(Benjamin Jean Pierre)
(b Paris, May 11, 1864; d Paris, Aug 24, 1951).
French printmaker, illustrator and shadow-theatre designer. Born in Montmartre, Rivière lived and worked in that area of Paris throughout his long and active career. He trained briefly with a local academic artist, Emile Bin (b 1825). The first of many visits to Brittany, in 1880, profoundly influenced the future subject-matter of his art. By 1883 Rivière was a full participant in the activities of the artistic and literary Chat Noir cabaret and served as a sub-editor and illustrator of the Chat Noir journal. During this period Paris and Brittany became the two primary subjects of his art and remained so for the rest of his career. His urban and rural themes during the late 1880s and 1890s were inspired by the shadow theatre and by Japanese woodblock prints.
In 1886 Henry Somm and Rivière began to experiment with shadow-theatre performances at the Chat Noir. Rivière was responsible for the sophisticated technical development of this theatrical forerunner of cinema. Subtle nuances of colour were back-projected on to a screen across which cut-out zinc figures and landscapes were silhouetted and moved. This visual effect was combined with verse and music in the production of forty-four shadow-theatre programmes by a variety of artists over a ten-year period. Two of the most popular shows were Rivière’s ...