1869.
Part of the Paris scene, Forain was close friends with Edgar Degas, with whom he shared a love of ballet, as well as several prominent poets and writers, such as Arthur Rimbaud, Paul Verlaine, and Joris-Karl Huysmans. At Degas' invitation, he participated in four impressionist exhibitions between 1879 and 1886. Influenced by the Impressionist theories on light and color, Forain's work also combined something of the realistic outlook of Édouard Manet and the mordant satire of Honoré Daumier.
In 1892, Forain published thee first volume of “La Comédie Parisienne”, collection of his illustrations and commentary on the major political stories that disrupted France's Third Republic- such as the anarchic crisis and the Dreyfus affair. After the turn of the century, Forain concentrated more on painting and in 1902, he began to paint law-court scenes, one of them, perhaps the first was reproduced in the special Forain issue of “Le Figaro Illustré” in February that year. During the first World War, his illustrations honored the patriotism of his contemporaries.
In 1931, shortly before his death, he was made a member of the Royal Academy of Arts in London. When Jean Louis Forain died on July 11, 1931, he had been regarded by no less an esteemed author and commentator on contemporary art than Guillaume Apollinaire, who consider Forain among the most significant living artists.