The year before painting Cabaret, Per Krohg stated in an interview with the newspaper Verdens Gang that he was “influenced by this Picasso fellow”, also citing Cézanne, Matisse, and El Greco as key sources of inspiration. Per Krohg tended to use subdued colours and was interested in movement. The line, he maintained, should accentuate the painting’s form and movement.
Cabarets and dancing feature in several of Krohg’s paintings. He was interested in the theatre and dancing, was himself an accomplished tango dancer, and would put on shows with his first wife, Lucy Vidil. Cabaret is considered to be one of his principal woks, and it demonstrates his influence from contemporary French art. The picture plane is shallow, with five figures crowded together. The three grey-white, slender female nudes in the foreground contrast sharply with the murky background and the two frantically playing guitarists bent forward at the upper edge of the painting; they are all players on a stage. In the bottom right the artist has painted a salamander caught by a snake. This has been seen as symbolizing the artist’s own feeling of captivity, but it may also be an homage to Paul Gauguin, who included such small, symbolic scenes with animals in some of his paintings. Per Krohg spent many of his formative years in Paris with his artist parents, Oda and Christian Krohg. He intermittently attended the Académie Colarossi with his father as his teacher, and later on he also studied for a while at Matisse’s academy.
Cabaret was first exhibited in Copenhagen in 1915, with the title Musicians and Dancers.
Text: Marianne Yvenes
From "Highlights. Art from Antiquity to 1945", Nasjonalmuseet 2014, ISBN 978-82-8154-088-0