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Indepth Arts News:

"Toulouse Lautrec: The Baldwin M. Baldwin Collection"
1999-10-16 until 2000-01-02
Calgary, , CA Canada

The only surviving son of the count of Toulouse-Lautrec, his family heritage was enveloped in nobility and aristocratic ideals. As Lautrec's life crossed between traditional class divisions, it was the very contrast of his past against the rather more underground world of Montmartre - a world which included poverty, suffering, and exploitation - which formed the subjects of his art. His vision is one that bears a certain frankness and irreverence which is still striking today.

Toulouse-Lautrec's posters done during the last decade of his career - Moulin Rouge-La Goulue, 1891, and the equally well-known images of theatrical performer Aristide Bruant, 1892 - were among the first of his commercial successes which, according to some of his biographers, brought him fame practically overnight. Plastered throughout the streets of Paris, these image advertised the night-life of Paris's Montmartre district with its bars, theatres, cabarets, and brothels - all subjects that captivated the artist's imagination. Stunning in their dramatic use of colour, simplicity of composition, thick use of line, and bold use of hand-written typography, these images are among the most extraordinary examples of graphic art of the era.

Although the Baldwin M. Baldwin Collection focuses on Lautrec's lithographs, for Lautrec, there was no hierarchy of importance between his prints, drawings, and paintings. Of more significance was the relationship between the three media, and Lautrec often exhibited prints alongside his paintings in public exhibitions. In his role as a printmaker he contributed to the rising interest in printmaking, challenging the predominance of painting and sculpture in European art. As with many printmakers of his generation, Lautrec s art was appreciated by a wide public through the commercial circulation of his prints and posters.

Toulouse-Lautrec: The Baldwin M. Baldwin Collection was formed in 1987 when 95 works, mainly graphics, were gifted to the San Diego Museum of Art by the Baldwin family. The exhibit is complemented by some 14 images from the San Diego collection which include several of his drawings and two paintings. The show explores various facets of his commercial art - illustrations and posters for songs, menus, theatre programs, books, journals, plays, art exhibits, and theatre stars. As this exhibition shows, Lautrec was a painter of people, but not in the traditional sense of portraiture. His concern was more about the body - people in action and in moments and poses where they were not likely aware of being depicted.

The show provides evidence of the unparalleled exchange of art and ideas from around the world, including Japanese art then being circulated in the Parisian art world. For Toulouse-Lautrec, the tilted perspectives, odd profiles of people in unstaged positions, and his non-traditional compositions, are among the concepts he absorbed from Japanese prints.

Perhaps most importantly, this exhibition offers a unique chance to view work by one of the most intriguing personalities at the turn of the last century and to compare his vision of the 1890s with that of our own time.

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