Toulouse-Lautrec and Photography
Kunstmuseum Bern
Hodlerstrasse 8–12, CH-3000 Bern 7, Switzerland

For the first time ever, the Kunstmuseum Bern will be juxtaposing the work of the world-famous French artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901) with the photography of his time. It will be confronting his paintings, drawings, lithographs, and posters with contemporary photographs that contain the same or very similar motifs, often having in fact served the artist as models for his work. 

None of the photographs were made by Toulouse-Lautrec. In fact he never took pictures himself, but did often commission his friends to do it for him.  Sometimes he would use these pictures as models or templates for his art, or sometimes he desired stage performances to be visually documented. Indeed, Toulouse-Lautrec had a profoundly photographic eye like hardly another artist of his epoch. Whatever he depicted and how he did so would have been inconceivable without photography. This is not only evidenced in his ingenious compositions with their cropped figures, but also his sketchy style is intrinsically linked to it: just as modern photography had as its goal, Toulouse-Lautrec, too, sought greatest spontaneity in capturing the fleeting moment. And who could have painted the artificial world of Paris’s red-light district Montmartre, its seductive delights and the downfalls or the ruin lurking behind its bright facades, as truthfully and matter-of-factly—as photographically—as Toulouse-Lautrec?

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s painting Madame Misia Natanson au piano (1897) belongs to the Kunstmuseum Bern Collection. Misia Natanson, wife of the publisher Thadée Natanson, was a much-admired personage in Parisian artistic circles. The exhibition is devoting a whole separate section to her and her illustrious circle. The painting will be mounted in the exhibition room alongside other paintings, prints, and photographs. The Kunstmuseum Bern Collection also owns a number of prints by Toulouse-Lautrec, and, in view of the pending exhibition, was able to accrue further prints in 2014.

The exhibition will be rounded off by a supplementary program comprising films, themed guided tours, and concerts—as well as a catalogue comprising research contributions and color plates.

Image: Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, At the Moulin Rouge, La Goulue with Her Sister, 1892 © Sammlung E.W.K., Bern


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