July 2014 | Rebecca Rego Barry

"The Paris of Toulouse-Lautrec"

The Museum of Modern Art in New York opened this weekend a show of more than 100 posters, lithographs, printed ephemera, and illustrated books by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, the French artist often credited with bringing the avant-garde to the masses.  Widely published in journals and magazines, his art depicted the cultural life of late nineteenth-century Paris--cabarets, salons, brothels. It is first exhibition at MoMA since 1985 dedicated solely to Lautrec, and most is from the museum's own collection (donated, in large part, by the Rockefeller family).

JaneAvril small.jpgHenri de Toulouse-Lautrec (French, 1864-1901). Jane Avril. 1899. Lithograph, sheet: 22 1/16 x 15 in. (56 x 38.1 cm) The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, 1946.

Performers--and their venues--were of great importance to Lautrec. In particular, he made many lithographs of dancer Jane Avril (seen above) between 1893 and 1899.  Another entertainer/muse, Cha-U-Kao, was a Moulin Rouge clown, depicted in the Japonisme style (seen below).  

Clownesse small.jpgHenri de Toulouse-Lautrec (French, 1864-1901). La Clownesse au Moulin Rouge (The Clowness at the Moulin Rouge). 1897. Lithograph, sheet: 15 7/8 x 12 11/16 in. (40.4 x 32.3 cm) The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, 1946.

Very much part of the artistic and cultural milieu, Lautrec applied his talents to advertising posters for debut literary reviews, song sheets, menus, and theatrical events, as seen below in a program he created for Théâtre Libre in 1894.

La Loge small.jpg
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (French, 1864-1901). La Loge au mascaron doré (The Box with the Gilded Mask), program for Le Missionnaire (The Missionary) at the Théâtre Libre. 1894. Lithograph, sheet: 12 1/16 x 9 7/16 in. (30.6 x 24 cm) The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Johanna and Leslie J. Garfield Fund, Mary Ellen Oldenburg Fund, and Sharon P. Rockefeller Fund, 2008.  

The exhibit will remain open through March 22, 2015. An accompanying hardcover book by associate curator of drawings and prints Sarah Suzuki highlights MoMA's collection of prints and posters by Lautrec.