LIVERPOOL becomes a hotbed of famous-name visual art this summer - and a sure fire tourist destination - with the announcement that an exquisite exhibition of around 50 prints by the artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901), is to go on show.
The Walker Art Gallery is the first destination for High Kicks and Low Life: Toulouse-Lautrec Prints, a British Museum Tour, supported by the Dorset Foundation.
The prints, some of which have not been on display for over 30 years, have never been displayed together before and depict the glamour and style of 19th century Parisian theatre and daily life.
There is already mounting anticipation among art lovers over the forthcoming major Picasso show at Tate Liverpool, which also opens next month, making it a bumper day at the galleries for any city-bound tourists.
Described by a contemporary critic as ‘the quintessential chronicler of Paris’, the work of Toulouse-Lautrec immediately evokes the decadent atmosphere of fin-de siècle Paris.
Through his prolific graphic output of posters, theatre programmes, song-sheets, illustrated periodicals and special edition prints for the growing market of collectors, Lautrec effortlessly managed to combine the excitement of the cabaret and the unforgettable characters of the café-concert with the poignant, shadowy private lives of prostitutes and their clients.
Born in the south of France to an eccentric aristocratic family, Lautrec moved to Paris in 1882 to study art. One of his fellow pupils was Vincent van Gogh who greatly admired his work.
Soon Lautrec established a studio in the notorious district of Montmartre, famed for its brothels, nightclubs and dance halls and it was here that the artist would remain for the rest of his life. Lautrec eagerly embraced the lifestyle of a young bohemian artist of the Belle Epoque. By day he would haunt the galleries and museums and by night he frequented the dance halls, the Moulin Rouge being his favourite and which he immortalized countless times in his work.
High Kicks and Low Life: Toulouse-Lautrec Prints presents a selection from the British Museum’s fine holdings of Toulouse-Lautrec’s graphic work. Divided into two sections, Scenes from Theatrical Life and Scenes from Daily Life, the former presents striking images of the can-can dancer Louise Weber, known as La Goulue, (‘The Glutton’) and Jane Avril, one of Lautrec’s favourite subjects. In contrast to the lively exuberant scenes of the cafés and bars of Montmartre, Lautrec portrays with great sensitivity the extremely private and intimate life of the prostitute in the second section of the exhibition. The artist lived briefly in several brothels and captured at first hand the daily rituals of feminine life, beautifully executed in the Elles portfolio of 1896.
Though Lautrec’s last years were plagued by alcoholic excess, this remarkable artist has left behind a body of work full of insight, wit and above all astonishing technical and artistic virtuosity.
*May 14- August 8: High Kicks and Low Life: Toulouse-Lautrec Prints , Walker Art Gallery William Brown Street, Liverpool. Admission FREE Information 0151 478 4199. Website www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk
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