Lautrec’s posters and paintings were my first introduction to can-can dancer Louise Weber, otherwise known as La Goulue (The Glutton). A quick google will tell you she got her nickname because she would down the drinks of Moulin Rouge patrons as she danced past. Lautrec was a genius but I’ve never heard anyone say he flattered his subjects. The first thing that struck me about this poster is how worn and ragged she looks, dancing her heart out for a faceless and, to me, somewhat sinister-seeming crowd of spectators.
Weber doesn’t fit in with today’s beauty standards where we assign women (and sometimes men) attractiveness points based on increasingly narrow parameters. But, as her popularity attests, she definitely had something. Photographs do her more justice:
This lady was flexible.
And not shy.
She was, for a few short years, the highest paid entertainer in Paris. The undisputed Queen of Montmatre. But in 1895, she decided to leave the Moulin Rouge and strike out on her own, literally taking her show on the road. Unfortunately, the crowds didn’t follow, and Louise Weber’s star faded along with her fortune.
But none of this is why I love her.
In the 1920s, Louise Weber was travelling in a caravan. She stepped out, saw a man holding a camera, and this was her response:
Her glory days may be behind her but she’s still dancing, still graceful, and still fierce.