The industrial revolution at the end of the 19th century led to a social change -both negative and positive - throughout Europe. Whileindustrialisation caused harsh working conditions, it also made available a large amount of new commodities and leisure events. People might have felt that by taking advantage of these newly available items and participating in all kinds of entertainments they could escape for a short time from the bitter reality of their severe everyday toil.
As both events and products needed to be promoted to the public, mass advertising became a necessity and opened up an entirely new branch for artists, graphic designers and printing companies.
This rapid development allowed artists like Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and his contemporaries to quickly revolutionise graphic reproduction. It was the beginning of the perfect blending of an entire art sector with an independent discipline: graphic printing became poster art.
The exhibition La Bohème shows the unique lithographic œuvre of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, presented in close interaction with works by his forerunners and contemporaries, who all experienced and lived in the Paris of the Belle Époque. This overview allows thevisitors to sense and understand the origins of modern mass advertising.
The presentation on the premises of the MAN - Museum of Art of the Province of Nuoro in Sardinia - will be the start of an international touring exhibition through renowned museums.
When Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec moved to Paris as an adult, he soon became a chronicler of Parisian life. He was a painter who captured the exhiliarating society of le demi-monde and its establishments: racecourses, circus tents, theatres and opera houses, cabarets and brothels which became his ateliers.
There he drew the performers as well as the audience[no virgola] in representations that were direct, admiring and merciless. He made fun of the supposedly elitist audience, illustrating it in caricatural representations and at the same time elevated the lowly actors of these establishments – the provocatively presented singers, dancers and even prostitutes – to being the stars of his works.
Through his loving and unabashed representation of theParisian life, the spirit of this time is embedded in Toulouse-Lautrec’s art up to the present.
To hasten the publication of his observations of modern Parisian (night-)life, Toulouse-Lautrec started to experiment with lithograph printmaking from the late 1880s onwards. He employed the technique for artistic use and, through the oversize dimensions of his works, his variety of lush colours, his brushwork and chalk- and spatter techniques, he truly revolutionised the discipline.
In only ten years, up to his death in 1901, he produced three hundred and sixty-eight prints and lithograph posters, which he considered of equal importance to his paintings and drawings: Even today, his name is linked closely to his posters of Jane Avril, Yvette Guilbert and Aristide Bruant. They became classics of art history long ago.
Prior to Toulouse-Lautrec, Jules Chéret and Pierre Bonnard had intensively used posters as advertisements for different events. When Toulouse-Lautrec started to experiment withlithography, his contemporaries, well-known artists like Alfons Mucha or Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen did so as well, and they too succeeded in creating true masterpieces. During their lifetimes, and because of their work, lithographs and posters were elevated from the status of mere mass advertising media to an accepted artistic genre.
Grouped into six sections, not only the Paris of Toulouse-Lautrec is brought to life by this show, but also the Paris of his forerunners and contemporaries.
The majority of the posters in the exhibition are advertisements for events of Paris nightlife, mostly combined with an announcement for a show. Others advertise products and services – the luxury items of those days for the working class.
The complete lithographic œuvre of Toulouse-Lautrec‘s advertisement posters can be found only in two museum collections in Europe. Together with works of Alfons Mucha, Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen, Pierre Bonnard[no virgola] and Felix Vallotton, a selection of a hundred and ten works will be exhibited at the MAN from 22 June to 21October 2018. The exhibition has been organised in cooperation with the Musée d’Ixelles of Brussels and the Institute for Cultural Exchange of Tübingen.