Philip James de Loutherbourg

Definition

Theater

  • (Philippe Jacques de Loutherbourg; 1740 - 1812) One ofthe theater's most innovative scenic designers. Loutherbourg, whowas born in Alsace of Polish descent, lived in Paris from about 1755as a landscape painter. After settling in England he worked at DruryLane for David Garrick (from 1771) and his successor RichardSheridan (from 1776). He is mentioned by the playwright Mr puff inSheridan's The Critic (1779).

    Before Loutherbourg introduced set scenes (often using theslope of the stage to create the illusion of perspective), sceneryhad consisted of little more than canvas flats. The backdrop featuringa romantic landscape that he created for Drury Lane in 1779 was probablythe first scenic curtain used in Europe. He also introduced the cut-clothand experimented with transparencies to create such effects as fires,volcanoes, and moonlight. Loutherbourg was the first to use gauzeto represent mist and to create atmosphere by placing silkscreensof different colours in front of the lights. He lit his scenery sowell that actors at Drury Lane began to move back towards it to bebetter seen; as a result the audience often found it difficult tohear them.

    In 1781 he devised the Eidophusikon, a type of panorama.After retiring from the theater he became a faith healer.

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