32 Posters by Toulouse-Lautrec with their primary sketches in proof form are being exhibited currently in the Maillol Museum from 8th February to 6th May 2002.
Toulouse-Lautrec and the Art of the Poster
One of the most interesting exhibitions of the season is the one dedicated to Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec's art of the poster in the Musée Maillol, winding up the centennial year in commemoration of his death. Lautrec was very much a part of the Paris scene of the end of the 19th century and, although an outsider to many an artistic movement, he marked his epoch with an art that had all the avant-garde ingredients as well as a surprising new factor in it's appeal to the masses.
By an inversion of the traditional direction of artistic taste and influence, it was the public who influenced the art critics by adopting Lautrec's posters as the sort of art they wanted to see. For the first time, what can be identified as the first modern 'Pop-Art' pictures in the world surpassed their publicity purpose by setting a new school of taste. When we look at those colorful posters emblematic of the Parisian 'joie de vivre' of the 1890's, it is hard for us to imagine today what a great wave of popular enthusiasm they unleashed then, for the first time bringing avant-garde ideas of art onto the walls of Paris, directly to the people. Who would have guessed that behind the strong drawing, the whirling lines, the violent colors and dynamic composition of those posters was the frail figure of Toulouse-Lautrec, a man scorched by life?
The two fateful falling accidents at a few month's interval in 1878 at the age of 14, were to take away his physical vigor and beauty, marking Lautrec's destiny by deforming his body and impeding his growth, leaving him crippled for life. Moreover, this was to change the course of his life as much through a fundamental metamorphosis of his inner being as of his body, presaging an extraordinary life that was both cruel and magnificent.
To read further on Toulouse-Lautrec, his work and his chronological biography, click here.