by Chris Davis
The Dixon is a major international collector of Forain's work and 18 pieces from Le Comedie parisienne, which opened in Paris to rave reviews, are from the Memphis museum's permanent collection. That makes the Dixon the second largest contributor to the exhibition after the Forain family, and that helped Memphis to land exclusive rights to this significant cultural event.
On Friday, June 24, two days before the exhibit's official opening Florence Valdez-Forain, the artist's great granddaughter conducted a private tour for Memphis mayor A.C. Wharton and members of the media. "This is a painting of a horse race, but do you see a horse?" she asked, referencing a piece titled Souvenir of Chantilly. "It's very small," she continued, identifying the horse in order to emphasize the importance given to the spectators, her great grandfather's love of people, and his proclivity for painting heavily populated social activities. This love of human interaction is on display in almost every piece.
Forain, the son of a house and sign painter, is generally identified as the youngest of the impressionists. In spite of any social disadvantages he may have faced he had an extraordinary career that included working as a war correspondant and founding journals like "Psst!." He studied with Degas and mentored Toulouse Lautrec. His busy, nearly narrative group scenes, and images of dancers reflect the former while his sharp visual wit and gift for exaggeration are carried on in so much Lautrec's print work.
Le Comedie parisienne opens at the Dixon Gallery and Gardens on Sunday, June 26, 2011 and runs through October 9.