Place : Paris - Toulouse Lautrec at the Grand Palais
Date: Thursday- Nov 7th/2019
Crossing the ornate extravagant Alexander III bridge landed, this morning at the "Grand Palais", where a large retrospective exhibit of
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec work was on display.
(from October 9, 2019 to January 27, 2020)
I have previously seen his work at other venues, including in his home town - Albie - at the outskirts of Tuluz , but as I love his work very much , I could not miss this one, especially as it was exhibited in the majestic Grand Palais which I have never frequented before.
Pont Alexander III - French monument built between 1896 and 1900. Historique since 1975
This most emblematic bridge in Paris, due to its remarkable architecture - Beaux-Arts style, with exuberant Art Nouveau lamps, cherubs, nymphs and winged horses, as well as due to its strategic location, was inaugurated in 1900 for the Exposition Universelle - World's Fair.
The four extremities at either 4 ends, are huge (17 metre-high pylons) and crowned with gilt bronze sculptured winged horses, representing the illustrious Arts, Sciences, Commerce and Industry.
The bridge crossing from the Left bank of the Seine lands into the premises,of the Petit Palais (which I wrote about) and the Grand Palais, where we were heading to, as well as connects the Invalides and Eiffel Tower on the Left Bank with Champs-Élysées quarter on the Right.
Named after Tsar Alexander III, (who had concluded the Franco-Russian Alliance in 1892) by His son Nicholas II who laid the foundation stone in October 1896.
Grand Palais - des Champs-Élysées
Museum Exhibition Complex- an historic monument since 2000
Like the bridge, this iconic monument, GRAND size wise, as well as in architectural style (a Beaux-Arts ornately decoration masterpiece of stone, steel and glass), was built for the Universal Exhibition of 1900, and dedicated “by the French Republic to the glory of French art”.
Yet it was used for other purposes throughout history :
The Palais was used as a military hospital during World War I, employing local artists not deployed to the front, to decorate hospital rooms or to make moulds for prosthetic limbs.
The Nazis put the Palais to use during the Occupation of France in World War II. as a truck depot, and to housed 2 Nazi propaganda exhibitions. and later the Parisian resistance used the Grand Palais as a headquarters during the Liberation of Paris.
It is comprises 3 major sites used now a days as follows:
*A long (240m) Nave - dedicated to a wide variety of major national and international events: (horse riding, contemporary art, fairground)
*The National Galleries- dedicated to large-scale exhibitions of famous remarkable artists( Picasso, Hopper, Renoir, Lutrec)
First major Henri Matisse retrospective after his death was held here.
*The Palais de la Découverte - a museum and cultural centre dedicated to science , showcasing permanent collections and temporary exhibitions.
Its largest indoor ice rink in the world (2,700 m²) will reopen from Dec. 13, 2019 to Jan. 8, 2020.
This fantastic expressive realism exhibition of Lautrec's art works was co-curated with the Musée d’Orsay, the Musée de l’Orangerie and the Réunion des musées nationaux, and supported by the city of Albi - Lautrec's birth place, and the Musée Toulouse-Lautrec.
Lautrec (1840 1901) whose paintings chronicle Parisian nightlife during the Belle Époque, and modern alienation, as well as the era of most famous personalities, is commonly known for painting depictions of intense shady night's life pleasure seeking.
These depictions were inspired and triggered by his own longing for freedom and pleasure consumption of insatiable desire for theatrical scenes, cabarets, can can dancing and brothels.
Those experienced subjects and content matters, were transformed through his impressions, into painting on realism subjects of dissolute life, lived in a rapid cruel pace often portrayed in caricatured manner.
Instead of focusing on the meaningless and judgmental negativity assigned to Lautrec's work's depictions, including certain despise of the values of his class, charged with overused night and sex,
the exhibition aim was: to defy the rejections influencing that current vision of Lautrec, clearing them out, and replacing this “conflictual
vision of his modernity” with a more positive one, by directing the spectator toward the meaning assigned, the openness about, and acceptance of - the other, the different, and less fortunate, as it was witnessed by him in the culture of Montmartre, and toward whom Lautrec,-being so physically different himself - had much empathy.
His famous representation work portrayed this cruel world and life of : Cabaret dancers, ladies of the night, as well as of acrobats and clowns who had a sense of sadness about them, with a unique strength and without ever falling into judgment. The artist sought to go beyond painting frivolous images and moments of belle époque life at the start of the 20th century and indeed managed, like no other, to translate the world “with a unique force making ‘present life’ more intense and meaningful.
Strenuous work and nightlife, syphilis and alcohol abuse gradually caused is health to decline and altered his behavior which compelled his parent to commit him into private clinics.
Lautrec's painting of Van-Gogh
In the heart of the exhibition are also his correspondence letters with Manet, Degas, Forain and even Ingres, as well as depictions of
his art in the acclaimed Literary and Art Journal of the era:
"La Revue Blanche" (1889-1903) founded by the Natanson brothers
Lautrec's paintings of Natanson's family members, got me intrigued by the Natansons
This Progressive Journal which was founded by the 3 Natanson Brothers : Alexandre, Thadee and Louise-alfred, was open to avan-garde ideas, and had featured essays and art work of the most famous writers and artists of the era. It covered all issues– political, artistic and social – providing a platform for the major debates that preoccupied society at that moment of transition from the 19th to the 20th century, from views on anarchism to Dreyfus trial and in support of Oscar wild in his struggle with the British judicial system.
The brothers were descendent of a rich Jewish banker from Poland who immigrated to Paris with his Russian wife and the 3 boys.
Tadee Natanson (1868 -1951) a lawyer, journalist, art critique businessman, and art collector, and his wife Misia - a gifted pianist who was often featured on many of the Journal's coverings, were both very active with the publication, and were close friends of Lautrec as with many other known artists, who were all in love with Misia. At that time she was the embodiment of the elegant of "La Revue blanche".
A regular visitor to the Journal's premise on rue laffitte, as a guest of the Natansons, Lautrec became part of the "Painters of the la rue Blanche" including Bonnard Vuillard whose original prints were also published in the Review
1895 Lautrec's poster publication features Tadee Natanson's wife - Misia - ice-skating at the Palais de Glace (an ice rink opened at the Rond-Point des Champs Elysses) as embodiment of all modern.
A Jewish family of Bankers, Industrialist (textile, soap & pioneer in the cosmetic industry in Poland), Sugar and banking) scholars, started with the patriarch Volf Zelig who had 8 children - Adam Natanson one of them who moved to France with his 3 sons.
There is also Lautrec's 1896 painting of the famous black clown - dancing- The son of slaves and darling of bourgeois Paris, Rafael Padilla – known as "Chocolat"
A 2016 fantastic film was made on "Cocolat's" life
Loie Fuller - Snake Dance
There is also Lautrec's 1893 painting of the American dancer
Fuller is also featured in a 2016 film named "La danseuse" which I saw and liked.
To be continued...