At the Theatre (La Première Sortie)

Image credit: The National Gallery, London

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We seem to be sitting in a box at the theatre with two young women, though we can’t be sure what is going on. We can’t see the stage and one of the women is looking away from us, the back of her bonnet hiding most of the other’s face. This sense of mystery is enhanced by the nearer woman’s pose, leaning forward slightly as though something is absorbing her attention. It may not be the stage performance that has captured her eye: in nineteenth-century Paris, attending the theatre was as much about social status as seeing the show. We get a strong sense of an atmosphere of people-watching in this picture. Among the audience in the background, a man in the lower tier and a woman above him stand out. They seem to have their eyes turned, either on us, the viewer, or on the young woman in the box.

The National Gallery, London



At the Theatre (La Première Sortie)




Oil on canvas


H 65 x W 49.5 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

Bought, 1923

Work type



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