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"800 prints by Toulouse-Lautrec, Bonnard, Vuillard and their contemporaries"
2000-05-03 until 2000-07-02
Van Gogh Museum
Amsterdam, , NL Netherlands

The Vincent van Gogh Foundation has acquired a major collection of later 19th-century French prints for display at the Van Gogh Museum. The collection was lovingly assembled over the past fifty years by a private collector and represents examples of the finest quality of some of the most important prints made by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Pierre Bonnard, Edouard Vuillard, Maurice Denis and Félix Vallotton. From 3 May to 2 July 2000, approximately 30 of the best works are displayed on the second floor of the Rietveld building (print room). A small selection of the works exhibited may be found online at the museums website.

The Vincent van Gogh Foundation already owns a small collection of prints assembled by Vincent van Gogh and his brother Theo, which is on loan to the Museum. The addition of this extensive collection adds depth and direction to the print collection and allows the Museum to present many of the most important developments in printmaking in Paris in the last two decades of the 19th century.

At the end of the 1880s, printmaking, particularly lithography - formerly primarily used for reproductive or political purposes - gained a certain autonomy as increasing emphasis was placed on its artistic qualities. The prints then produced, usually colour lithographs, were published in small editions (approximately 100) and were intended for art lovers and collectors.

A great many of the 800 prints in the newly-acquired collection are by artists who were members of or close to Les Nabis, a group of avant-garde artists, active in Paris from 1890 to about 1905. This loosely-organised group (calling themselves Nabis after the Hebrew word for a prophet) included many of the foremost talents of the day such as Bonnard, Vuillard and Denis and although their work displays many stylistic differences they shared a common interest in the decorative potential of printmaking.

These artists were supported and stimulated by the art dealer and publisher Ambroise Vollard. He had an eye for new talent and his ideas won many converts among artists and collectors alike. He published Nabis lithographs in albums (Peintres-Graveurs) and series (Bonnard's Quelques aspects de la vie de Paris), and was responsible for the publication of bibliophile books that were illustrated by Nabis artists (for example, Verlaine's Parallelement, illustrated by Bonnard). Furthermore, the Nabis artists were deeply involved in the avant-garde theatre that blossomed in the same years. Artists such as Henri-Gabriel Ibels, Toulouse-Lautrec and Bonnard regularly designed beautiful posters and theatre programmes. The new acquisition includes examples of all these various forms of printmaking.

The most eye-catching of the Nabis' contributions are found in the magazine La Revue blanche and the albums of L'Estampe originale. The latter appeared four times a year between 1893 and 1895, with a total of 75 artists participating, both from the old guard, such as Henri Fantin-Latour, James McNeill Whistler, Pierre Auguste Renoir, and the new, including Paul Gauguin, Emile Bernard, Toulouse-Lautrec, Bonnard and Vuillard. The publication of L'Estampe originale represented a breakthrough of the print as an autonomous work of art. With the acquisition of this collection, the Van Gogh Museum now owns almost all of the issues of L'Estampe originale - a great rarity, indeed.


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