japonisme: the chinese divan japonais

01 October 2007

the chinese divan japonais

Divan Japonais

LAUTREC'S stroke of genius as a poster designer was to bring to the task the bold coloring and flat unmodelled forms of Japanese color woodcuts -- and the idea is nowhere more apposite than in this image advertising the Divan Japonais.

This was a Montmartre cabaret decorated in a fashionably Asian style [ironically, chinese!]. Lautrec shows the dancer Jane Avril and the critic Edouard Dujardin watching a performance by Yvette Guilbert, the famous singer, who is recognizable by her black gloves. All three were friends of the artist.

Avril is elegantly composed, chicly dressed, and with- drawn. Her cultivated tastes and interest in art and literature place her comfortably in the company of the intel- lectual Dujardin. Distractedly touching his cane to chin, he is interrupted in mid- thought by Jane's shapely silhouette. As usual, Lautrec focused on the dramas enacted

by the audience, and here perfectly captures the ambivalence of the pair's feigned interest in the performance and their private, con- flicting thoughts hovering just below the surface of social refinement.

Stylistically, Lautrec looked to sources in Japanese prints: the use of diagonals, compartmentalized color, curvilinear silhouettes, and the flattening of space.

[T]he presence of Dujardin makes reference to his writings on abstraction in Japanese art. Dujardin's writings summarized the principles of Lautrec's art, and Lautrec's poster gives a pictorial synopsis of both the critic's views and the

concerns of avant-garde painting. Viewed in this way, Divan Japonais poses itself as a provo- cative brain- teaser, full of cryptic "signs" and not-too-serious references to the intellectualism of modern art that percolated at the café tables and was poured out in the journals.

as happened with many of the cafes and cabarets of montmartre, divan japonais eventually became a strip club, and, finally, a movie theater.

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Blogger harlequinpan said...

Jane Avril really a key person of divan japonais!

03 October, 2007 10:23  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

apparently it was actually yvette guilbert who was the big deal at the divan japonais, recognizable even with no head, but avril and others--they were all friends and would hang out.

03 October, 2007 12:10  

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