In 1891, the French painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec made his renowned print Moulin Rouge, La Goulue using only four colors: black, red, yellow, and white. The image, produced on lithograph paper, depicts the renowned cancan dancer La Goulue and her dance partner, Valentin Le Désossé, to create buzz for the Moulin Rouge, the Montmartre landmark once known for its beautiful young dancers and a guaranteed good time. The cabaret bar was frequently advertised in posters made by Toulouse-Lautrec at the time. He portrays La Goulue in a luxurious white coat, sporting the modern-day “top knot.” The starkness of her outerwear contrasts with the darker shading of her partner’s silhouette, which outlines a prominent top hat.
The prints of Toulouse-Lautrec and his avant-garde contemporary Pierre Bonnard are among many works featured in the new book Prints in Paris 1900: From Elite to the Street, by the Van Gogh Museum’s curator Fleur Roos Rosa De Carvalho. For artists in the 1890s, printing images on lithographic paper was a promising technique — it allowed for art to be produced faster and in greater quantities.
Pierre Bonnard turned to printmaking because of his appreciation of Japanese woodblock prints; his prints aimed to connect the elite and the fine arts with everyday and ordinary subjects. His subjects’ faces are painted in bright colors, whereas their clothing is set in deep-black ink with minor detailing, drawing the viewer’s eye to facial expressions. Many of his works playing with silhouettes appeared in the French art and literary journal La Revue Blanche, in 1894.
Prints in Paris 1900: From Elite to the Street is out now from Mercatorfonds, after a show at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam that ended in June. The book is distributed in the U.S. and U.K. by Yale University Press.
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