“Life begets life. Energy creates energy.” Sarah Bernhardt
I was drawn to Paul Berthon’s lithograph before I knew he had captured the face of the renowned Sarah Bernhardt, arguably the most famous actress of the 19th century. Her star quality never dimmed during her career that spanned from 1862 to 1923. Known as the Devine Sarah, she was artist, sculptor, writer and mentor to many young actors. She lived on her terms, even though she was somewhat eccentric. Yes, she did sleep in a satin coffin.
Sarah Bernhardt’s kindness and courage came through in how she approached and reacted to evolving events. During the Franco-Prussian War, the Devine Sarah turned the Odéon Theater into a hospital for soldiers who defended Paris. In 1905, in a stage performance in Rio de Janeiro, she damaged her right knee, which never healed. Ten years later, gangrene set in and her entire right leg was amputated. A few months in a wheel chair was all she needed before resuming her career.
I have been unable to find the connection between Sarah Bernhardt and Paul Berthon, except that they both lived in Paris. His focus was directed to posters and lithographs created in the style of Art Nouveau, similar to his contemporary, Alphonse Mucha. (Incidentally, Alphonse also created a poster of Sarah Bernhardt)
“We must live for the few who know and appreciate us, who judge and absolve us, and for whom we have the same affection and indulgence. The rest I look upon as a mere crowd, lively or sad, loyal or corrupt, from whom there is nothing to be expected but fleeting emotions, either pleasant or unpleasant, which leave no trace behind them.” Sarah Bernhardt