This fantastical portrait by Paul Signac has an extremely long title and a very strange subject. Called “Opus 217. Against the Enamel of a Background Rhythmic with Beats and Angles, Tones, and Tints, Portrait of M. Félix Fénéon in 1890”—the portrait casts its sitter as a sort of circus ringleader. A tall, goat-bearded man with short hair and impossibly high cheekbones holds a delicate cyclamen flower in front of him like an offering to an imagined lover. He wears a long coat and carries a cane and jaunty tophat, and we have no idea where he is. Instead of a street scene behind him or a dimly lit interior, the 29 year old Félix Fénéon stands in front of a swirling, hallucinogenic vortex of color, pattern, and texture. It’s a very weird picture.
The wild backdrop is made weirder on learning that Félix Fénéon was not a carnival barker or tap-dancing showman. Fénéon was a cultural critic, curator, journalist, dandy, and according to the Parisian police, an illusive and extremely dangerous anarchist.
Reed Enger, "Portrait of M. Félix Fénéon," in Obelisk Art History, Published July 27, 2022; last modified October 03, 2022, http://www.arthistoryproject.com/artists/paul-signac/portrait-of-m-felix-feneon/.