Facets of the Belle Époque revealed through the work of Forain and Picasso.
Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Femme debout tenant deux enfants (Standing Woman Holding Two Children), 1901, charcoal on paper, signed, 31.2 x 22 cm.
As the 20th century dawned, Paris was a tale of two cities. Two diametrically opposed worlds, one of wealth, the other of poverty, existed side by side. Dubbed by Edgar Degas “the young man who flies with our own wings”, Jean-Louis Forain loved the Opera, whose dancers he immortalized in two paintings offered between €12,000 and €20,000. Picasso was not caught up in the social whirl of high society opera-goers, preferring the Montmartre cabarets where bohemians went slumming. The turn of the century was a lean period for him. Inspired by dark subjects and the grimmer aspects of daily life, in 1901 he visited the Saint-Lazare women’s prison-hospital in Paris several times. Since 1794, female criminals, delinquents, convicted debtors, prostitutes and girls taken away from their parents had been locked up there all together. Their children, if they had any, were imprisoned with them. Picasso drew these women and painted a series of canvases on the theme of motherhood. This charcoal drawing of two children clinging to their mother might date from that period.