Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, ‘Moulin Rouge’, 1891, Omnibus Gallery
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, ‘Moulin Rouge’, 1891, Omnibus Gallery

Year: 1891
Country: France
Condition: A-
This is the most important poster ever. The world of modern graphic arts began here. This was Toulouse-Lautrec's first lithograph. The poster that changed the perspective that advertising could be art.

The Moulin Rouge poster was created when Lautrec's mastery of drawing had reached its peak, he could experiment on the Lithographic stone as he wished. In this first print he used both a brush and lithographic chalk, but above all he made use of the spraying or spattering technique, by which using a brush dipped in paint, minute particles of color could be sprayed through a sieve onto the stone.

The word "La Goulue" in the poster refers to Louise Weber who was taken under the wing of Jacques Renaudin, a wine merchant who danced in his spare time under the stage name "Valentin le Désossé." That is the man in the forefront of the poster with the top hat. They danced at the Moulin Rouge when it first opened, performing an early form of the Can-Can known as the "chalut." The two were instant stars, but it was Weber who stole the show with her outrageously captivating conduct. Booked as a permanent headliner, La Goulue became synonymous with the Cancan and the Moulin Rouge nightclub. She became the toast of Paris and the highest paid entertainer of her day. She also was one of Henri Toulouse-Lautrec's favorite subjects, immortalized by his portraits and posters of her dancing at the Moulin Rouge. Whoever buys this poster will have purchased the greatest graphic ever printed and will also own an important piece of history.

The Moulin Rouge, best known as the spiritual birthplace of the modern form of the Can-Can dance, opened its doors 1889. The dance was usually performed individually, with courtesans moving in an energetic and provocative way in an attempt to seduce potential clients. As time progressed, the Can-Cans seen at the Moulin Rouge became increasingly vulgar and overtly erotic, causing public outrage. But the criticism didn't last, due to the rising popularity of music hall entertainment in Europe. And so, the modern Can-Can was born as dancers (many of them failed ballet dancers with exceptional skill) were introduced to entertain the guests. The can-can that we recognize today comes directly from this period and, as the vulgarity of the dance lessened, it became renowned for its athletic and acrobatic tricks. The Moulin Rouge lost much of its former reputation as a "high-class brothel" and soon became fashionable for French society to visit and see the spectacular cabarets, which have included a Can-Can ever since.

This poster was originally printed in three sheets to be displayed on the streets of Paris. Very few of these three sheets survived. Subsequently, the printer made an unknown number of posters to be sold to consumers. The Parisian houses at the turn of the century were small, so they only printed the Moulin Rouge poster in two sheets and did not print the top panel. You can see where the third panel is when you look at the top of the poster and the word BAL. This poster is the original two sheet edition with a stone lithograph contemporary reproduction that cost 5,000 euros to have completed. I just believe this poster looks better this way. In fact, almost all of the Moulin Rouge posters you might see that are three sheets have a reproduced top panel.

This has always been the most expensive non-film poster. The graphic is timeless, the poster is rare, the condition is one of the best copies, and the artist is one of the greatest ever. Toulouse-Lautrec`s Moulin Rouge has passed the test of time and the wallet. If you notice a difference in the color of the ink from panel to panel, this is the way they all are. The color of the inks were inconsistent in those days.

Signature: Signed in stone by the artist, lower left corner.

Publisher: Affiches Américaines, Charles Lévy (Paris)

The MET, The MOMA, Victoria & Albert, Indianapolis Museum of Art, Van Gogh Museum and so much more!.....

About Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

Renowned Post-Impressionist painter, lithographer, and art nouveau illustrator Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec is famous for his depictions of French fin de siècle urban life. Working in his characteristic linear style, Lautrec frequently portrayed scenes from brothels and cabaret clubs, including the Moulin Rouge, where he had a seat reserved after producing a series of promotional posters for the club’s opening in 1888. Lautrec was influenced by the artists Edgar Degas and Édouard Manet, who shared with them a keen interest in the observation of social culture.

French, 1864-1901, Albi, France, based in Paris, France