Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec was the great mythologizer of Montmartre, the licentious cauldron of Fin-de-Siècle Paris. His first poster, Moulin Rouge / La Goulue (1891), revolutionized the art of lithography. For a frenzied ten years, until his death in 1901, he created magnificent art out of grotesquery, and designed poignant moments from within the heart of decadence. This summer’s auction offers a delightful array of his best-loved lithographs and rare prints.
Lautrec’s friend André Marty was a publisher and dealer in graphic arts, and also the founder of a chain of interior decorating shops that he called “L’Artisan Moderne.” As a favor, the artist helped him to publicize that venture by designing this charming poster showing “a craftsman, the medalist Henri Nocq, taking instructions from his very charming lady client” (Adriani, p. 99).
Pictured at the Divan Japonais café concert, Jane Avril “appears to be almost smiling, as if the whole thing were an inside joke. Jane is accompanied—or, more likely, being accosted—by noted critic Edouard Dujardin, no doubt with amorous intentions, but Avril’s faintly bemused expression indicates that she is used to this, and will be able to handle him without any trouble. Note that the performer—although it is a great celebrity, the famous Yvette Guilbert—is not the focus of the poster, and Toulouse-Lautrec makes sure of it not only by placing her somewhat indistinctly in the poorly-lit background, but even by going to the length of deliberately cutting her head off… Toulouse-Lautrec has made good use of spatter, a technique which adds another dimension to poster art: here, for example, it effectively separates the solid black of Jane’s dress from the less important dark mass of the bar and the orchestra” (Wine Spectator, 42).
Bruant’s strong, forceful, and in many ways vulgar style was ideally suited to the intimate cabarets where fashionable society went “slumming” for thrills. Lautrec captures this brutal quality of the entertainer and the disdain with which he treated his audiences by having him show us the broad of his back, with his red scarf forming an exclamation point on it. The pose itself makes a complete, self-contained statement—Toulouse-Lautrec at his very best.
Lautrec’s smallest poster is also the only one executed by him on zinc plates and the only one printed in the United States. He sent the plates to the Cincinnati ink and printing company, Ault and Wiborg, who commissioned it from him. It represents the actress Emilienne d’Alençon and Lautrec’s cousin, Dr. Gabriel Tapié de Céleyran in a loge. Lautrec also printed a small edition under the title “Au Concert” in Paris. This is the extremely rare French version before letters, hand-signed, and executed before the plates were sent off to the Cincinnati printing house.
“In Paris from the autumn of 1899 to the summer of 1900, [Lautrec] seemed to live his former existence, making paintings and prints and maintaining contact with friends… In some ways he seemed more willing to live conventionally than he had before. He returned to his childhood interest in horses and the race track, having driven himself regularly to Chantilly, the Bois and Longchamps to watch horses. The works he did now maintained the fine-lined, almost drawing-like quality of his painting” (Frey, p 480). Though “The Jockey” and three other lithographs were created with the intention of publishing a portfolio of horse racing subjects for the print dealer Pierrefort, this was the only one of the four ever realized as a print. But it’s one of his finest, conveying the raw energy and speed present on the track. You can almost feel the weight of the hooves as they hit the turf and hear the breath of the animal as it gallops by on this overcast, cold morning. One of 112 impressions.
“Lautrec’s memories of a journey to Holland with Maxime Dethomas or his relaxing summer stay with the Natanson family in Villeneuve-sur-Yonne may have inspired this print of a drive in the country, with its intense evocation of movement within a horizontal format. The lithograph was included in the second Album d’Estampes Originales de la Galerie Vollard in December, 1897. Abroise Vollard says in his memoirs: ‘I can still see the small limping man with his strange child-like gaze, saying to me: ‘I’ll do you a ‘housewife.’ But he then produced this well-known sheet, still regarded as one of his masterpieces” (Adriani, p. 290). This version includes a red stamp numbered 68, from an edition of 100 numbered copies with a red monogram stamp.
(and hundreds more!) at auction
Sunday, October 27 at 11am EDT
for full details on all 530 lots
All lots viewable online one month prior to auction.
In-gallery viewing October 11-26 (Daily 11am-6pm)