Toulouse-Lautrec "100 Prints & Posters"

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poster for Toulouse-Lautrec "100 Prints & Posters"

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Over 100 works by the famed artist of the Belle Époque spanning all mediums, including oil, posters, prints, sculpture, photography, and drawings. Many of the items presented are one-of-a-kind or the only known copies still in private collections.

Highlights of the exhibition include several lithographs which Lautrec designed as invitations and menus. These are among the rarest of his works, as, being ephemera, were not collected at the time of their creation, leaving only a few surviving specimens. One of the sweetest examples in this category is the 1896 Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year card he made for the cabaret performer Mary Belfort. One of only five known examples, two of which are currently in museums, this is the last copy available for private sale. Complimentary to this precious card is Lautrec’s personal 1897 New Year’s greeting which he sent to his friends and relatives. Only ten copies are known to exist, six of which are in museums.

Although Lautrec is best known for his commissioned posters, it should be noted that he only created 30 posters in his brief lifetime, and yet they stand out as his most recognizable and outstanding works of art. Of the 30, 18 are represented in this show, many in several stages of development. The examples shown are generally considered to be of the finest quality, all in excellent condition. Among these are his “Eldorado,” “La Revue Blanche,” “Salon de Cent,” “Jane Avril 1893,” and “Jane Avril 1899.” Also included is one of the smallest and rarest Lautrec posters—created in 1896 for Ault & Wiborg, makers of fine printing and lithographic inks in Chicago.

Several working proofs for some of Lautrec’s most famous posters will also be on display, showing the physical development of these hallmark images. Included is the only known copy of the trial proof for “La Clownesse au Moulin Rouge,” which Lautrec tore in half and discarded onto his studio floor. Taped back together by his assistants, this historic document survived and made its way into one of the largest and most prestigious collections of Toulouse-Lautrec in the world, on public display for the first time in 40 years.

Also included in the exhibition is an original set of three drawings by Lautrec, brutal and powerful in their honesty about the extreme lengths people went to in order to survive poverty in turn-of-the-century London. Without context, these three drawings are little more than alarming pedophilic scenes; however, with historical conditions attached, this triptych becomes a sordid narrative about a population driven to despair. Banned from auction houses in Europe, this gripping original set is on view for the first time ever in America.

Because he lived a short life, the number of Lautrec paintings that come on the market are few, coveted by collectors as nearly-sacred objects. On display is one of his most beautiful and soft oils—a portrait of a Madame, originally hung in the living room of the infamous Rue d’Amboise Brothel in Paris, frequented by the artist.

Finally, as a rare treat for Lautrec enthusiasts, is a ceramic rendering of the famed star Yvette Guilbert, who, in 1899, commissioned Lautrec to create this work for her as her grand entrance into the European Arts & Crafts movement. There are no more than four known copies of this work currently held outside of museums, possibly being the last available for purchase in our lifetimes. It comes to us from the very important Whitney collection of paintings, all of which set huge records when sold at auction years ago.



from December 13, 2008 to January 11, 2009

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