Meet the legends of 19th-century Parisian nightlife in The Chrysler Museum of Art’s spring keynote exhibition, The Paris of Toulouse-Lautrec: Prints and Posters from The Museum of Modern Art. The exhibition is on view from March 10 to June 18, 2017. Admission is free.
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec is synonymous with the Belle Époque, or Beautiful Era, in Paris. He created iconic works of the hedonistic nightlife that still define the ideal of bohemian urban life today. His brief 10-year career, from 1891 until his death in 1901, was a manic celebration of the freedom Paris offered and his work gave enduring renown to many of its star performers. The electric color, bold shapes and restless energy of his designs beckoned workers, aristocrats and foreign tourists into the new café-concerts, cabarets and other haunts of Montmartre.
The exhibition is organized thematically around the main facets of Toulouse-Lautrec’s life in Paris: the new café-concert culture, entertainment on stage and the daily life of the women performers onstage and off. He was commissioned to produce promotional posters of groundbreaking performers like dancers Jane Avril and La Goulue (stage name of Louise Weber), along with audacious impresarios like Aristide Bruant. In addition, he depicted everyday denizens of the city, including the private lives of prostitutes captured in his lithographic portfolio, Elles (1896). The portfolio of 12 prints shows the women not at work, but in scenes of daily life — sipping coffee in the morning or washing before a mirror.
Toulouse-Lautrec mastered the relatively new art of lithography, an intricate printmaking process based on the principle that grease and water are repellent. Like many Parisian artists, his printmaking style was heavily influenced by Japanese woodcut prints being exported to Europe for the first time.
The Japanese influence on Toulouse-Lautrec will be explored in Inspiring Impressionism, a complementary exhibition of Japanese Ukiyo-e woodcut prints from the Chrysler Museum collection. Named Ukiyo-e or “floating world pictures” after the pleasure district of Tokyo, they first showed celebrity actors and courtesans, and later branched into landscapes and historical subjects. The prints became wildly popular in Paris after Commodore Matthew Perry’s 1853 voyage to open Japan to foreign trade — a mission that began in Hampton Roads, forever changing the worlds of commerce and art. Japanese artist Hibata Ōsuke documented this visit, and the Chrysler owns a rare copy of his images of Perry and his squadron, showing probably the first foreigners seen in Edo in more than 200 years. The Museum will also exhibit famed prints from Utagawa Hiroshige’s remarkable series, 53 Stations of the Tōkaidō Road.
Toulouse-Lautrec was just 36 when he succumbed to a stroke in 1901, leaving behind 368 prints and posters pushing the boundaries of design. Explore his genius in The Paris of Toulouse-Lautrec, at the Chrysler Museum from March 10–June 18, 2017.
The Paris of Toulouse-Lautrec: Prints and Posters from The Museum of Modern Art was organized by Sarah Suzuki, Curator, Department of Drawings and Prints, The Museum of Modern Art, New York.
See Chrysler.org for events.