The show is not a simple retrospective. The curator, art historian Richard Thomson of the University of Edinburgh, has put the work of [Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec] in context by exploring the commercial phenomenon of Montmartre entertainment and its attraction for many other artists as well. While the show displays 140 works by Toulouse- Lautrec, it also includes more than 100 by 50 other artists. This arrangement makes clear, for example, that Toulouse-Lautrec looked to the works of Edgar Degas for inspiration, and that other artists - - such as Theophile-Alexandre Steinlen, who drew posters for Le Chat Noir cabaret -- could create icons as striking as those of Toulouse- Lautrec.
Although Montmartre remains a tourist attraction to this day, its great era as the entertainment center of Paris sputtered out by the end of the 19th century. [Rodolphe Salis], the owner of Le Chat Noir, died in 1897. His tombstone reads, "God created the world, Napoleon the Legion of Honor and I, Montmartre." But Montmartre seemed to die with him. Toulouse-Lautrec, suffering from syphilis, alcoholism and bouts of seeming madness, was dying as well.
TABLES FOR ONE: In "The Hangover" (c. 1888), above, Toulouse-Lautrec explored a theme that Edouard Manet delved into earlier with "Plum Brandy" (c. 1877).; PHOTOGRAPHER: National Gallery of Art, Washington, Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, 1971.85.1; Toulouse-Lautrec; COME TO THE CABARET: Spread across Paris one morning, this poster became a sensation.; PHOTOGRAPHER: The Art Institute of Chicago, Mr. and Mrs. Carter H. Harrison Collection; 'IMAGE OF DECADENCE': In "At the Moulin Rouge" (1892-95), Toulouse-Lautrec included himself -- at rear with his much taller cousin -- in a view of a typical evening at the Montmartre club.; PHOTOGRAPHER: The Art Institute of Chicago, Helen Birch Bartlett Memorial Collection, 1928.610; TABLES FOR ONE: In "The Hangover" (c. 1888), above, Toulouse-Lautrec explored a theme that Edouard Manet delved into earlier with "Plum Brandy" (c. 1877).; PHOTOGRAPHER: Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University Art Museum Bequest from the Collection of Maurice Wertheim, Class of 1906