The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler

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Jean Louis Forain, 1852-1931

Nationality: French
Date of Birth: 1852.10.23
Place of Birth: Reims
Date of Death: 1931.07.11
Place of Death: Paris


Jean Louis Forain was a painter, printmaker and illustrator. He was taught in Paris, by Jacquesson de la Chevreuse, Jean Baptiste Carpeaux and André Gill.


Forain became close friends with Degas, and was invited by him to exhibit in the fourth Impressionist Exhibition and went on to exhibit in several more. He showed more formal compositions at the Salon des Artistes Français, although the influence of Degas and Impressionism was still evident. The influence of Japanese prints, which can be seen in Whistler's work, is noted by Lillian Browse in her monograph on Forain, as a link to the contemporary interest in 'Japanoiserie'.

Forain is first refered to by Whistler in 1897, when he is praised highly and there is a suggestion that Whistler may have owned work by him (#06315). Forain's work was shown at the 1898 Exhibition of International Art, staged by the International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers under Whistler's presidency. Only two works are listed in the catalogue, one oil painting- a portrait- and a lithograph in black and red, described as 'a study'. Evidence from the correspondence regarding the organisation of the exhibition suggests that more works may have arrived late and been hung after the private view of the exhibition had taken place.

After 1900 Forain worked in a more sombre palette and he moved away from the subject matter chosen by the Impressionists, instead creating biblical and law-court scenes. His work as an illustrator and print work was often created for the satirical Psst!, which he co-founded with Caran D'Ache and later in Le Figaro.


Bénézit, E., Dictionnaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs et Graveurs, 8 vols, 1956-61; Alicia Craig Faxon, 'Forain, Jean-Louis', Grove Art Online, Oxford University Press, (accessed July 2005); Illustrated Souvenir Catalogue of the Exhibition of International Art, Knightsbridge, The International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers, London, 1898; Lillian Browse, Forain: The Painter, London, 1978.