Jules Chéret: Folies-Bergère, La Loïe Fuller

Katie Butler: By the middle of the nineteenth century, Jules Cheret was a household name thanks to his distinct take on lithographs. Before Cheret reformed the technique of posters being tediously copied with austere and dull colors, this artist reinvented the wheel by painting directly onto stone with vibrant colors. 

One of his poster commissions created in 1893 for the Paris World Fair,  Folies-Bergère, La Loïe Fuller ( translated to Loïe Fuller at the Folies-Bergère), depicts the charisma and vibrancy for which the artist is so readily appraised. 

As one of many examples of the multipurpose functions of a Cheret commission, this chromolithograph displays a famous American dancer, Loie Fuller, gazing playfully at the reader while she appears to be dancing in light. According to an article from the Metropolitan Museum of Art called “Folies-Bergère, La Loïe Fuller,” this enchanting effect was created through Cheret’s “crachis” technique, in which he would spatter paint as opposed to using wax resist to create a shimmering effect. The article continues that this image “captures the spirit of sensuality and excitement in the cabaret culture of fin-de-siècle Paris. Fuller was an important attraction at the 1900 Paris world’s fair, embodying Art Nouveau with her innovative choreography and diaphanous silk costumes illuminated by multicolored electric lights.”

In a significant amount of his posters, it was customary of Cheret to depict, in simple words, a woman having fun. In most lithographs and media at the time, women were either depicted as prostitutes or puritans, so Cheret made significant changes to the lense through which women were displayed in public media. 

Graphically, the minimal use of words makes the reader value the gestures of the dancer’s gown and the graceful movement of the figure. Meanwhile, the giant emboldened words give the reader a sense of importance without suffocating the image of the dancer, further emphasizing to people that this is an event they would not want to miss. This harmony of text and image brings to light just how Jules Cheret turned commercial art into an art form itself: instead of serving as a mere advertisement, this poster serves as an experience for the general public. 

Image source:https://www.moma.org/collection/works/5615?artist_id=1089&locale=en&page=1&sov_referrer=artist


Work Cited:

“Jules Chéret: Folies-Bergère, La Loïe Fuller (Loïe Fuller at the Folies-Bergère)- 1893. Moma. The Museum of Modern Art, 2020. Web. 10 April 2020.