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Dead medium: Riviere's Theatre d'ombres (Part Two)
From: bruces@well.com (Bruce Sterling)

Source(s): *The Spirit of Montmartre: Cabarets, Humor and the Avant-Garde, 1875-1905* edited by Phillip Dennis Cate and Mary Shaw, Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, Rutgers, The State University, New Brunswick, New Jersey, 1996
LC 95-81835

page 55

"It was not by chance that Riviere discovered the shadow theater. The climate was certainly right for investigations into the artistic effects of silhouettes. Thanks to the newly developed photomechanical relief- printing processes, which easily and inexpensively reproduced high-contrast black-and-white drawings (...) artists and writers of the Chat Noir group were collaborating on publications related to Riviere's aesthetic interests.

"Less than two months earlier, Paul Eudel, who by coincidence lived directly across the street from the Chat Noir, published his important study on shadow plays entitled *Les Ombres chinoises de mon pere* (((*My Father's Shadow Theater,* Paris, Editions Rouveyre, 1885.))) Cohl and Ferdinandus, Chat Noir regulars and Incoherents, created many of the silhouette illustrations for the book. Riviere was obviously aware of Eudel's publication just as he was surely aware of Henri de Sta's humorous books, such as *La Chanson du colonel* (((*La Chanson du colonel, operette pare Albert Millaud et Hennequin, Paris, Leon Vanier, 1882))) which were illustrated by de Sta entirely with silhouette images.

"In addition, Georges Lorin's *Paris rose* of 1884 (((*Paris rose*, Paris, Paul Ollendorf, 1884))) innovatively incorporates silhouette images within the text to suggest movement from one page to the next. Lorin's dynamic placement of silhouettes, in fact, predicts the effect, ten years later, of celluloid frames of a moving picture, as well as the bold black-and-white book illustrations of Vallotton. (((*Rassemblements,* edited by Octave Uzanne, Paris, Paul Ollendorf, 1884, features thirty illustrations by Vallotton.)))

(...)

"These publications by his Chat Noir colleagues introduced Riviere to the artistic potential of silhouettes and motivated his investigations into the shadow theater as a modern medium. Most important, the shadow theater was able to merge the two-dimensional aesthetics of the visual arts with characteristics intrinsic to theater: movement and the interaction of music and voice."

Bruce Sterling (bruces@well.com)