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This drawing of a woman seated at a café table is reminiscent of the low-life café scenes of the Impressionists, Degas and Manet. Beardsley was fascinated by the uproar caused by Degas's L'Absinthe (1875-6, Musée d'Orsay) when it was exhibited at the Grafton Galleries in February 1893. However, The Fat Woman is far more witty and executed with astonishing panache and economy of line. The setting is almost certainly the Café Royal in London, a favourite haunt of artists and writers. As in Manet's Bar at the Folies-Bergère (1882, Courtauld Institute, London), the interior is reflected in the mirror behind the woman, its relative detail contrasting with the abstracted forms of the rest of the picture. The woman herself is a perfect example of the 'demi-mondaines' who appear in Beardsley's art of this period, which featured actresses, dancers, singers, courtesans and women of the night.
The Fat Woman
Ink on paper
H 17.8 x W 16.2 cm
Presented by Colonel James Lister Melvill at the request of his brother, Harry Edward Melvill 1931