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Cirque Medrano

Page history last edited by Thomas Kutzli 1 year, 11 months ago

La La at the cirque Medrano, Edgar Degas


In taking the circus as his theme, Léger was referring to a popular Parisian tradition in choosing as his setting the Cirque Médrano, Léger was following the example of a line of great modern painters, including Degas, Renoir, Seurat, and Lautrec, and more recently, Picasso and von Dongen, in whose work the site had become a local shrine for the avant-garde. The Cirque Médrano opened in 1873 as a traveling circus. At that time it was known as the Cirque Fernando, named after its proprietor Ferdinand Beert (a bareback rider), who built a permanent structure for the troupe in 1875 at the corner of the boulevard Rochechuoart and the avenue des Martyrs in Montmartre. Several years later it was refurbished to attract a better clientele, and within a decade Beert was charging the same price for the house's best seats as the huge upscale Hippodrome near the Champs-Elysées. It was taken over and renamed in 1897 by the clown Médrano, whose family ran it until 1943. Therefore known as the Cirque de Montmartre, it finally closed in 1963.The most famous work set in the building is Seurat's final masterpiece, Le cirque (Musée d'Orsay, Paris), 1890-91.The paintings in Léger's series are heavily indebted to Seurat's, Le cirque; they share with it an interest in integrating the figure within a grid-like architectural setting, and they similarly contrast the movement of curvilinear forms against the static geometry of emphatic vertical and horizontal lines. Both artists juxtapose a random, unpredictable human element - the spontaneous activity of the acrobats and riders - with the timeless rigidity of their settings, and impose upon the figure a mechanical aspect which places it in a larger, timeless, more ordered and rationalistic universe. The primary impetus for Léger's circus paintings, however, were contemporary developments in the avant-garde and were in fact literary in origin. Léger was interested in the concept of simultaneity, the presentation of multiple and often disparate layers of information, in which time and place were rendered discontinuous, in order to represent the experience of modern urban life."


"The Cirque Medrano is a one-ring circus in a permanent building near the Place Pigalle; ten times a week it fills the vast saucer of its seating capacity at an absurdly low price-the most expensive seats, I believe, are six francs-and presents something a little above the average European circus bill. There are more riding and a few more stunts than at others, and there are less trained animals. And ten times weekly the entire audience shouts with gratification as Francesco Fratellini steps gracefully over the ring."


"Albert Fratellini (1886-1961) was born in Moscow to the Fratellini circus family. He and his brothers, Paul and Francois, trained in Russia under one of the Durov brothers. The Fratellini brothers entree lasted 45 minutes. They performed at the Cirque Medrano where many classic routines were developed. A frequent visitor to the Fratellini dressing room was artist Pablo Picasso. Fratellini has been described as a "superb comic actor." He is most likely responsible for the American auguste as we know it today. His make-up style influenced many well known augustes, most prominently, Lou Jacobs. His actions were outlandish and crazy. The Fratellinis were honored by the President of France while at the Cirque Medrano, and Albert was one of the country's best known clowns in history.




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