Toulouse-Lautrec: Paris & the Moulin Rouge

Jane Avril at the Jardin de Paris [Jane Avril au Jardin de Paris]

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
Jane Avril at the Jardin de Paris (Jane Avril au Jardin de Paris) 1893
brush and spatter lithograph, 128.2 x 93.6 cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Gift of Orde Poynton Esq. CMG 1996

You’ve got nothing Toulouse and everything to gain from visiting the latest blockbuster exhibition at the National Gallery of Australia.

So urged NGA director Ron Radford at the opening of Toulouse-Lautrec: Paris & the Moulin Rouge in what was perhaps his most light-hearted opening speech to date.

Tête-à-tête supper

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
Tête-à-tête supper (In a private room – At the 'Rat Mort') (Portrait of Lucy Jourdan) c1899
oil on canvas, 55.1 x 46.0 cm
The Samuel Courtauld Trust, The Courtauld Gallery, London

There was a touch of Parisian joie de vivre in the air as the doors opened on the first major retrospective of the art of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec ever staged in Australia.

Chandon was flowing and guests helped themselves to dainty hors d’oeuvres including these pretty dishes of smoked salmon with edible flowers.

Salmon

The table that drew the biggest crowds was laden with exquisite marshmallows and macarons, and I have to confess to positioning myself within arm’s reach of this gorgeous spread. Among the notables in the crowd was Barry Humphries, standing just a few feet away (who resisted temptation from the sweets and helped himself to a handful of grapes).

Macarons

But I digress from telling you about the exhibition which includes more than 110 paintings, posters, prints and drawings tracing Toulouse-Lautrec’s career from his earliest works to his depictions of the Paris social scene of the late 1800s – the famous dance halls such as the Moulin Rouge, the café-concerts, cabarets, theatres and bordellos.

Mademoiselle Eglantine's troupe

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
Mademoiselle Eglantine's troupe (La troupe de Mademoiselle Eglantine) 1896
brush, spatter and crayon lithograph, 61.7 x 80.4 cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
The Poynton Bequest 2012

Capturing the essence of Parisian nightlife, Toulouse-Lautrec emerged as one of the most influential Post-Impressionists. His works are extremely rare, given that he died at just 36 years of age.

Unlike many of the gallery’s earlier exhibitions that were drawn from one source, this one is drawn from more than 30 major international collections including the Musée D’Orsay, Paris the Musée Toulouse-Lautrec, Albi, Tate and the British Museum, London and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, as well as significant private collections from around the world.

The toilette

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
The toilette (Combing her hair) (La toilette (Celle qui se peigne)) 1891
oil on cardboard, 58.0 x 46.0 cm
The Ashmolean Museum, Oxford
Bequeathed by Frank Hindley Smith 1939

Such a rare opportunity to see so many of the artist’s works in one place must surely give it significant international appeal. The exhibition will only be shown in Canberra and will be a highlight of the 2013 Centenary of Canberra celebrations.

The Gallery’s summer exhibition is always accompanied by an interactive Family Room and it has really excelled itself this time with a room where kids can dress up with top hats and clothing of the era, and produce their own French shadow plays.

Family Room

As with last summer’s Renaissance exhibition, timed ticketing will once again be in place for this exhibition. Tickets are on sale at ticketek.com.au/Toulouse.

Toulouse-Lautrec runs until Tuesday, 2 April, 2013. The National Gallery of Australia is closed on Christmas Day.

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