Louise Joesphine Weber is remembered more for her adoptive name La Goulue and how she got the name. Born on June 12, 1866, in Clichy the love of dancing was instilled in her at a very early age by her mother. By 1882 she had moved to Montreuil and started dancing at the Moulin de la Galette in Montmartre.
Customer and journalist Charles Desteque noticed her and introduced her to a friend, Charles Zidler who would later play a prominent role in her life. In the meantime, she continued to dance at the many bal musettes in Paris including the Closerie des Lillas, Elysees-Montmartre and the Bullier Bal.
Charles came back into her life in 1889 when he and Joseph Oller were opening a new stage in Montmartre, the Moulin Rouge, and asked Louise to be their headline dancer. Of course, she jumped at the chance and in no time she was the hit of the stage with her signature move. At the height of the can-can, she would turn her back to the audience and lift her skirt revealing her many layers of ruffles later captured by Toulouse-Lautrec.
A perfect duo was created when Louise partnered up with Jules Etienne Edme Renaudin, aks Valentine Montagné, who was also called “the boneless” for his fluid dance moves. The two performed together at the Moulin Rouge from 1890-1895. Toulouse-Lautrec was as much a part of the Moulin Rouge as the can-can and could be found nightly sketching during the show. In 1895 he created his first lithograph “Dance at the Moulin Rouge” with Louise as his subject. The poster made Louise and Toulouse-Lautrec famous overnight. More than 3000 posters filled the streets of Paris. TL would capture her in four paintings and many posters creating a lasting friendship.
Louise is better known as La Goulue, the glutton in French and is due to her habit of walking through the crowd and guzzling down the drinks of patrons sitting in the crowd. La Goulue danced until 1895 when she left the stage and became a lion tamer, I can’t make this up.
In her later years she could be found walking the streets of Montmartre with her lion on a leash and selling cigarettes outside the Moulin Rouge .
There is so much more to her life, be sure to listen to the newest episode of Paris History Avec a Hemingway on La Vie Creative Podcast.
More info and photos: https://www.claudinehemingway.com/paris-history-avec-a-hemingway-podcast-1
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