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Clowness Sha-U-Kao in Moulin Rouge

Painting, 1895, 75×55 cm

Description of the artwork «Clowness Sha-U-Kao in Moulin Rouge»

Almost nothing is known about the Parisian clown Sha-U-Kao. According to scraps, once upon a time, until the attention of Lautrec, she was a gymnast, young and slim. Then Sha-Yu-Kao matured and grew heavy, broke up with a brilliant sports circus career, but not with a circus. She put on wide black harem pants, a funny white cap with bright yellow ribbons, a lush yellow collar - and became a clown and dancer. The strange name Sha-U-Kao, which can be suspected of Asian origin, is, of course, a pseudonym. And it was formed from fragments of two French words: the first part is from the name of the frivolous dance “chahut”, the second is from the word for chaos and the noise “chaos”. Cut down beyond recognition, these scraps of words sounded very fashionable, in Japanese.

At the end of the XIX century, Paris is obsessed with all Japanese: engravings, screens, netsuke, kimonos, fans. Art dealerAmbroise Vollard publishes collections of engravings following the example of the Japanese and invites for this Jean Edouard Vuillard, Maurice Denis,Pierre Bonnard and, of course, Toulouse-Lautrec. Lautrec is already fascinated by Japanese art and the expressive, aesthetic principles of Japanese engraving: he designs posters for singers, dancers and female singers and applies this Japanese style to printing large patches of pure bright colors, he has cut the edges of the paper in the foreground. And for the collection of engravings, which he offers to release Vollar, he chooses the most favorite topic - women. And the first engraving in the collection - image of tired Sho-Yu-Kaoresting after the performance.

If Toulouse-Lautrec is fond of something or someone, he writes it without stopping, without regard to opinion or decency. At one time he was crazy about cycling, at another time he was racing, he bows to beauty and mind.Mizii Nathanson and disappears for months in her country house, endlessly sketching every look, every gesture of his muse. He is so obsessed with the new mysterious singer Yvette Gilberthat goes to all her performances and drags on them friends, he so enthusiastically takes scandalous Aristide Bruandthat becomes a regular at his Mirliton cabaret. He is so fascinated by the everyday life of prostitutes that he literally settles in their bedrooms and spends hours there drawing, while his models wait for clients to rest, chat, brush their hair.

In 1895, Toulouse-Lautrec almost every evening spends in the bar, where men are very rare guests. This is a lesbian bar. And Sha-Yu-Kao is a regular visitor. For the first time, Lautrec wrote it without a stage outfit and make-up -dancing together with another woman at one of these parties. At this time, his artistic passion - communication and tenderness of two women in love. Clowness Sha-Yu-Kao attracted Lautrec, however, not only with the ability to blithely arm with a friend in the most haughty places of Montmartre. Her images are hard to put on a par with bed scenes from Lautrec's favorite brothels. She is a star, she is not an obscure housekeeper of the house of tolerance, but an actress of an incredibly rare genre for a woman. She cheers and entertains, dresses up in non-female, inelegant outfits and wears a cap - she is beyond that limit of habitual attractiveness, behind which the artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec seeks inspiration all his life, beyond which he discovers, comprehends and creates new attractiveness.

Author: Anna Sidelnikova
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About the artwork

Art form: Painting

Subject and objects: Portrait, Genre scene

Style of art: Post-Impressionism

Materials: Canvas

Date of creation: 1895

Size: 75×55 cm

Artwork in selections: 23 selections