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Big Passions in a Small Body: Toulouse-Lautrec at the Ara Pacis

To most people the French post-Impressionist artist is just a dwarf, alcoholic, and ill. However, sir Lautrec was not only a bohemian painter living a miserable life. He was rich. He had a lot of friends, many interests, and the

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When I talk about Henri Toulouse-Lautrec to my friends, responses are often the same: for most people the French post-Impressionist artist is just a dwarf, an alcoholic, and ill. However, Sir Lautrec was not only a bohemian painter living a miserable life. He was rich. He had a lot of friends, many interests, and a passion for cocktails – meaning he loved to invent new drinks – and his friends were the Guinea pigs!

I am perfectly aware that we all love struggles, sufferings, artists with a dark past, and ears cut off after a crisis (Van Gogh being the best for it!), but, I apologize, this is not the case here.

 

At the Moulin Rouge, La Goulue and her sister, 1892 - Lithograph (in six colours) on wove paper, 64,2x49,7 cm - Budapest, Galleria Nazionale

At the Moulin Rouge, La Goulue and her sister, 1892 – Lithograph (in six colours) on wove paper, 64,2×49,7 cm – Budapest, Galleria Nazionale

 

The artworks on display at the Ara Pacis (until 8 May 2016) are lithographs from the Budapest Museum of Fine Arts and are not arranged chronologically, but thematically. Each room revolves around Lautrec’s public life and interests, and is characterized by a specific color (for instance, the area dedicated to theatre is red-walled). Colors create a clear path through all the subjects of the exhibit without misplacing the visitor. Moreover, they help the visitor understand who Lautrec really was. Of course, he was not a handsome, tall, and healthy person, yet he enjoyed life pleasures more than everyone else.

The exhibit stresses Lautrec’s ironic and unprejudiced approach, through art, to the Paris of Moulin Rouge, theaters, and prostitutes. Lautrec was, somehow, the king of the Parisian nights, and the exhibit perfectly shows this side of the artist, without forgetting his illustrations and more private artworks.

 

The Theatre Box with the Gilded Mask – Playbill for the Théâtre Libre, 1893 - Lithograph (in five colours) on wove paper, 50x32,5 cm - Budapest National Gallery. Courtesy of Ara Pacis.

The Theatre Box with the Gilded Mask – Playbill for the Théâtre Libre, 1893 – Lithograph (in five colours) on wove paper, 50×32,5 cm – Budapest National Gallery. Courtesy of Ara Pacis.

 

The only break in this travel across Lautrec’s world is the corridor in which is explained his approach to the lithograph and his technique. I would have appreciated, instead, a didactic area before the display of any artwork, but the space did not allow it. The first room is too big to be used only for explanative panels. Anyway, I suggest giving a look at the explanation of the “splatter technique”: it is well-done and fun.

 

 La valse des lapins, 1895, lithograph in black on japan paper. Courtesy of the Museum.

La valse des lapins, 1895, lithograph in black on japan paper. Courtesy of the Museum.

 

In the end, the exhibition is quite interesting. Not particularly creative in the use of space, but it is well-organized and not too vast. The viewer can easily approach the artist and change his mind on stereotypes regarding our lovely Henry Toulouse-Lautrec. This exhibition works for both art amateurs, tourists, and students. I also suggest taking a photo dressed as a Moulin Rouge dancer: it’s a bit trashy, but fun!

 


Toulouse-Lautrec

December 4th , 2015 – May 8th, 2016

Museo dell’Ara Pacis, Spazio espositivo Ara Pacis

Address: Lungotevere in Augusta, 00186 Rome.

Info and contacts: http://www.arapacis.it

Opening hours: everyday 9:30- 19:30

Tickets: 11 euros full, 9 euros reduced

 

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