PARIS – Without mocking, stigmatizing or condemning those he portrayed, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec managed to go down in art history as a decidedly modern man thanks to his depictions of Paris at the end of the 19th century, which have now gone on display at the Grand Palais.
“The modernity of Toulouse-Lautrec is in turn a revolution in the forms, in the invention of a radical and dynamic painting, frugal in resources but effective in the visual, and revolutionary in the subjects and customs,” said Stephane Guegan, the curator of the exhibition “Toulouse-Lautrec, Resolutely Modern.”
The exhibition, which covers three floors of the Grand Palais, portrays the artist as an observer rather than a chronicler, determined since his training to portray reality without sweetening or idealizing it.
“He is a man who acts in the present and that reflects all kinds of issues treating them in the most dignified way possible, never to stigmatize or condemn,” said the curator.
“There is no moral dimension in his work, but an attitude of pleasure, of discovering the other. The prostitutes in their cadres are normal women.”
The exhibition, open to the public until 27 January, brings together his many facets, all of them of a prevailing modernity: his male portraits in the streets, his work in the press and as a literary illustrator, and his advertising posters.
He died at 37 but left a neat body of work of over 800 canvases, 300 drawings, 50 posters, a stained glass window and an extensive list of images for the press.
Self-portraits, his customary scenes of prostitutes as well as his canvases of the Moulin Rouge and his famous scenes of the Montmartre stages make up the exhibition.
“It must be remembered that he was a fairly authoritarian and self-confident aristocrat from a young age and he used all his means to be a great painter. He was not content to offer a sociological, sarcastic and purely aristocratic look, but that of a man of pleasure,” said the curator.