Los Angeles

Theophile-Alexandre Steinlen and Antoine Boudelle

Bob Willoughby's Gallery of Ancient, Ethnic and Modern Art

The Steinlen drawings are almost all idea notations or preparatory studies for the productive abundance of illustrations for Gil Blas, posters, and song sheets. His social attitudes made all humanity open to quick if summary survey, recorded in a rapid gesture of chopped straights and Art Nouveau fluidity. Attracted to the working classes by a bond of sympathy, to the theatrical by a fascination with the dramatic, and to the upper classes as objects of soft-bite satire, he recalls each through salient points of a pose, a posture, or a detail of fashion. He is at his story-telling best in describing a situation of action between several figures—one can almost complete the vignette with a caption of conversation.

In its entirety the most telling charactertistic of this selection is its transparency—one looks beyond these works to a summary of 19th-century French graphic achievements—in absorbing or holding affinity with the incisive chiseled penstroke of Delacroix, the multistroke search of Daumier, Renoir’s full and diffused modeling, the square angle hatching of Van Gogh, and Toulouse Lautrec’s flat patterns and clever caricature.

The nine accompanying Bourdelle bronzes serve as a wise complement. Not the noble rhetoric of his more famous large projects, as the Heracles—Archer (to be seen at the Dalzell Hatfield Galleries), but his quiet or heavily robust and swathed females. As a set motif, several involve the problem of the figure surmounting or bridging a rise of earth. As a device for dealing with an open space within the piece, it is an intriguing idea, but as a solution for a base it is in general inappropriately illusionistic, and calls for the need to be seen in a public landscape environment. In the large torso, Fruit, despite the fact that the mound would seem to be a physical support for the swaying balance, it again proves distracting.

All are roughly modeled, textured, or planar; tied by the bulk of massive proportions, but rise with slow, introspective solemnity. The arms and head of Penelope and Madame Roussel with Hat seem to blossom and fairly writhe above solidly voluminous skirts, while Bacchante and the portrait of his wife, Sculptress Resting, mix, in turn, classicism and genre with magnificent plasticity.

Fidel A. Danieli