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First Toulouse-Lautrec Retrospective in Almost 30 Years Debuts in Paris

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His best-known artwork depicts Parisian nightlife at the Moulin Rouge, but French artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec also painted other lively environments, such as the circus. Pictured: “Au cirque Fernando: Ecuyère” (1887–1888).

Courtesy of © The Art Institute of Chicago

His best-known artwork depicts Parisian nightlife at the Moulin Rouge, but French artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec also painted other lively environments, such as the circus. Pictured: “Au cirque Fernando: Ecuyère” (1887–1888).

A special exhibition of the post-impressionist painter’s work is on view at the Grand Palais des Champs-Élysées through January 2020.

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The October opening of a Paris exhibition dedicated to the works of painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864–1901) marks France’s first retrospective of the influential artist in almost three decades.

Currently on view at the Grand Palais through January 27, 2020, Toulouse-Lautrec, Resolutely Modern presents about 200 works by this French painter, who is most famous for his portrayal of 1890s Parisian bohemian nightlife, or “Montmartre culture.” The retrospective brings together a less frequently exhibited collection of paintings, lithographs, and posters spanning the 19th-century artist’s career.

According to museum organizers, the goal of the retrospective is to present the public with a broader perspective of Toulouse-Lautrec—beyond his depictions of French cabaret culture. The artist, who spent most of his life in Paris, painted his best-known work in the early 1890s: a poster for the Moulin Rouge, which had recently opened in the French capital. “By giving too much weight to the context and folklore of the Moulin Rouge, we have lost sight of the aesthetic, poetic ambition which Lautrec invested in,” reads a note on the Grand Palais website.

Toulouse-Lautrec’s 1894 depiction of cabaret singer Yvette Guilbert, titled “Linger, Longer, Loo,” is one of approximately 200 paintings, posters, and lithographs by the artist on display at the Grand Palais retrospective.

The Toulouse-Lautrec, Resolutely Modern exhibit traces the French painter’s stylistic transformation from the late 1800s to just before his 1901 death, highlighting his shifting approach from naturalism (depicting realistic objects and settings) to a more narrative-based, “caustic” style. Museum officials say that the retrospective also spotlights Toulouse-Lautrec’s relationship with photography, which influenced much of his post-impressionist work.

Cocurated with the Musée d’Orsay, the Musée de l’Orangerie, and the Réunion des musées nationaux, the Grand Palais exhibition intends to stand apart from the last French retrospective of Toulouse-Lautrec, which took place in 1992. “We wanted to show works that had not been on display during the last retrospective,” said art critic Stephane Guegan, who serves as an advisor at the Musée d’Orsay.

“I think that, with this exhibition, the public will have the opportunity to reassess [Toulouse-Lautrec’s] work as a whole.”

Toulouse-Lautrec, Resolutely Modern runs from October 9, 2019, through January 27, 2020, at the Galeries Nationales in Le Grand Palais des Champs-Élysées. Tickets cost €15 (US$17) for adults and €11 (US$13) for families, students, and individuals between 16 and 25 years old. Admission is free for minimum wage earners and children under 16 years old. 

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