Relive the golden age of Parisian cabarets through the exhibition TOULOUSE‐LAUTREC ILLUSTRATES THE BELLE ÉPOQUE. From June 18 to October 30, 2016, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) will unveil an outstanding private collection that brings together almost all of the most famous prints and posters by Toulouse‐Lautrec (1864‐1901), the great French nineteenth‐century master who revolutionized the art of printmaking.
Organized by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C., the exhibition gives the public the opportunity to admire close to one hundred prints and posters from nearly the entire period of his lithographic career, from 1891 to 1900, iconic images and rarely exhibited unique proofs carefully chosen for their quality and colour.
The exhibition also features some works by Toulouse‐Lautrec’s associates, including a painting by Louis Anquetin, L’Intérieur de chez Bruant : Le Mirliton (Inside Bruant’s Mirliton) (1886‐1887). Known until fairly recently only through its preparatory studies, this work is being shown to the public for the first time. It is without a doubt a major rediscovery in terms of the art history of fin‐ de‐siècle Paris.
Through his lithographs, Toulouse‐Lautrec captured the heart of Parisian nightlife during the Belle Époque in dynamic cabaret and dance hall scenes inspired by the city’s burgeoning entertainment district. He established a studio in bohemian Montmartre and became a frequent visitor to lively hot spots like the Chat Noir, the Mirliton and the Moulin Rouge. His depiction of their performances fashioned a portrait of modern Parisian nightlife.
“During the opening of Warhol Mania in 2014, we were already making plans to pay tribute to Warhol’s illustrious predecessor, Toulouse‐Lautrec. Today, thanks to this truly outstanding private collection, which is being unveiled at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and will later be shown at The Phillips Collection in Washington, we can proudly proclaim, ‘Mission accomplished!’ The one hundred prints and posters (plus a few drawings and paintings by the artist and his circle) thatare being unveiled are in a truly outstanding state of conservation – this must be emphasized, as these ephemeral works of art were not designed to last. It is an opportunity to visit Paris of the Belle Époque, its stars and cabarets...” said Nathalie Bondil, the MMFA’s Director and Chief Curator.
“I am thrilled that the Phillips is collaborating with the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts for the first time on a major international loan exhibition like Toulouse‐Lautrec Illustrates the Belle Époque,” said Dorothy Kosinski, Director of The Phillips Collection. “This project marks the first solo exhibition of Toulouse‐Lautrec’s work at the Phillips in nearly eighty years. We are delighted to share this collection with our audiences in Canada and the United States for the first time.”
AN EXCEPTIONAL COLLECTION REVEALED
Exhibitions of Toulouse‐Lautrec’s prints and posters are hardly uncommon, but this presentation reveals an outstanding collection of close to a hundred works assembled by a private collector in recent years.
Almost all the exhibited prints are in superb condition, their inking and colour still brilliant. Thanks to the collector’s connoisseurship and his devoted care of the works in this expanding collection, which represents nearly all the lithographs executed by Toulouse‐Lautrec, we are able to explore and appreciate the artist’s ambitions and his use of the lithographic medium to achieve them.
This collection includes rare and exceptional trial proofs, including some that have never before been catalogued or published. Among these works that have never before been exhibited in public are unique impressions (such as unique trial proofs for both Moulin Rouge – La Goulue and the rare Le Pendu [The Hanged Man]), as well as very rare prints (such as the trial proof and final proofs for Reine de Joie [Queen of Joy], May Milton, May Belfort and for the famous poster Jane Avril).
The presentation also includes four closely related works by two of the artist’s close associates: Théophile Alexandre Steinlen (a drawing in coloured crayons of a dance hall interior and a large‐ scale poster of his famous Tournée du Chat Noir); and Louis Anquetin (a superb pastel entitled Au cirque (At the Circus) and the large and fascinating painting L’Intérieur de chez Bruant : Le Mirliton (Inside Bruant’s Mirliton), which is being exhibited for the first time.
The MMFA’s collection includes five lithographs by Toulouse‐Lautrec, ranging from 1894 to 1898, three of which were recently donated to the Museum by Freda and Irwin Browns. In the Museum’s Library collection, we are also fortunate to have the complete album Yvette Guilbert. Published in Britain in 1898 for an English audience, it features nine lithographs (including the cover), with an accompanying text in English by Arthur Byl. The final image depicts Yvette Guilbert performing one of her famous songs as an encore.
CURATORIAL TEAM AND ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
The exhibition Toulouse‐Lautrec Illustrates the Belle Époque is organized by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.
In Montreal, the exhibition is curated by Gilles Genty, Art Historian and Guest Curator; Nathalie Bondil, Director and Chief Curator of the MMFA; and Hilliard T. Goldfarb, Senior Curator – Collections and Curator of Old Masters at the MMFA.
In Washington, D.C., the exhibition is curated by Gilles Genty, Art Historian and Guest Curator; Dorothy Kosinski, Director of The Phillips Collection; and Renée Maurer, Assistant Curator at The Phillips Collection.
“Toulouse‐Lautrec’s works reveal the spectacle of the Belle Époque: the dreams, ambitions, desires, disillusionments of its performers, all depicted by an artist with a humanist gaze who saw them every day, without judging them,” added Gilles Genty, art historian and guest curator. “Toulouse‐Lautrec is the heir of the nineteenth‐century caricaturists (Daumier, Gavarni) and he also heralded, through his revolutionary posters, the visual culture of the twentieth century.”
Gilles Genty is an art historian and exhibition curator. A former lecturer at the École du Louvre and advisor to the Musée des Monuments français, he has co‐curated numerous exhibitions devoted to the Nabis and Post‐Impressionism, including Lost Paradise: Symbolists Europe (MMFA, 1995), The Time of the Nabis (MMFA and Florence, 1998), De Caillebotte à Picasso, chefs‐d’œuvre de la collection Oscar Ghez (Paris, Rotterdam and Quebec City, 2002, 2003‐2006), De Gauguin aux Nabis, le droit de tout oser (Lodève, 2010) and more recently L’oeil d’un collectionneur: Redon & Denis. Rêve, amour, sacré (2013) and Les Peintres graveurs (Bonnard, Vuillard et leurs amis) (2014) at the Musée Bonnard. He also co‐authored Mille peintures des musées de France (Gallimard, 1993), L’ABCdaire du symbolisme et de l’Art nouveau (Flammarion, 1997) and Pierre Bonnard, inédits (Éditions Cercle d’art, 2003).
Following its presentation in Montreal, the exhibition will be presented at The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C., from February 4 to April 30, 2017.
EXHIBITION LAYOUT AND DESIGN
In Montreal, the exhibition was designed by Sandra Gagné, architect and Head of Exhibitions
Production at the MMFA.
Presented in the MMFA’s Jean‐Noël Desmarais Pavilion, the exhibition reflects the main themes explored by the artist: Modern Life, the Theatre, Café‐Concert, and the Night Scene. The exhibition explores contemporary life in late nineteenth‐century Paris, from its cabarets, with the revels and excesses of Paris nightlife, to modern daily life, including cycling, the newly invented automobile, and the joys of walking one’s pet, as well as diversions like the circus and the race track.
In the Café‐Concert section, music will plunge visitors into the Belle Époque ambience. They will hear period recordings of Aristide Bruant, Félix Mayol and Yvette Guilbert, contemporaries of Toulouse‐Lautrec. A musical selection by Marie‐Claude Sénécal, producer at ICI Musique.
The Museum extends its thanks to the Ministère de la Culture et des Communications du Québec for its vital support. Our gratitude also extends to the Conseil des arts de Montréal and the Canada Council for the Arts for their ongoing support. In Montreal, the exhibition has benefited from the invaluable support of the Volunteer Association of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, which, since 1948, has contributed to the Museum’s development by organizing and hosting remarkable fundraising events. We would also like to recognize the Volunteer Guides for their ongoing contribution to Museum life. The Museum would like to recognize the essential contribution of Air Canada and Bell, as well as La Presse and the Montreal Gazette.
We would also like to thank all the Museum’s VIP members and the many individuals, companies and foundations for their generous support, especially the Arte Musica Foundation, presided over by Pierre Bourgie, and the Fondation de la Chenelière, directed by Michel de la Chenelière.
The Museum’s International Exhibition Programme receives financial support from the Exhibition Fund of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts Foundation and the Paul G. Desmarais Fund.