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Loïe Fuller, darling of Art Nouveau

Art Nouveau

Loïe Fuller, darling of Art Nouveau

This month we’re partnering with Europeana again to celebrate their fantastic new Art Nouveau season (21 February – 29 May). The season explores the depth and diversity of the influential art movement and features beautiful Art Nouveau jewellery, posters and much more. It is led by a major new exhibition that tells the story of Art Nouveau from its origins to its brilliant heyday, and features fifty artworks from more than twenty museums.

Today we meet the dancer Loïe Fuller, one of Art Nouveau’s most celebrated performers.

Poster for Loïe Fuller at the Folies-Bergère, 1897. Illustrator: Pal. National Library of France. Public Domain.

Poster for Loïe Fuller at the Folies-Bergère, 1897. Illustrator: Pal. National Library of France. Public Domain.

In the heyday of Art Nouveau, female celebrities like the actress Sarah Bernhardt, the nightclub performer Jane Avril and the American dancer Loïe Fuller were important muses for many artists. Fuller was admired by Auguste Rodin, Jules Chéret and Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, among others.

Regarded by many as the personification of Art Nouveau, Loïe Fuller was born in a suburb of Chicago, Illinois in 1862. She was a professional child performer who worked the vaudeville and burlesque circuit before making her Paris stage debut in 1892 on the stage of the Folies Bergère. Fuller was warmly received by Parisian audiences and she decided to remain in Europe.

Poster for Loïe Fuller as Salomé, 1895. Artist: Georges de Feure National Library of France. Public Domain.

Poster for Loïe Fuller as Salomé, 1895. Artist: Georges de Feure National Library of France. Public Domain.

An early free dance practitioner, Loïe Fuller developed a series of routines in which she whirled around the stage to the music of Debussy, Chopin and Schubert. Her shows were illuminated by vivid and innovative lighting effects, many of which she created herself. Fuller held a number of US patents for chemical compounds related to stage lighting, and for colour gels and chemical salts used to make luminescent garments.

Here is a short film of Fuller’s famous Danse Serpentine, 1891, made by the Lumière Brothers in 1896. The dancer in the film is thought to be Caroline Hipple Holpin, known as Papinta “The Flame Dancer”, rather than Loïe Fuller herself.

 

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