Born in Moscow, Russia, Harry Oshiver became a painter in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He studied at Spring Gardens Institute and the Pennsylvania Academy with Daniel Garber, Hugh Breckenridge, and Henry McCarter. He earned a Cresson traveling scholarship in 1924 and 1925 from the Academy and also exhibited there and at the Philadelphia Sketch Club.
This painting was likely painted of a Burlesque performance at the Trocadero Theatre in Philadelphia. The Trocadero Theatre, opened as the Arch Street Opera House in 1870, is a historic theater, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Over the years, it has offered musical comedies, vaudeville and burlesque. Later still, "The Troc" was refurbished for use as an art house cinema and fine arts theatre.
Burlesque began in the mid-19th century as lowbrow plays and variety shows that spoofed legitimate theater productions. One segment of the program included young ladies appearing on stage in scanty costumes, dancing or telling ribald stories. So popular were the dancing girls that the burlesque format evolved to highlight them rather than the male comedians and actors. By the turn of the century, striptease had become the central factor of burlesque.
By the 1930s, burlesque had permanently switched from cheeky jokes and pratfalls to highly stylized striptease. And striptease itself developed from naive chorus lines and unsubtle clowning to exuberant tableaux with all the razzmatazz of a Broadway blockbuster. The Great Depression ushered in the greatest era for burlesque. Few could afford to attend expensive Broadway shows, yet people craved entertainment. Furthermore, there now seemed to be an unlimited supply of unemployed pretty women who appreciated the steady work offered by burlesque.
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