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Jean-Louis Forain, 'Legal Assistance', probably 1900-12

Key facts
Full title Legal Assistance
Artist Jean-Louis Forain
Artist dates 1852 - 1931
Date made probably 1900-12
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 61 × 73 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit Sir Hugh Lane Bequest, 1917, The National Gallery, London. In partnership with Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin.
Inventory number NG3249
Location On loan: Long Loan to The Hugh Lane (2019 - 2031), Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane, Dublin, Ireland
Collection Main Collection
Legal Assistance
Jean-Louis Forain

Forain worked as an etcher and lithographer, as well as a painter, acquiring a reputation for his satirical, and often biting, scenes of Parisian life. A friend of Manet and Degas, he participated in some of the Impressionists’ exhibitions from 1879 to 1886. His later paintings were mainly scenes from the law courts and of the ballet.

In his law court paintings, Forain’s sympathies lie with ordinary people, who are trapped within a complex and impersonal legal system. Although these scenes are in the tradition of Daumier, Forain avoids obvious caricature (for example, of lawyers and judges) and focuses instead on specific, and often mundane, situations and exchanges. Here, a poor man, accompanied by a little girl and carrying a young child in his arms, hands a paper to his counsel. Forain effectively uses gesture, pose and expression to convey the man’s situation.

The painting was owned by Henri Rouart, whose daughter Hélène was the sitter for Degas’s Hélène Rouart in her Father’s Study.

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