Art History: La Goulue and the Problematic Gaze – School of Art Communication and English Art History: La Goulue and the Problematic Gaze – School of Art Communication and English

Art History: La Goulue and the Problematic Gaze

Will Visconti

La Goulue and the Problematic Gaze

Although best known as a muse of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, La Goulue (Louise Weber, 1866-1929) was a frequent sitter for photographers and other artists from her teen years until her death. Representations of La Goulue range from the works of fin-de-siècle artists like Charles Conder and Emile Bernard to twentieth-century artists like Kees Van Dongen and Leon Kelly. This paper examines how La Goulue returns, challenges, and problematises the gaze. She also queers the gaze in more ways than one, via her feisty persona that provides a rebuke to predominantly bourgeois male audience members, and through rumours surrounding her sexuality, which find their expression in visual representations of La Goulue and other performers around her. La Goulue’s representation sits within a continuum of nineteenth-century photography that spans other celebrities and performers, such as Virginia Verasis Oldoini, the Comtesse de Castiglione, or the ballerina and alleged courtesan Cléo de Mérode.

Will Visconti is coordinator of the Italian major at UTS His research focuses primarily on gender, sexuality, representation and transgression, and his first book, Beyond the Moulin Rouge: The Life and Legacy of La Goulue, was published in 2022 by the University of Virginia Press. Two of his forthcoming publications are an article in French Screen Studies about the television series Maison Close, and a chapter in the Routledge Companion to the History of Paris Since 1789. Will’s current research projects include examinations of obscenity in Victorian literature, the material culture of nineteenth-century sex work, and the comic potential of the cancan.

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(image 1) Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Moulin Rouge: La Goulue. Lithograph, 1891, courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

(image 2) Louis Victor Paul Bacard, La Goulue. Photograph, c.1885, courtesy of the Musée d’Orsay, Paris.



Apr 27 2023


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