How to Become a Mass-Media Star in the 19th Century: Sarah Bernhardt and the Belle Époque

July 7, 2019 @ 2:00 pm – 3:30 pm
Whitsell Auditorium

Robert Lehman Foundation Speakers Series

Carol Ockman, Ph.D., Robert Sterling Clark Professor of Art History, Williams College

How did the daughter and niece of courtesans, a Jewish woman, an unwed mother purportedly promiscuous with both sexes, and an eventual amputee, come to be known as “the greatest actress of the Western world”? Charting her 60-year career, this talk focuses on Bernhardt’s remarkable talent for self-promotion at the dawn of mass culture, including her self-presentation, her recourse to the artistic talents of Art Nouveau poster wizard Alphonse Mucha and celebrity photographer Félix Nadar, together with well-publicized eccentricities—a menagerie, an excursion in a hot air balloon, and a resident skeleton and coffin at home.

This event is presented in conjunction with the special exhibition Paris 1900: City of Entertainment.

Thank you to the Robert Lehman Foundation for funding this special series of exhibition-related talks.

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The Portland Art Museum is pleased to offer accommodations to ensure that our programs are accessible and inclusive. All spaces for this program are accessible by wheelchair. Assistive listening devices are also available for lectures. All restrooms have accessible stalls but no power doors. There are single-stall all-gender bathrooms available. Please ask staff for directions.

We will do our best to accommodate your needs when you arrive, however, we need 2-3 weeks advance notice for some specific requests. Please email requests to, or call 503-226-2811.

Georges Paul Leroux. The International Exhibition’s Palace of Optics, 1900
Georges Paul Leroux (1877-1957). The International Exhibition’s Palace of Optics, 1900. Color lithograph, 31 3/4 x 23 5/8 in., Musée Carnavalet. © Petit Palais / Roger-Viollet