Evocative art in the Bishop’s Palace

Toulouse-Lautrec Posters Collage

Musée de Toulouse-Lautrec has the world’s largest collection of the artist’s works

The City of Albi in southern France is well known for its wonderful Sainte-Cécile Cathedral, an imposing, fortress-like building, plain on the outside but with an astonishingly rich interior. The adjacent Berbie Palace was built in the same style with fortified walls that reflect its military purpose and the power of the bishops in the years that followed the conflict between the Cathars and the Catholic Church. From the Renaissance to the 18th century the palace was transformed into a more agreeable residence with beautiful salons and a formal French style garden terrace overlooking the River Tarn.

Palais de la Berbie with the Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec Museum
Palais de la Berbie with the Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec Museum

 

WORLD HERITAGE
Albi became an important episcopal city following the Albigensian Crusade against the Cathars in the 13th century. The Cathedral of Sainte-Cécile is the heart of the Episcopal City of Albi World Heritage Site (2010). Also enlisted is its neighbour, the Palais de la Berbie where the bishops lived, the Old Bridge (Pont-Vieux) over River Tarn, the Saint-Salvi church, as well as residential town quarters that remain largely unchanged since the middle ages.

 

Musée de Toulouse-Lautrec

Toulouse-Lautrec
Toulouse-Lautrec

Musée de Toulouse-Lautrec holds a collection of some 1000 of Toulouse-Lautrec’s works, including paintings, lithographs, drawings, studies and not least, his innovative “posters” prints – for which he is perhaps most famous.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec was one of those artists who’s legendary life and work were inseparable. Born of parents who were cousins – and due to a genetic weakness – Toulouse-Lautrec’s legs ceased to grow after two minor accidents during his adolescence. His upper body had normal proportions but he had the legs of a dwarf, making it very difficult for him to walk.

He moved from Albi to Paris in 1882. His early works are mostly in the manner of the Impressionists. During his short life – he died at age 36 – he managed in his own unique ways to immortalize the exuberant lives of Paris’ known and unknown cabaret dancers and prostitutes. He was a master colourist with the observant eye of an outsider, creating evocative works of contemporary art, many of which have since become icons of the art world and Belle Epoque Paris.

Toulouse-Lautrec Posters
Toulouse-Lautrec Posters

His unmistakable style, especially composition-wise but also in choice of subject, was directly influenced by Japanese Ukiyo-e woodprints, highly popular in Paris towards the end of the 19th century. Although the most famous Ukiyo-e prints depict urban scenes and landscapes, the literal translation of the word ukiyo-e would be “floating world pictures”, referring in fact to a somewhat hedonistic world similar to the one Toulouse-Lautrec was attracted to; that of the life of actors, actresses and geisha courtesans, in the context of Paris in his time.

Toulouse-Lautrec’s success as a “poster artist” developed in parallel with new innovations in lithography during the late nineteenth century, permitting larger prints and more colours and nuances.

 

The Berbie Palace Garden
The Berbie Palace Garden

 

Toulouse-Lautrec (1893)
Toulouse-Lautrec (In Bed, 1893)

Sources and Credits:
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Albi Tourism
Musée Toulouse-Lautrec
Header images, photo of Toulouse-Lautrec and “In Bed” via Wikipedia, Public Domain.
Header collage, photos of the Berbie Palace and the Berbie Palace Garden © Asgeir Pedersen, Heredajo