Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, French, 1864-1901
Oil on laminate cardboard, mounted on panel
Jane Avril, one of Toulouse-Lautrec’s favorite models, was a famous cabaret performer in Paris. This portrait, however, suggests very little about the energetic dancing style that earned her the nickname La Melenite (dynamite). She appears in street clothes, wearing a plum-colored cape and an extravagant hat, peering sideways through narrowed eyes. Only the unnatural colors of her hair, skin, and lips, set against the green and indigo background, suggest the heavy makeup and harsh lighting in which she appeared on stage.
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Do you think this portrait is flattering? Why would the artist portray Jane Avril in this way?
Jane Avril was a famous performer in Paris. Why might such a celebrity appear hostile to the public?
Are there certain responsibilities that come with being a celebrity in terms of how to treat people?