Exhibition at the Phillips Features Remarkable Collection of Prints and Posters Illustrating Parisian Life during the Belle Époque

photo JaneAvril_zpsivmln9af.pngIn 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 (1891–1899). 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 the new collector. 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.”

photo MoulinRougeLaGoulue_zps8kngmk2k.pngIncluded 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 brought together with richly colored final impressions. Many of the posters were commissioned by famous performers like Jane Avril, May Belfort, Aristide Bruant, May Milton, and La Goulue. 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 printmaking process.”said Renée Maurer, Associate Curator at the Phillips.

“Having attracted 145,000 visitors to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the exhibition Toulouse-Lautrec Illustrates the Belle Époque was a great success, one that I hope our partners from The Phillips Collection will also enjoy in this first collaboration, thanks to an exceptional collection,” said Nathalie Bondil,  Director General and Chief Curator at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. “The Paris of the Belle Époque is paraded before our eyes. What a privilege to be able to exhibit these rarely shown unique posters by Toulouse-Lautrec.”

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 (1886–1887). Once considered lost, with only preliminary drawings as evidence of its existence, Anquetin’s large format painting invites viewers inside Aristide Bruant’s lively cabaret Mirliton, where Toulouse-Lautrec, Bruant, and Émile Bernard watch entertainer La Goulue perform.

Coming to Washington, DC, after its engagement at the MMFA, Toulouse-Lautrec Illustrates the Belle Époque is on display at the Phillips February 4 through April 30, 2017.

During his lifetime, museum founder Duncan Phillips acquired four works on paper by Toulouse-Lautrec. His first purchase made in 1927 was the lithograph Miss May Belfort (grande planche) (1895). In 1939, Phillips presented the museum’s only previous exhibition of Toulouse-Lautrec’s art, containing 55 works (drawings, prints, and paintings) sourced from the Art Institute of Chicago and private collections. Toulouse-Lautrec Illustrates the Belle Époque marks the first solo showing of the artist’s work at the Phillips in nearly 80 years. As a complement to the exhibition, an installation of work by Toulouse-Lautrec’s contemporaries will be on view in nearby permanent collection galleries.

Toulouse-Lautrec Illustrates the Belle Époque is accompanied by a 134‐page catalogue containing 120 color illustrations, an essay by French art historian Gilles Genty on the social milieu of Toulouse-Lautrec, and an essay on the artist’s use of lithography by Hilliard T. Goldfarb, the MMFA’s Senior Curator–Collections and Curator of Old Masters. A detailed chronology of the artist’s life prepared by Phillips Associate Curator Renée Maurer and a description of the legendary personalities of Montmartre are also included.

This book is published in English and French editions by the MMFA (main publisher) and The Phillips Collection (associate publisher) in collaboration with Les Éditions Hazan, Paris (associate publisher). The English edition is distributed by Yale University Press.

The exhibition is organized by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and 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. Stressing the continuity between art of the past and present, it offers a strikingly original and experimental approach to Modern art by combining works of different nationalities and periods in displays that change frequently. The setting is similarly unconventional, featuring small rooms, a domestic scale, and a personal atmosphere. Artists represented in the collection include Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Vincent van Gogh, Edgar Degas, Henri Matisse, Pierre Bonnard, Paul Cézanne, Pablo Picasso, Paul Klee, Claude Monet, Honoré Daumier, Georgia O’Keeffe, Arthur Dove, Mark Rothko, Milton Avery, Jacob Lawrence, and Richard Diebenkorn, among others. The permanent collection has grown to include more than 1,000 photographs, many by American photographers Berenice Abbott, Esther Bubley, and Bruce Davidson, and works by contemporary artists such as Anselm Kiefer, Wolfgang Laib, Whitfield Lovell, and Leo Villareal. The Phillips Collection regularly organizes acclaimed special exhibitions, many of which travel internationally. The Phillips also produces award-winning education programs for K–12 teachers and students, as well as for adults. The University of Maryland Center for Art and Knowledge at The Phillips Collection is the museum’s nexus for academic work, scholarly exchange, and interdisciplinary collaborations. Since 1941, the museum has hosted Sunday Concerts in its wood-paneled Music Room. The Phillips Collection is a private, non-government museum, supported primarily by donations.

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