Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901), The Englishman at the Moulin Rouge, 1892, Lithograph, 627 x 480 mm.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901), In the circus, the clown Footit as animal tamer, 1899, Charcoal on paper, 259 x 433 mm.

Beyond Myth, Toulouse-Lautrec as Acute Observer of Social Class

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901), The Simpson Chain, Designmuseum Danmark, The Prints and Drawings Collection. Photo: Pernille Klemp, 1896, Poster, lithograph, 876 x 1247 mm.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901), La Clownesse, seated, Mademoiselle Cha-U-Kao (From the album Elles), 1896, Lithograph, \525 x 403 mm.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901), Divan Japonais, Designmuseum Danmark, The Prints and Drawings Collection. Photo: Pernille Klemp  1893, Poster, lithograph, 780 x 596 mm.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901), Lautrec as Pierrot, Musée Toulouse-Lautrec, Albi, 1894, Photograph.


Statens Museum for Kunst
Sølvgade 48-50
+45 3374 8494
Toulouse-Lautrec, The Human Comedy
September 17, 2011-February 19, 2012

A cripple descended from aristocratic stock who became the controversial chronicler of modern-day Paris and ended his brief life ravaged by syphilis and alcoholism. The story of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec can be the oft-told tale of this quirky artist who became as one with his own art and circle of motifs. This exhibition leaves behind the mythology surrounding the artist. Featuring more than 130 works, the exhibition presents a sharply focused image of an artist whose depictions of the Parisian entertainment scene dissected and commented on modern existence by means of striking and groundbreaking effects.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901) stands as the enfant terrible of late 19th century French art. Over an intense period of little more than 15 years he infiltrated the city’s entertainment scenes, interpreting virtue and vice across boundaries of class and social distinction without compromise. The city, described in Lautrec’s own day as a stage, was the starting point of his art. And the entertainment industry was the microcosm he recorded urban players staging themselves, their desires, despite gender and class.

Lautrec’s circle of motifs focuses on theatres, circuses, brothels, cafés, and dance halls, particularly in Montmartre. Here he created a repertoire of figures that comprised dancers, singers, actors, prostitutes, and their audiences and clients. Exercising his keen eye for tragic comedy this gallery of characters became an obvious source of subject matter in his work on decoding urban existence. The exhibition offers a veritable parade of such portrayals, demonstrating how Lautrec used caricature as a way of making shrewd observations of the social games being played; games which were set against the backdrop of a growing consumer culture and often centred on sexuality and desires. 

Lautrec’s artistic identity and anti-bourgeois attitude led him to cross boundaries between popular and highbrow culture, prefiguring aspects of 20th century avant-garde art. Parallel to his artistic work he created illustrations and advertisements marketing a range of products and experiences. 

The exhibition focuses attention on Lautrec’s graphic works and selected drawings. It shows how he, with his keenly honed sense for the commercial market and mass communication, found his own radical and innovative idiom, particularly within the graphic medium — which includes his groundbreaking posters. In his graphic experiments he employed simplification, stylisation, and exaggeration to achieve a hitherto unseen form and effect that had a strong impact on the public conscience — an idiom which means that his artistic takes on the human condition remain as fresh and mischievous today as when they were created. 

The exhibition differs from conventional retrospectives by opting out of the typical mode of chronological presentation. Rather, the many works are arranged by themes, focusing on the various scenes and players featured in Lautrec’s universe. The exhibition is accompanied by an informative guide, and visitors can also — before, during, and after their visit — access other materials such as apps for their smartphones and iPods. The latter can be borrowed from the ticket desk. Also, the film Toulouse-Lautrec and Montmartre is shown every day in the exhibition and in the Gallery’s cinema. 

On the occasion of this exhibition The National Gallery of Denmark also publishes the catalogue Toulouse-Lautrec. The Human Comedy. Main article by Birgitte Anderberg and Vibeke Vibolt Knudsen, preface by Karsten Ohrt. 176 pages, richly illustrated. Available in Danish, and German. Price: DKK 199. Available from the Gallery’s bookstore. ISBN 978 87 92023 54 4.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901), Eldorado, Aristide Bruant, Designmuseum Danmark, The Prints and Drawings Collection. Photo: Pernille Klemp, 1892, Poster, lithograph, 1418 x 970 mm.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901), Moulin Rouge, La Goulue, Designmuseum Danmark, The Prints and Drawings Collection. Photo: Pernille Klemp, 1891, Poster, lithograph, 1955 x 1240 mm.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901), Compliments of the New Year, 1897, Lithograph, 472 x 294 mm.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901), Cover for the album Yvette Guilbert, 1894, Lithograph, 407 x 388 mm.


Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901), Cover for Elles, 1896, Lithograph, 525 x 402 mm.

Unknown photographer, Jane Avril at the Moulin Rouge, c.1892, Musée Montmartre, Paris.

Jane Avril, Toulouse-Lautrec Friend and Avatar of His Oeuvre

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901), At the Moulin Rouge, 1892-93, Oil on canvas, 123 x 141 cm, The Art Institute of Chicago, Helen Birch Bartlett Memorial Collection.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901), Divan Japonais, 1893, Colour lithograph, 80.8 x 61.9 cm, Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901), Jane Avril, 1899, Colour lithograph, 56 x 38 cm, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Rosenwald Collection, 1953.6.137.

Toulouse-Lautrec, dressed in Jane Avril’s clothes to attend the 'Women’s ball’ (bal des femmes) held by the Courrier français at the Elysée-Montmartre, BJ March BIJC, 1892, Photograph, Dimensions and location unknown.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901), Jane Avril in the entrance to the Moulin Rouge, c.1892, Oil and pastel on cardboard, 102 x 55.1 cm, The Courtauld Gallery, London.


Courtauld Gallery
16-18 Berners Street
+ 44 (0)20 7631 4720
Toulouse-Lautrec and Jane Avril
Beyond the Moulin Rouge

June 16-September 18, 2011

Nicknamed La Mélinite after a powerful form of explosive, the dancer Jane Avril (1868-1943) was one of the stars of the Moulin Rouge in the 1890s. Known for her alluring style and exotic persona, her fame was assured by dazzlingly inventive posters designed by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901). Jane Avril became emblematic in Lautrec’s world of dancers, cabaret singers, musicians and prostitutes. But, she was also a close friend and he painted a series of striking portraits of her that contrast with his exuberant posters. Organized around Courtauld Gallery’s painting Jane Avril in the Entrance to the Moulin Rouge, the exhibition explores different public and private images of Jane Avril. Toulouse-Lautrec and Jane Avril: Beyond the Moulin Rouge brings together a group of paintings, posters and prints from international collections to celebrate a creative partnership that captured the excitement and spectacle of bohemian Paris. 

In contrast to Toulouse-Lautrec, who was a member of one of France’s oldest noble families, Jane Avril was the daughter of a courtesan. Born Jeanne Beaudon, she suffered an abusive childhood and, aged thirteen, ran away from home. The following year she entered the formidable Salpêtrière hospital in Paris to be treated for a nervous disorder popularly known as St Vitus’ Dance. It was at one of the bal des folles, the fancy dress balls which the hospital organised for its patients, that she took her first dance steps and found both her cure and her vocation. New research undertaken for this exhibition examines the connections between her eccentric movements, described by one observer as an "orchid in a frenzy," and contemporary medical theories of female hysteria. Her experiences helped shape her public persona and, as a performer, she was not only known as La Mélinite but also as L’Etrange (the Strange One) and Jane La Folle (Crazy Jane).

At the age of 20 she was taken on by the Moulin Rouge as a professional dancer. Adopting the stage name Jane Avril (suggested to her by an English lover), she was determined to make her mark as a star in the flourishing world of the Montmartre dance-halls and cabarets, which featured such larger-than-life personalities as La Goulue (the Glutton), Grille d’Egout (Sewer-grate) and Nini les-Pattes-en-l’air (Nini Legs-aloft). The ability to generate publicity through a carefully crafted image was the key to success and celebrity in the entertainment industry of Montmartre. A racy portrait of the brazen La Goulue, lent to the exhibition by the Museum of Modern Art in New York, underscores the contrasting sophistication of Avril’s public image.

The epicenter of this world was the famous Moulin Rouge. Opened in 1889, it offered a nightly program of performances by its stars. At the Moulin Rouge, an exceptional loan from the Art Institute of Chicago, is one of Toulouse-Lautrec’s most celebrated paintings and a highlight of the exhibition. It serves as the artist’s homage to this venue as well as a monumental group portrait of his circle. Shown from the rear, Jane Avril is instantly recognizable by her red hair. The scandalous La Goulue is seen with raised arms in the background, where the diminutive figure of Lautrec can also be made out. The ghostly face of May Milton, one of several English performers, looms into the canvas from the right. 

Although she also sang, Jane Avril’s true vocation was as a solo dancer and she devised her own choreographic routines and dress. Combining sensuality and ethereal detachment, her remarkable performances captured the imagination of artists and writers alike. Lautrec’s friend, Paul Leclercq, described the scene:

"In the midst of the crowd, there was a stir, and a line of people started to form: Jane Avril was dancing, twirling, gracefully, lightly, a little madly; pale, skinny, thoroughbred, she twirled and reversed, weightless, fed on flowers; Lautrec was shouting out his admiration."

Jane Avril became the subject of some of Lautrec’s greatest posters, landmarks in the history of both art and advertising. One of the first was made to promote Avril’s appearance at the Jardin de Paris, to which a special bus ran every night after the Moulin Rouge closed at eleven. This large and dramatic poster shows Jane Avril in the provocative high kick of the cancan, framed by the hand of a musician grasping the neck of a double-bass. The radical composition reflects Lautrec’s admiration for Japanese prints. The poster was an instant hit and Avril credited it with launching her career. No less striking is the image of Jane Avril seen in profile as a member of the audience at the venue known as the Divan Japonais. As in all his publicity posters, Lautrec focuses on enhancing the uniquely recognisable aspects of his subject’s appearance. Referring to this image of Avril, the critic Frantz Jourdain praised ‘the svelte spectator with her sharp eye, her provocative lips, her tall slender, adorably vicious body’. One of Lautrec’s last posters of Avril shows her full length; a snake coils up her dress, animating her wild dance. 

In 1896 Jane Avril travelled to London to perform at the Palace Theatre as part of the troupe of Mademoiselle Eglantine. At her personal request Toulouse-Lautrec designed a poster for the performance which shows Avril at the end of the line of four cancan dancers, captured in a brilliant froth of petticoats and black stockings. The exhibition reunites a group of material relating to this commission, including a preparatory drawing, Avril’s letter to Lautrec from London and the programme for the Palace Theatre. Avril’s repertoire included songs such as Mon Anglais (My Englishman). She admired England and critics speculated that aspects of her dance style and attire had English origins. She noted pointedly in her memoirs that ‘over there, one lives freely, without bothering others or making fun of them, as happens so often at home’. New research has uncovered further fascinating details about Lautrec and Avril’s connections with England, including the first British exhibition of works by Lautrec in 1894.

Toulouse-Lautrec’s relationship with Jane Avril was closer than with any of his other Montmartre subjects and she remained the artist’s loyal friend until his death. A photograph records Lautrec wearing Avril’s hat and scarf to a fancy dress party in 1892. Their friendship is reflected in a series of remarkable portraits in which the star is shown as a private individual, in contrast with her exotic poster image and her performances at the Moulin Rouge. An arresting bust-length portrait of Avril, loaned by the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, focuses on her startlingly white and angular face. The Courtauld Gallery’s Jane Avril in the Entrance to the Moulin Rouge captures Avril on the cusp of public and private worlds. A carriage is glimpsed in the background while the hat and coat on the wall may allude to her male admirers. However, she seems withdrawn and far older than her twenty-two years. In Jane Avril leaving the Moulin Rouge, Avril is shown as a passer-by, an elegant but anonymous and solitary figure. The exhibition reunites these portraits for the first time and also includes a rich documentary section exploring the intersection of Avril’s medical history and her public persona.

Toulouse-Lautrec’s death in 1901 marked the end of the golden age of Montmartre. Jane Avril went on to perform briefly as a stage actress before marrying and settling into bourgeois obscurity. Toulouse-Lautrec and Jane Avril examines a friendship which has come to define the world of the Moulin Rouge. However, it also looks beyond Avril’s identity as a star of Lautrec’s posters to consider the complex personal histories and the cultural changes which lay behind this remarkable creative partnership.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901), Jane Avril Leaving the Moulin Rouge, 1892, Oil on cardboard, 84.3 x 63.4 cm, Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, CT. Bequest of George A. Gay.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901), Jane Avril at the Jardin de Paris, 1893, Colour lithograph, 125 x 90 cm, Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901), Jane Avril, c.1891-92, Oil on cardboard, 63.2 x 42.2 cm, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts, Photo: Michael Agee.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901), Mademoiselle Elegantine’s Troupe, 1896, Colour lithograph, 62 x 80 cm, (Jane is at the far left, despite the order of the names), Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, The Sofa, Oil on paper, 62.9x81 cm, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Rogers Fund, Photograph Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Toulouse-Lautrec's Documents of Parisian Fin de Siecle Entertainments

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Marcelle Lender dansar bolero i "Chilpéric", 1895-96, Olja på duk, 145 x 149 cm, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., Photograph © National Gallery of Art, Washington.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Messaline, 1900, Olja på duk, 92 x 68 cm, Stiftung Sammlung E. G. Bührle, Zürich, Photograph © Stiftung Sammlung E. G. Bührle, Zürich.


Södra Blasieholmshamnen
+ 46 (0)8-5195 4300
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
February 21-May 25, 2008

The entire Parisian entertainment world of the late 19th century seems to have been preserved in Toulouse-Lautrec’s pictures from the restaurants and cafés, dance halls and theatres.

He is particularly associated with the famous Moulin Rouge nightclub where, for a number of years around 1890, he spent almost every evening recording individuals and events in his sketchbook.

The exhibition includes some 200 items: drawings, posters and oil paintings. We meet a small but highly imposing artist who abandoned a life in aristocratic circles to spend his days among the bohemian pleasures of Montmartre, portraying the people he met there.

Toulouse-Lautrec also recorded the lives of women working as prostitutes — how they spent their days and their nights. In his art he seems to vacillate between compassion and detachment.

The exhibition sheds light on the economic and social causes of widespread prostitution during the late 19th century. A further question will also be asked:

What would a contemporary Toulouse-Lautrec have portrayed in Stockholm today? A group of students from Konstfack — University College of Arts, Crafts and Design — have been invited to contribute their personal answers to this question in the form of their own works of art. These works will be shown in the ground-floor gallery, displayed under the title To use Lautrec

A great deal of space is devoted to Toulouse-Lautrec in his capacity as a designer of posters. The emergent entertainment industry of the late 19th century needed marketing and the greater part of Toulouse-Lautrec’s posters were made to advertise.

n his posters the artist developed a medium of expression using simple lines and bold colours; an artistic language that points to the future.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s life describes an unusual social progress from the aristocracy to the darker side of society.

He was born into a notably aristocratic family in southern France. It has been claimed that his poor health was the result of inbreeding. In his teens he broke his legs so severely that they stopped growing.

He moved to Paris with his mother to study art but was soon drawn to the city’s bohemian neighbourhoods. And it was in the bohemian ambience of Montmartre that his creative talent began to flourish, leading on to a very substantial body of work.

But his life was a brief one. Marked by an excess of alcohol and in poor physical condition, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec died in 1901, scarcely 37 years old.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, La Clownesse sitting, miss Cha-u-Kao, 1896, Lithograph, 52,5x40,3 cm, Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen, Photograph SMK Foto.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Le chaîne Simpson, 1896, Litografi, affisch, 87.6 x 124.7 cm, Kunstindustrimuseet, Köpenhamn, Photograph © Pernille Klemp / Kunstindustrimuseet København.