Sunday, January 13, 2013

Toulouse-Lautrec, Canberra NGA 2013

I have just returned from Canberra and my visit to the Toulouse-Lautrec Exhibition. This was for me a huge event to see the original works of this artist who I have admired since I was a teenager.  I had posters of Moulin Rouge: La Goulue and Eldorado: Aristide Bruant on my bedroom wall for many years. It was a memorable day and I am even more impressed with his work than I was previously.

The exhibition contained a varied array of his oil paintings, lithographs, drawings and posters. Amazing that the NGA was able to bring all this together and how lucky are we that we can see a collection of his work all in the one place!

It is hard to describe this exhibition as it was just gorgeous.    His oil paintings are rich and colourful and I love the technique of the thinned paint and feathery strokes.  I had always been more drawn to his posters than the oil paintings but actually viewing them I am converted.

When I entered the room where the posters are displayed and I saw the original of "Moulin Roughe: La Goulue 1891" I cried much to the embarrassment of my daughter ... yes, real tears. I had never ever thought I would see his original work and to see this wonderful artwork for real brought me such joy. As a sometime print maker I could not but admire the technique and wonder at the precision that it took to match up at least 8 sheets of paper.

In all the times I have viewed Lautrec's work in books it cannot express his brilliance in both his technique and they way he studied his subjects. His use of colour and brush stroke is mind blowing. I was amazed that so much of his work was on cardboard and I would assume this was because it was portable. I love his use of feathery strokes and thinned paint that give the work a look of being drawn rather than painted. A technique I am keen to experiment with.

I felt the exhibition was also worth it for the comments on the society at that time - very informative and a few things about the La Belle Epoque made me laugh and some of it was simply sad.

Henri Toulouse-Lautrec deserves the praise of us today and the fact that we value and view his artwork. His art is emotive, descriptive and he displays non judgmental acceptance of  a different class to what he was born into yet he judges those of his class who visited that level of society such as his painting of Gaston Bonnefoy 1891.  (the walking stick displays his purpose for being there!!!)
Gaston Bonnefoy, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

I for one would have loved to have met him.

La Goulue, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

Emile Bernard 1885, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec