WASHINGTON, DC.- The greatest explosion in the history of entertainment and the cult of celebrity was captured in exhilarating new art forms by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901) in the Parisian district of Montmartre at the turn of the 20th century. Toulouse-Lautrec and Montmartre is organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington, where it will be on view in the East Building, March 20 through June 12, 2005, and by The Art Institute of Chicago, where it will be presented July 16 through October 10, 2005. More than 240 works created primarily by Toulouse-Lautrec include paintings, drawings, posters, prints, sculptures, zinc silhouettes from the Chat Noir shadow plays, and printed matter such as illustrated invitations, song sheets, advertisements, and admission tickets. Toulouse-Lautrec's predecessors Edgar Degas and Edouard Manet; his contemporaries Pierre Bonnard, Vincent van Gogh, and Pablo Picasso; and poster artists such as Jules Chéret are also represented.
"Toulouse-Lautrec remains one of the most popular French artists of all time due to his prolific output of paintings and prints, through which he committed to posterity some of the most compelling images of Montmartre at the fin-de-siècle," said Earl A. Powell III, director, National Gallery of Art. "We are especially grateful to Time Warner Inc. and the Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation for their generous support of this captivating exhibition."
"Through his haunting, unforgettable images, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec still touches people across all generations and all borders. Toulouse-Lautrec and Montmartre is an exciting opportunity for us to work with the National Gallery of Art to give back to the communities where our customers and employees live and work. We're delighted to continue this longstanding Time Warner tradition with this National Gallery of Art exhibition, and we're committed to expanding our commitment to the arts in the future," said Dick Parsons, chairman and CEO of Time Warner.
TOULOUSE-LAUTREC - Toulouse-Lautrec, a patron of the celebrated Moulin Rouge music hall, defined Parisian life of the 1890s with his colorful images of the characters who filled Montmartre's dance halls, bars, cabarets, cafés-concerts, and brothels. He was born into a provincial aristocratic family and arrived in Paris in 1882 for training as an artist. He preferred the gaudy, vulgar, somewhat disreputable milieu of Montmartre to the world of his own social class. His professional career began around 1891 when his first poster featuring La Goulue (the stage name of Louise Weber) performing the cancan hit the streets of Paris.
Toulouse-Lautrec was one of the greatest printmakers, and his color lithographs are known for their sophisticated and innovative technique. The artist is still admired for his bold use of color and striking design as well as the distinctive imagery found in his posters of Montmartre's cast of characters.
At the turn of the 20th century, Montmartre had many dimensions and meanings. It was a physical location, a part of Paris, a social environment with its own populations, class structure, and economy. It was also the hub of an entertainment industry, as well as the nerve center of an avant-garde culture that not only appeared in literature, performance, and the visual arts, but also was a frame of mind. Much of Montmartre's excitement at this time came from such activities as satires and performances that tested the limits of the cabarets and café-concerts, and bawdy displays in the dance-halls. This critical and anti-establishment milieu challenged the values and morals of the Third Republic.
EXHIBITION: Organization - Works by more than 50 artists will be arranged thematically, focusing on the many components of Montmartre's nightlife. The exhibition will be dominated by Lautrec's celebrated posters and many of his most striking paintings and drawings of dance halls, cafés-concerts, cabarets and performers such as Aristide Bruant, La Goulue, Jane Avril, Yvette Guilbert, May Belfort, May Milton, Loïe Fuller, and Marcelle Lender. The final section will be devoted to the depictions of the circus, a subject that brackets Lautrec's career, from his earliest mature works to a group of late drawings that helped secure his release from involuntary confinement in a sanatorium. The sections of the exhibition follow:
Introduction to Montmartre: A display of posters will immerse visitors in the Montmartre milieu, working class neighborhood by day and festive and gaudy venue at night. Laturec's great first poster Moulin Rouge: La Goulue (1891) will be seen opposite Jules Chéret's Bal du Moulin Rouge (1889), Maxime Dethomas' "Montmartre" (1897), and Théophile Alexandre Steinlen's La Rue (The Street) (1896).
The Typology of Montmartre: The next two rooms of the exhibition will showcase the stereotypes found in Montmartre such as the couple in Lautrec's A la Mie (1891) and minor celebrities who thrived in the raucous atmosphere of this quartier. Lautrec depicted fellow artists in Vincent van Gogh (1887) and The Hangover (Gueule de Bois) (c. 1888), for which Suzanne Valadon posed. Several works also reveal the cityscape of this Parisian district, such as Vincent van Gogh's A Corner of Montmartre: The Moulin à Poivre (1887) and Santiago Rusiñol's The Kitchen of the Moulin de la Galette (c. 18901891).
The Moulin Rouge and Other Dance Halls: The paintings that Lautrec made of the dance halls of Montmartre, mainly the Moulin Rouge and the Moulin de la Galette, constitute the majority of his large, multi-figure canvases, in which he demonstrated his compositional skill. In this section of the exhibition, the most famous nightclub in Paris, the Moulin Rouge, is introduced with a wide variety of illustrated invitations, song sheets, and advertisements, which include a photorelief of the club seen in The Dance Hall of the Moulin Rouge, illustration in Le Panorama: Paris la Nuit (c. 1898). Seminal paintings by Lautrec, At the Moulin Rouge (18921895), Quadrille at the Moulin Rouge (1892), Moulin de la Galette (1889), A Corner of the Moulin de la Galette (1892), and important lithographs, The Englishman at the Moulin Rouge (1892), and The Clowness at the Moulin Rouge (1897), feature the many patrons and performers of Montmartre at these dance halls.
The Chat Noir and Aristide Bruant: Rodolphe Salis opened the doors of his cabaret artistique in November 1881 under the name Le Chat Noir. The appellation Black Cat had a wide resonance, evoking the work of both Charles Baudelaire and Edgar Allen Poe, widely admired by the artistic community at this time. The black cat was often a character in classic French folktales, with simultaneously innocent and sexually provocative undertones. The mixture of history, art, literature, and sexual suggestion implied by the name suited Salis intentions perfectly, and the black cat, with all its innuendo, became an enduring symbol of Montmartre.
Salis and his group of talented writers, poets, artists, and singers created a specifically Montmartrois performance and experience that drew audiences throughout Paris. The Chat Noir became known for a type of shadow play, which used zinc cutouts against artfully lighted backdrops, such as Henry Somm's Five Female Figures (1887) silhouette for the shadow play "Le Fils de l'eunuque." The success of this entertainment prompted Salis to take his shadow theater on tour, announced by Théophile Alexandre Steinlen's now-famous poster Tournée du Chat Noir (1896). The adjective Chatnoiresque was coined to describe this unique blend of irreverence, humor, and art and was one of the defining attributes of Montmartre culture. In Steinlen's, Apotheosis of Cats (c. 1890), a massive mural three-meters wide and over a meter-and-a-half tall, cats of all colors perch on rooftops and turn toward a large black cat poised before a full moon.