The emblematic posters, prints and illustrations by the famous chronicler of the Parisian Belle Époque, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901), take center stage in the exhibition The Paris of Toulouse-Lautrec: Prints and Posters on view at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York from July 26, 2014 until March 1, 2015.
The Lautrec exhibit is the first show MoMA bestows exclusively to the artist in 30 years. The display consists of more than 100 of his most celebrated works produced at the peak of his career. For the viewer, these pieces open a window to the Paris of the late 19th century, its society and culture as well as its salons, its iconic café-chantants, cabarets and brothels. Lautrec brought the language of the avant-garde to the general public through posters and illustrations that frequently appeared in newspapers and magazines. Read more about arts and culture here.
The exhibition explores five themes, a compendium that faithfully represents Lautrec’s Paris. One section covers the notorious café-chantants and ballrooms that dominated the Parisian nightlife, the most famous of which is the legendary Moulin Rouge.
Another section brings to life the actresses, singers and dancers who became a daily inspiration for the artist. Among them standout his close friend, the cancan dancer Jane Avril, Yvette Guilbert and the acclaimed dancer Loie Fuller. This section also brings us closer to other Parisian characters and landmarks in works such as La Goulue (1894), Au Moulin Rouge (painted between 1892 and 1895), La Goulue et sa Soeur (1892), La Clownesse au Moulin Rouge (1897) and La Danse au Moulin Rouge (1897).
The show also dedicates a prominent place to the women in Lautrec´s life, including his landmark Elles, a series that shows prostitutes outside their work in moments of restful introspection. Of the 12 lithographs in the Elles portfolio, two stand out: Femme qui se lave, la toilette (1896) and Femme au tub (1896).
The fourth section looks at his creative sphere and includes programs designed for diverse cutting-edge theater productions, posters and illustrations for the covers of musical scores to the songs that filled the Parisian cabarets, as well as his contributions to various magazines. The posters of La Revue Blanche (1895) and L’Aube (1896) are some examples.
In the last section of the exhibition Lautrec explores leisure during the Belle Epoque, such as horse racing at Longchamp, promenades in the Bois de Boulogne, ice-skating and the burgeoning culinary culture of the city. This section includes his work Confetti (1894), one of the few posters the artist created to advertise a consumer product.
As a complement to this trip through Lautrec’s Paris, visitors can read the introductory essay on the artist written by Sarah Suzuki, Associate Curator of the Department of Prints and Drawings at MoMA. ■