Anne Robinson, Karen Saxby
From the scandalous Olympia by Édouard Manet to Degas’s The Absinthe Drinker, from Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Edvard Munch’s forays into brothels to the bold figures and caricature portraits of Georges Rouault, Kees Van Dongen, and Pablo Picasso, this book foregrounds how the shadowy domain of prostitution played a central role in the development of modern painting. In nine chapters, readers roam the streets of Paris and head into its maisons closes and private boudoirs, where courtesans―often actresses, singers, or dancers―were looked after by rich protectors. These famous paintings, sculptures, lithographs, sketches, and press clippings are given context within the moral framework of a time when prostitution was considered―depending on the point of view―as an unavoidable or enticing evil. The catalogue also demonstrates how the works of art are intrinsically bound to the literary works of the period, in which Balzac, Baudelaire, and Zola negotiated parallel questions of presentation and representation, reverie and reality. Comprehensive appendices include a complete list of works featured in the exhibition organized by medium, a selected bibliography, and an index of names. The book powerfully evokes the ambivalent place held by prostitutes in the midst of nascent modernity―from the splendours of the demimondaines to the miseries of the working girl pierreuses.