Crates containing more than 140 works on paper by French artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901) arrived recently at the Allentown Art Museum of the Lehigh Valley in preparation for the summer 2013 exhibit, Toulouse-Lautrec and His World.
This traveling exhibition is on loan from the Herakleidon Museum in Athens, Greece, and focuses on the art and life of one of the most fascinating artists and personalities of the Belle Époque (Beautiful Era) in France, which dates from the late 19th century through World War I. Lautrec lived in Paris during this colorful time of cabarets and cafés and captured its most famous singers, actors, and other characters in his highly celebrated posters, prints and sketches.
Toulouse-Lautrec and His World which will fill the Scheller and Rodale galleries on the museum's second floor from June 2 to Sept. 1 will showcase well-known works by the great French artist, including the posters Jane Avril, Divan Japonais, La Revue Blanche, and Mademoiselle Eglantine's Troupe depicting four women dancing the Can-Can.
At the center of the exhibition is a rare collection of original works on paper. This includes a number of the artist's posters as well as 35 of his sketches, which were often the draft ideas for the posters themselves. The included posters are rare and fragile because as temporary advertisements for a particular show they were not done on quality paper. Also on display will be examples of Lautrec's book illustrations.
Toulouse-Lautrec was greatly influenced by the French Impressionist movement and strove to incorporate the ideals of such painters as Monet and Renoir into his own work. Categorized as a Post-Impressionist, he is best known for his works depicting scenes from cabarets, theaters, dance halls and brothels. These were experiences that he himself lived when he moved to the north district of Montmartre in Paris in 1885.
His interest lay in portraying people, not only those he met during his nights on the town, but also his friends and the working-class citizens of Paris.
In 1891, Toulouse-Lautrec produced a color poster for the Moulin Rouge nightclub that brought him instant fame. He also illustrated theater programs, book covers, menus, and other ephemera. His expressive use of line was well suited to the medium of lithography he never made a distinction between commercial and fine art, even though he also painted in oil.
Due to alcohol abuse and the effects of syphilis, his health began to deteriorate and Toulouse-Lautrec died in 1901 at the age of 36.
This will be the best opportunity for art lovers from the mid-Atlantic region to see the exhibit: the Allentown Art Museum is the closest venue to Philadelphia, New York, Baltimore, and D.C. to present Toulouse-Lautrec and His World. The exhibition tour kicked off earlier this year in New Britain, Conn., and after Allentown it will head west, to Flint, Mich. During the 10 months the collection was on display in Athens, an average of 10,500 visitors per month took in the exhibit. The Connecticut exhibition attracted 40,000 visitors.
The Allentown Art Museum of the Lehigh Valley is located at 31 North Fifth St., Allentown. The telephone number is (610) 432-4333, and the web address is www.allentownartmuseum.org. Exhibition hours are Wednesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m., and Sunday, from noon until 4 p.m.