Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Aristide Bruant in His Cabaret (detail), 1893. Poster, color lithograph printed in black, red, green, and gray, proof before letters. Otis Norcross Fund. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
“Toulouse-Lautrec and the Stars of Paris” explores the celebrity culture of Lautrec’s time and the artist’s fascination with the personal lives of celebrities as well as the roles that they played. With expressive lines and brazen colors, Lautrec depicted the defining gestures, costumes, and expressions of spectacular performers, many of whom were his personal friends and habitués of Montmartre, the focus of Parisian nightlife and a haven for acrobatic dancers and destitute students, reprobate aristocrats and middle-class pleasure-seekers.
The exhibition includes nearly 200 works and is composed of thematic sections highlighting Lautrec’s formal innovations, such as dramatic lighting effects and color combinations; the changing artistic and social landscapes of Paris, with scenes of the city by day and by night; cafés, cabarets, and theaters; and celebrities of the age. The display also incorporates works by Lautrec’s contemporaries Edgar Degas, Mary Cassatt, Pierre Bonnard, and others—presenting him in the context of his heroes, peers, and followers. Organized by the MFA in partnership with the Boston Public Library, the exhibition draws on both institutions’ rich holdings, and includes key loans of paintings and graphic arts from public and private collections.