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Sunday, 26 October 2014

Henri de Toulouse –Lautrec: The Stars and Starlets

Henri de Toulouse –Lautrec’s production is closely related to Parisian worldly life and, coinciding with the height of the café dansant era, it deals with the world of the stars at the end of the century. The glories of Yvette Guilbert, Aristide Bruant, and Jane Avril were mostly recorded by the little artist’s incisive pencil, which portrayed them in action on stage or in poster presentations of the shows. The master’s work documented their triumphs step by step.

Aristide Bruant, bound to Toulouse –Lautrec by a long friendship, was a modest railroad employee who became a famous popular singer and then opened his own cabaret, Le Mirliton, at 84 Boulevrad Rochechouart.

Aristide Bruant

France, 1851–1925.
Composer and song-writer, he created his own genre of very realistic, often anarchical songs with lewd quips addressed to the audience.
Jane Avril (1868-1943)
dancer, singer and actress, Jane Avril did frenetic dances in the fashionable Parisian nightclubs. Later she was also highly successful in London. 

Ethereal, good looking, refined and elegant, yet gifted with devilish energy, and with the nickname “La Melinite” (a substance similar to dynamite), Jane Avril was considered the incarnation of dance. She lived surrounded by a crowded court of admirers, of whom Toulouse –Lautrec was the most constant.
Jane Avril Queen of Montmartre and The Moulin Rouge

An American from Illinois, Loie Fuller was the “butterfly” of Paris. With a specialized team of electricians she perfected a show based on the use of hand-held sticks to twirl veils around her body while standing with her legs still.
Yvette Guilbert (1894, Albi, Musee Toulouse –Lautrec). This charcoal drawing was a study for a never realized poster. The project was refused by Guilbert who saw herself portrayed as very ugly. In a letter to the artist about the portrait she wrote: "For heaven's sake, don't make me so atrociously ugly! Many people who come to visit haven't been able to withhold terrible cries upon seeing it." 

Authorized since 1876, the shows with these dancers and singers were accused of competing with the theater. Actually they were directed toward a popular public, offering a low priced amusement. Despite censure, these shows were the norm in places that allowed freedom of expression.

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