Adolphe Borie, Chorus Girl
This picture is unapologetically arresting: a nude with auburn hair reclines on a blue sofa strewn with a discarded dress and petticoat. The woman’s gaze, pose, and unabashed display of her body bring to mind Édouard Manet’s famous paintings Olympia and Luncheon on the Grass. After his training in Philadelphia and Munich, Borie and his wife Edith Pettit spent a year in Paris. There the artist encountered masterpieces of French Impressionism and met trailblazing painters, including fellow Philadelphian Mary Cassatt.
Here Borie employs various Impressionist techniques: dashing, suggestive brushwork on the sofa seat and the model’s feet and blue and green modeling of her body. Even the subject of the “chorus girl” echoes the cabaret dancers, singers, and circus performers represented by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Edgar Degas, and other French modernists exploring the erotic side of urban life. Yet Borie’s work seems more portrait-like than a generalized painting of a nude or entertainer. Could it portray a specific woman in an artistic guise, as Manet did with his favorite model Victorine Meurent? The copper hair, fleshy nose, and full lips of Borie’s woman do find tempting parallels in Evelyn Nesbit, arguably the first American supermodel with ties to the artistic community in Philadelphia.