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A Bar at the Folies-Bergère

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Joris-Karl Huysmans on the Folies-Bergère

Joris Karl Huysmans (1848-1907) was a novelist and art critic of Dutch family. He was at first a disciple of the naturalist Émile Zola, but his novel 'Against Nature' was a seminal work of decadent literature, and had a great influence on Oscar Wilde. He was an important champion of Manet's painting. He was also a pointed chronicler of the social mores of his time. He wrote of the Folies-Bergère:

"What is truly admirable, truly unique, is the outdoor character of this theatre... It is ugly and it is superb, it is of an outrageous yet exquisite taste; it is incomplete like something which would really be beautiful. The garden with its upper galleries, its arcades cut out like coarse wooden lace, with its full diamond and its hollow trefoil, tinted in red and gold ochre, the garnet-red and tawny striped ceiling made of cloth with ornamental tufts and tassels, its imitation Louvois fountains with three women backbetween two enormous imitation bronze saucers, planted in the midst of green tufts, its walks covered with tables, rattan couches, chairs and counters staffed with fiercely rouged women, resembles at the same time the rush of the Rue Montesquieu and an Algerian or Turkish bazaar... Alhambra-Poret, Duval-Moorish with, in addition, a vague odour of old suburban outdoor saloons, embellished with oriental colonnades and mirrors, this theatre, with a playhouse whose faded red and dirty gold clashes with the spanking new luxury of the sham garden, is the only place in Paris which reeks as exquisitely of the make-up of paid love and the bark of the wearied corruptions."

J.K. Huysmans, Parisian Sketches, trans. Richard Griffiths, Fortune Press, 1960

Prostitutes of the Folies Bergère
La Vie Parisienne
Unfavourable criticism

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Les Folies-Bergère, 1880

Forain (University of Michigan)

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