Jean Louis Forain (French, 1931)

Jean Louis Forain (French, 1852–1931) was known for his paintings, lithographs, watercolors, and etchings. Forain was born in Reims, and moved to Paris during his childhood where he studied at the École des Beaux Arts with Jean-Léon Gérôme (French, 1824–1904). Part of the Paris scene, Forain was close friends with Edgar Degas (French, 1834–1917), 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, Forain participated in four Impressionist exhibitions between 1879 and 1886. Influenced by Impressionist theories on light and color, Forain's work depicts scenes of modern Parisian nightlife, entertainment, racetracks, and cafes. Working during a time when France was going through major sociopolitical transformations, Forain began addressing more political subjects later in his life, and published numerous drawings and illustrations in major periodicals. Forain's work was recently exhibited at the Petit Palais in Paris, and the Dixon Museum in Memphis. His work is part of major museum collections around the world, such as the Metropolitain Museum of Art in New York, The Louvre in Paris, the Courtauld Institute in London, and the Brooklyn Museum in New York.


Jean Louis Forain was a painter, illustrator and print maker and is frequently compared to Rembrandt for his emotional power as an etcher. After studying at the Ecole des Beaux Art in Paris under Jean Léon Gèrome he became an illustrator for the periodicals Le Monde Parisien and Le rire satirique. During this period he came into contact will all aspects of Parisian social life and started to paint the characters he encountered and at the salon of Nina de Callais in the early 1870s he met, through his friend Degas, Claude Monet on whom he is widely considered to have had a remarkable influence and it has been suggested that his small gouache Café scene (The Brooklyn Museum, New York) was the inspiration for Manet’s famous Bar at the Folies Bergère.
Forain exhibited with the Impressionists from 1884 to 1886 and again in 1888. The critic Gustave Geoffroy called him ‘a talent capable of expressing worldly elegance’ and Octave Maus wrote in ‘Art Moderne’ in 1886 ‘He is the poet of corruption in evening clothes, of dandyism in the boudoirs, of high life masking empty hearts’.