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Au Tribunal is the study for the painting Legal Assistance, which was probably painted between 1900 and 1912 and is on show at the National Gallery London.
Soon after the turn of the century Forain confined himself to warm monochromatic tones - relieved occasionally by one splash of colour - whose transitions he handled with particular beauty. In the best of these canvases, dark browns and blacks give both depth and richness and, in the manner of Daumier, they are also used to stress Forain's typical, angular drawing, so different from the roundness of the master. The highlights, applied last of all, emblazon features according to the degree of their owner's importance in the composition; they define a prominent cheek-bone, a hooked nose or a towering forehead. With the certainty of drawing as its foundation... with a sketchy but penetrating accuracy it characterises all the players in the drama, through the tension of their bodies as much as through their wonderfully expressive hand gestures and anxious, sometimes despairing faces.
It is not surprising that the lawyer, Arnold Goodman, wise and trusted counsellor to men of business and artists alike, should have owned amongst his small collection of pictures a preponderance of works by Jean-Louis Forain. This artist, whose little fin de siècle paintings are highly prized, reaches his height as a painter around the first decade of this century. Following in the footsteps of Daumier, Forain concentrated upon scenes in Law Courts.
Jean-Louis Forain was born in Reims, the son of an ornamental sign painter. His family moved to Paris in 1860 where, in 1866 he became a pupil of Jacquesson de la Cheuvreuse. Later he worked for the sculptor Carpeaux and in a year had enrolled at the Ecole des Beaux- Arts under Gérôme.
He fought in the Franco-Prussian War, returning to Paris in 1875, when he started to produce satirical illustrations for various newspapers such as Le Scorpion, Le Monde Parisien and Le Café Concert. He also became part of the artistic circle, which met at the Café de la Nouvelle-Athènes, which included Manet and Degas, the latter becoming a lifelong friend.
Forain took part in four Impressionist exhibitions between 1879 and 1884. His vignettes of Paris high society, political and legal events of the day, became increasingly biting as he became better known. A year before his death in 1931 he became a member of the Royal Academy of Arts in London.
Lillian Browse, Forain the Painter, Paul Elek, London 1978, page 50
Lord Goodman, London to 1996