Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec highlights largest ever exhibition at Polk Museum of Art in Lakeland

The Polk Museum of Art in Lakeland, Florida is on the cusp of opening its newest — and largest ever — exhibition. “Toulouse-Lautrec and the Belle Époque,” features more than 225 works. The exhibition offers visitors remarkable insider access to the world of Post-Impressionist artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.

This large-scale exhibition, which will occupy all three of the Museum’s main gallery spaces, aims to transport audiences back to France. The so-called “Belle Époque,” or “Beautiful Age,” of late 19th century Paris. With its hundreds of works displayed throughout the Museum, this extraordinary exhibition will immerse visitors fully in the avant-garde culture of 1890s France through Toulouse-Lautrec’s illustrations of the period.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

Proclaimed as one of the greatest modern masters, Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901) created an incredible array of works over the course of a decade-long career. From paintings and drawings to his most famous and recognizable prints, posters, and advertisements. In his art, Toulouse-Lautrec depicted the vivid world of Paris at the turn of the 20th century. He recreated the spaces, subjects, and entertainments he loved most.

“It is a privilege to handle the art of a master like Toulouse-Lautrec and to create a compelling narrative that re-introduces our community to an era like late 19th century Paris,” said Matt Belcher, the Museum’s preparator. “This is truly an impressive collection of work, the likes of which we haven’t seen in Central Florida or Polk County before.”

Henri de Toulouse Lautrec ‘La Troupe de Mademoiselle Eglantine’ (WP21), Color Lithograph, 1896 24×32 inches, Courtesy of PAN Art Connections Inc

As Museum visitors will soon discover, Toulouse-Lautrec’s background and upbringing in aristocratic French society stands in stark contrast to the anti-bourgeois world he depicted in his celebrated work. Stunted in his own growth as a child and shunned from elite society, Toulouse-Lautrec used commercial media — most notably advertising — to help collapse the lines that separated what was deemed “high” and “low” art of the time. He widely shared the nonconformist side of Paris in which he felt most at home.

Henri de Toulouse Lautrec’s Paris

“Despite his noble lineage, Toulouse-Lautrec used his art to advertise the anti-elite world of artistic Paris. His Paris was the Paris of outsiders, creatives, and entertainers,” said Dr. Alex Rich, executive director and chief curator. “Toulouse-Lautrec is recalled today as the illustrator of Montmartre, the district of the Moulin Rouge, the cancan, and cabarets. With this spectacular exhibition, which has been in the works for nearly four years and delayed because of the pandemic, we cannot wait finally to welcome our audiences to a storied period where imaginations soared — and hope our visitors’ own imaginations soar in turn as they delve deeply into the world of the Belle Époque.”

“Toulouse-Lautrec and the Belle Époque” will be on view from February 13 to May 23, 2021. The exhibition comes from the collection of Herakleidon Museum, Athena, Greece and is offered through PAN Art Connections, Inc. 

Henri de Toulouse Lautrec, ‘Eldorado_ Aristide Bruant’ (WP5), Color Lithograph, 1892 54×38 inches, Courtesy of PAN Art Connections Inc

About the Polk Museum of Art at Florida Southern College

The Polk Museum of Art at Florida Southern College is a not-for-profit, teaching museum that seeks to enhance lives through inspirational and engaging art experiences for all. It is the largest and only nationally accredited visual arts organization in Polk County and the only Smithsonian Affiliate art museum in Central Florida. The Museum’s COVID hours are Tuesdays–Saturdays 10 am to 3 pm and closed Sunday, Monday, and major holidays. The facility is handicapped accessible and special needs assistance is available. Admission is free, thanks to our strategic partner, The Ting Tsung and Wei Fong Chao Foundation.

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