High Kicks and Low Life: Toulouse-Lautrec Prints
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901) was inspired by the colourful nightlife of Montmartre, Paris where he settled in 1884.
His prolific output depicts the actresses, dancers and prostitutes of the area and provides a fascinating glimpse into the seamier side of Parisian life at the time.
In 1914 the critic Gustave Geffroy described Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec as ‘the quintessential chronicler of Paris’.
This stunning exhibition of around 50 prints from the British Museum’s fine holdings by the artist is divided into two sections, ‘Public Passions’ and ‘Private Passions’.
‘Public Passions’ includes striking images of the cancan dancer Louise Weber, known as La Goulue (‘The Glutton’) and ‘Private Passions’ shows how Toulouse-Lautrec portrayed the extremely private life of prostitutes with great sensitivity.
Lautrec produced a huge variety of work in print form. His first lithograph Moulin Rouge - La Goulue was printed as a poster in 1891, and other illustrations appeared in books and theatre programmes, and on song sheet covers, invitations and even menus.
Many of his illustrations appeared in the growing number of new periodicals, published to meet the demands of an increasingly literate public.
Lautrec loved the world of music hall and theatre, especially life behind the scenes. Many of his works focused on one subject, often an actress or music hall star, with whom he would become briefly obsessed.
Dancers such as Louise Weber and Jane Avril became close friends of the artist. The singer Yvette Guilbert also relied on Lautrec to publicise her talents, and Lautrec produced many images of her including two albums of prints.