By Margaret Burgess
Susan Donnell and Harry W. Konkel Associate Curator of European Art
Bonne semaine! This week we unveiled a new display of European art at the PMA. You will discover an installation of four lithographs by French artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901). This special display was inspired by The William S. Paley Collection: A Taste for Modernism exhibition (on view until September 8th), which also features the art of Toulouse-Lautrec.
Toulouse-Lautrec grew up in a wealthy aristocratic family in France. His father was an amateur artist and encouraged his son’s budding talent for drawing. Early on Toulouse-Lautrec painted mainly horses and sporting subjects—enduring themes for him as we see in the lithograph Babylone d’Allemagne (above) with its horse and rider. Soon the theatres and music halls rapidly bubbling up in Paris captured Toulouse-Lautrec’s attention. He was drawn to depicting individuals on the margins of society—prostitutes, dancers, washerwomen—and his sympathy for these figures perhaps derived from his own feelings of otherness due to a physical deformity from which he suffered. Influenced in large part by Japanese prints (ukiyo-e) with their decisive lines, dramatic cropping, and use of color and diagonals, Toulouse-Lautrec developed his bold style. Paul Gauguin, whom he came to know, was also an important inspiration, and the influence of Gauguin’s use of strong outlines and flat patterning is also evident in Toulouse-Lautrec’s work of the late 1880s and 1890s. Toulouse-Lautrec capitalized on innovations in lithography at this time, which allowed for larger scale prints and the use of a greater spectrum of colors. By the 1890s, he had established himself as a premier lithographer and received significant commissions for advertisements—as seen in the lithographs in our display. Though he died young and his career was short-lived, Toulouse-Lautrec left an enduring legacy on the worlds of art and graphic design.
The works are generously on loan from Isabelle and Scott Black.
Come visit the museum and immerse yourself in the world of Toulouse-Lautrec and French modernism! You will find many connections between the Paley Collection and our holdings here at the PMA.