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Late 19th-Century Paris Documented in Graphic Prints and Posters by Toulouse-Lautrec

Other performers depicted by Toulouse-Lautrec include May Milton, Misia Natanson, and May Belfort.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec Posters Toulouse-Lautrec Prints

Misia Natanson in ‘Confetti' (1894) (Photo: Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons)


In addition to the cabarets' can-can dancers and singers, Toulouse-Lautrec's posters also feature the sites' bohemian patrons. These subjects showcase Toulouse-Lautrec's tendency to people-watch—an activity that manifests in his entire body of work. “Only the human figure exists,” Toulouse-Lautrec explained. “Landscape is, and should be, no more than an accessory; the painter exclusively of landscape is nothing but a bore.”

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec Posters Toulouse-Lautrec Prints

‘At the Moulin Rouge: La Goulue and Her Sister' (1892) (Photo: Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons)

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec Posters Toulouse-Lautrec Prints

‘The Englishman at the Moulin Rouge' (1892) (Photo: Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

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Today, Toulouse-Lautrec's posters are regarded as some of the artist's most recognizable work. On top of their aesthetic value and stylistic significance, the pieces are also celebrated for the modernity of their processes, as they elevated the role of printmaking to an art form and helped to pioneer and popularize graphic design.

To Toulouse-Lautrec, however, the innovative nature of his tools was not nearly as important as the content of his creations. “In our time there are many artists who do something because it is new; they see their value and their justification in this newness,” he explained. “They are deceiving themselves; novelty is seldom the essential. This has to do with one thing only; making a subject better from its intrinsic nature.”

If you'd like to download your own free Toulouse-Lautrec poster, be sure to check out Art of the Poster 1880-1918, a collection of posters from the “Golden Age” of graphic design curated by Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD).

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Kelly Richman-Abdou

Kelly Richman-Abdou is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met. An art historian living in Paris, Kelly was born and raised in San Francisco and holds a BA in Art History from the University of San Francisco and an MA in Art and Museum Studies from Georgetown University. When she’s not writing, you can find Kelly wandering around Paris, whether she’s leading a tour (as a guide, she has been interviewed by BBC World News America and France 24) or simply taking a stroll with her husband and two tiny daughters.
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