Brame & Lorenceau have confirmed the authenticity of this work, which is registered in their Louis Anquetin archives.
While living in Paris during the mid-1880s, in conversations with his brother Theo, Vincent van Gogh coined the term 'painters of the petit boulevard.' He was referring to up and coming artists like himself who were experimenting with Neo-Impressionism and other avant-garde techniques, and who featured subjects from contemporary city life. Degas, Monet, Renoir, Pissarro and Sisley - the established Impressionists - were the masters of the 'grand boulevard'; their dealers, Georges Petit and Durand-Ruel, had galleries located on the large thoroughfares in the centre of Paris. Among the painters of the petit boulevard, Vincent included his friends Émile Bernard, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Louis Anquetin, all of whom had studied at Fernand Cormon's atelier in Montmartre.
During the late 1880s and early 1890s, Anquetin stood out from this group. John Rewald has noted that 'His friends, especially Lautrec, admired the ease and forcefulness with which he expressed himself as an artist as well as the passion with which he set out to invent painting all over again. Lautrec went so far as to say that since Manet no painter had been so richly gifted as Anquetin' (in Post-Impressionism, New York, 1978, pp. 29-30). Having evolved through his celebrated Cloisonnist period whereupon he created seminal masterpieces such as Avenue de Clichy from 1887 that inspired the likes of van Gogh, Lautrec and Bernard, Anquetin gained such profile that critics assumed he was the leader of this new and growing movement, having misattributed the achievements and role of Gauguin, who was frustrated at having been thus overlooked.
Executed in 1892, Au foyer du theatre shares with Anquetin’s best work the combination of pictorial dynamism and social commentary that not only defines his style but his place and time of a rapidly changing Paris in the late 19th Century. In the present work, we see Anquetin’s subjects assembling for the theatre, gathering with a sense of suspense in anticipation of the production, however this social engagement also provides an opportunity for the protagonists of the Parisian social scene to gather and interact. As such, the focal point of the scene remains the present moment, caught in advance of the main spectacle that will ensue. Femme dans la rue, now resident in the Musée D’Orsay and created after 1890 shares with Au foyer du theatre a radical viewpoint, like a film still capturing a spontaneous moment cropped from daily cosmopolitan life. The perspective of both works is intriguing, the vantage point centring up-close on the back of the foremost figure, leading the eye into the composition insinuating that the focal event takes place further within the pictorial space of which we, the viewer, can see only a fragment. There is a dramatic sensibility in this visual device whereupon the viewer is incorporated into the picture as if they are taking part.
An intense chiaroscuro pervades Anquetin's dramatic scene, the palette reduced to a velvety black with a few pertinent streams of light that enhance concentration upon the expressions of the figures. The direction of the eyes and expressions of the two women become pertinent, suggesting interpersonal engagement and intrigue for what is being said, what is about to occur. The fruit and bows on the women’s hats burst with colour like jewels shining from the darkness, animating the entire surface in their Cloisonnist potency. Ardorned in the latest fashions of the time, this captured moment of social interaction speaks to the changing times not only literally, through the modernity evident in the casual interactions, the hats, hairstyles and clothing worn by Anquetin’s subjects, but pictorially, through its inventive and engaging compositional and chromatic dynamics.