Toulouse-Lautrec Illustrates the Belle Époque
February 4–April 30, 2017
The Phillips Collection
1600 21st Street NW
Washington, DC 20009
T +1 202 387 2151
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In a special exhibition opening on February 4, The Phillips Collection presents an extraordinary selection of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s iconic and rare printed works from nearly the entire period of his lithographic career (1891–99). An inaugural collaboration with the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA), Toulouse-Lautrec Illustrates the Belle Époque assembles, for the first time in the United States, close to 100 defining images of late-19th-century Montmartre, drawn from one of the leading collections of prints and posters by Toulouse-Lautrec.
The son of a wealthy noble family from Albi, France, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864–1901) is best known for capturing the heart of Parisian nightlife in dynamic cabaret and dance hall scenes inspired by the city’s burgeoning entertainment district. After training with academic painters in Paris, he established a studio in bohemian Montmartre and was regularly seen at lively hot spots like the Chat Noir, the Mirliton, and the Moulin Rouge. His impressions of these local amusements fashioned a portrait of modern life.
Toulouse-Lautrec’s arrival in Paris also coincided with both revival and innovation in the technology of color lithography. The sheer scale of the posters plastered around the city transformed Paris into an open air exhibition, while limited-edition lithographs and print albums designed for the home catered to collectors. This exhibition highlights Toulouse-Lautrec’s embrace of printmaking and his experiments with the medium that revolutionized the field.
“I am delighted for the Phillips to exhibit such a rich collection of printed works by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, who forever changed and shaped the art of lithography,” said Director Dorothy Kosinski. “This is a rare opportunity to see such a large collection that captures a defining moment in the artist’s printmaking career on view in the United States.”
Included in the special exhibition at the Phillips is Toulouse-Lautrec’s first lithograph, the poster Moulin Rouge, La Goulue (1891), which made him an overnight success. Produced in some 3,000 impressions, the poster’s massive scale, fragmented forms, compressed pictorial space, and range of colors broke new ground. By presenting this significant work alongside a unique trial proof in black and white, the exhibition provides a glimpse into the artist’s highly involved printmaking process. Other special features on view include never-before-published trial proofs, unique images, and rare prints displayed with richly colored final impressions. Many of the posters were commissioned by famous performers like Jane Avril, May Belfort, Aristide Bruant, and May Milton. These personalities, among others, are brought to life through Toulouse-Lautrec’s perceptive skills of observation and caricature. By maximizing the impact of just a few details, their celebrity was immortalized in these masterful works that caught the public’s attention.
“This show is special because it not only features an impressive number of familiar images, but by displaying trial proofs, it also offers visitors a behind-the-scenes look at the genius of Toulouse-Lautrec’s prints,” said Renée Maurer, Associate Curator at the Phillips.
The exhibition also includes additional works by Toulouse-Lautrec’s contemporaries, such as Théophile Alexandre Steinlen’s famous poster Tournée du Chat Noir (1896) and Louis Anquetin’s never-before-exhibited painting Inside Bruant’s Mirliton (1886–87). Once considered lost, with only preliminary drawings as evidence of its existence, Anquetin’s large painting invites viewers inside Aristide Bruant’s lively cabaret the Mirliton, where Toulouse-Lautrec, Bruant, and Émile Bernard watch entertainer La Goulue perform.
The exhibition is organized by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and The Phillips Collection.
Generous support is provided by Share Fund and U.S. Trust
Brought to you by The Garcia Family Spotlight Foundation, founded by Julie and Jon Garcia
Additional in-kind support is provided by Farrow & Ball
About The Phillips Collection
The Phillips Collection, America’s first museum of modern art, is one of the world’s most distinguished collections of Impressionist and modern American and European art. Artists represented in the collection include Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Vincent van Gogh, Edgar Degas, Henri Matisse, Pierre Bonnard, Pablo Picasso, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Richard Diebenkorn, among others. The permanent collection has grown to include more than 1,000 photographs and works by contemporary artists such as Anselm Kiefer, Wolfgang Laib, and Leo Villareal. The Phillips Collection is a private, non-government museum, supported primarily by donations.