Leon Joseph Voirin

French, 1833-1887 Biography

Leon Joseph Voirin and his twin brother Jules-Antoine built successful careers as French genre painters. Both studied under Eugene Guerard, and Leon subsequently debuted at the Paris Salon in 1874. The brothers painted military subjects, as well as sporting scenes and genre subjects. Leon specifically made a specialty of chronicling the city life of Paris, the bustling boulevards and social events that marked the gaiety of the Belle Époque, in a style similar to that of Jean Béraud.

Leon Voirin drew inspiration from the lively Parisian nightlife that took place in the cafes, cabarets, operas and music halls of that great city. The city at leisure became his theme and paintings of horse races, the ballet, the theatre, parks and flower markets filled his oeuvre.

A popular nightspot for many Parisians was the Folies Bergéres. North of the Boulevard Montmatre, on Rue Richer, the Folies Bergéres attracted Parisians with revues that included ballet, pantomime, acrobatics and other varied spectacles. Literally all classes of society frequented the Folies Bergéres, but its reputation, unlike the Moulin Rouge, remained somewhat respectable.

In Voirin’s work, Aux Folies Bergéres depicts a well-dressed Parisian couple departing from a musical revue. The couple is outfitted in stylish attire, complete with a top hat and overcoat for him and a fashionable hat with rosette and veil, a fan and gloves for her. The vacated theatre glows behind them and a lone musician packs up his instrument among the empty seats at the edge of the orchestra pit. The surrounding atmosphere is subdued yet magical. Voirin renders the scene with loose feathery strokes in a dramatic palette of fiery red, yellow and black.