The theatre
George Lepape (1887-1971)

The Theatre, 1921

Oil on canvas, H. 0.8 m; W. 0.8 m

Signed and dated lower left: f v lepape / 1921.

The work is octogonal.

Provenance: Private collection, France.

Georges Lepape, who was trained at the Paris École des Arts Décoratifs, attended the Humbert studio, where he met Georges Braque, Marie Laurencin and Picabia, before entering the École des Beaux-Arts.

He became known at various salons and it is through these that he met the couturier Paul Poiret, who at the time was looking for a new illustrator capable of creating a luxurious album presenting his collections, like Paul Iribe had done with Les Robes de Paul Poiret racontées par Paul Iribe in 1908. He thus published Les Choses de Paul Poiret… vues par Georges Lepape in 1911.

Lepape then became an essential illustrator, recognized by the press. Between 1912 and 1925, he contributed with his stencilled plates to all of the issues of the Gazette du Bon Ton. Other periodicals solicited him, such as Femina, Vanity Fair, Harper’s Bazaar, L’Illustration…. The American publisher Condé Nast invited him to New York and offered to publish his illustrations in Vogue, a significant turning point in his career.

He exercised his profession with audacity and elegance in the most varied areas: posters, theatre programmes, fabrics, fans, advertising catalogues, especially for Wallace & Draeger.

He also created decors, for example for L’Oiseau Bleu (1923), a symbolic fairytale by Maurice Materlinck, and theatre costumes. After the war, he worked a lot for advertising companies and publishers, illustrating a number of books such as those by Paul Géraldy, Sacha Guitry, Alfred de Musset and Plato.

The Theatre shows the influence of Cubism in Lepape’s style. Using pastel shades and subtle shades of grey, applied in large areas of colour, he created compositions with improbable framing, combining angles and curved lines harmoniously. He thus gave his paintings meaning, approaching caricature.