A Woman to Know: Jane Avril

Dancing solo, I created a sensation. — Jane Avril

(image via Wikimedia)

People think Henri Toulouse-Latrec's paintings and posters brought her to life. But it's Jane who brought his art to life.

When Toulouse-Latrec was just another Montmartre local haunting nightclubs and bars, Jane, then a young cancan dancer at the Moulin Rouge, commissioned him to create posters for her legendary shows.

Their friendship continued beyond the stage. He followed Jane in her off-hours, painting her this time in darker shades, away from the warm lights of the Moulin Rouge. She continued dancing into the turn of the century, still headlining shows throughout Europe and traveling with her own cancan troupe.

Jane left the dancing life when she finally got married, to a spendy decorative artist who'd long pursued her. But the husband later abandoned Jane abroad and left her penniless, so she sold many of her belongings — even some of her prized paintings — to make ends meet.

She later returned to Paris, where she lived in a home for retired actors and dancers. She would take the stage one more time at age 67, at a 1935 ball honoring her artist friend, Toulouse-Latrec.

"I have fluttered our way through my epoch," she wrote in her memoirs. "Fate has decreed that I should outlive my friends."

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