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Europe 1800 - 1900

Course: Europe 1800 - 1900 > Unit 5

Lesson 4: Post-Impressionism

Toulouse-Lautrec, At the Moulin Rouge

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, At the Moulin Rouge, 1893-95, oil on canvas, 48-1/2 x 55-1/2 inches / 123 x 141 cm (Art Institute of Chicago). Created by Beth Harris and Steven Zucker.

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  • leaf orange style avatar for user Jeff Kelman
    I know we earlier discussed how many artists of this time were men and women "of means" which is especially reinforced here at when Dr. Zucker says "...where artists would mingle with the lower classes..." implying that ARTISTS were not themselves among the poor! When did we break away from this? When did this notion of the "starving artist" become a common stereotype?
    (5 votes)
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    • orange juice squid orange style avatar for user Beth
      From the author:Answering this question rather late! I think the stereotype of the starving artist has nothing to do with the class the artist is from, but rather from an idea of the avant-garde, that is of artists who self-consciously break from tradition and the established art world, to forge a new kind of art. And this idea of the value of the avant-garde happens in the nineteenth century, as the forces of the art market and a mass middle class audience for art become overwhelming. Does that help?
      (4 votes)
  • male robot hal style avatar for user Aaron
    Where does this panting take place?
    (2 votes)
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    • leaf blue style avatar for user Ellen B Cutler
      At the cafe-club called the "Moulin Rouge" or the "Red Windmill." The Moulin Rouge was in Pigalle on the Boulevard Clichy, a socially questionable district adjacent to Montmartre, the area north of the center on top of a hill--the Butte Montmartre. The white church with onion domes called Sacre Coeur sits right at the top of the hill. the club was built in 1889 so it was pretty new and extremely fashionable when Toulouse-Lautrec was working.
      (7 votes)
  • leaf green style avatar for user John
    Is the distinct diagonal at the lower left inspired by Japanese woodblock prints?
    (4 votes)
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  • primosaur ultimate style avatar for user Jonathan Gracey
    At , Dr. Harris says "They're all obviously a little bit drunk". I realize it's safe to assume they are a bit drunk because they're in a nightclub and we see glasses on the table, but I couldn't help but be a bit repulsed by the comment. It's not obvious. I don't like to assume anything about a person and claiming something to be obvious makes me feel arrogant. Did anyone else have a similar reaction? In Dr. Harris' defense, basing one's perspective of this painting on the idea that these folks seated around the table are a little drunk does offer a more interesting story to tell. It does engage me more. Does anyone have experience in dealing with the feeling one gets when an art expert come across as pretentious, even when it may not be justified?
    (0 votes)
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    • female robot grace style avatar for user Walks on the Clouds
      Those faces! Look at those faces! They're definitely a little bit drunk. I agree with what is said in the video: Toulouse-Lautrec almost makes us want to grab a chair and join the group. It looks like fun.
      Thanks to Beth & Steven for these amazingly welcoming, succinct, yet rich introductions to art.
      (6 votes)
  • primosaur ultimate style avatar for user Noodlebasher
    at she says that the two women are famous performers, does anyone know who they are?
    (3 votes)
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  • orange juice squid orange style avatar for user M@gg!3
    what medium did he use?
    (1 vote)
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Video transcript

(jazzy music) Female: If it wasn't for the long dresses and the top hats, we might mistake this for New York today at 2 AM, or Paris, or any other major city. Male: You do have this real sense that it's too late at night; maybe it's close to last call. We're in the Art Institute of Chicago and we're looking at Toulouse-Lautrec's At the Moulin Rouge. This is what Toulouse-Lautrec did so well to represent Paris after dark, specifically the clubs that existed on Monte Martre, the hill just north of Paris, where artists would mingle with the lower classes in part because of the cheap rents but also because there was a kind of permissiveness. Female: The Moulin Rouge was a very popular nightclub with dancing and drinking and music. It was frequented by Toulouse-Lautrec who was really a regular there. We actually see him here in the background. He's the short figure walking with a very tall man with a top hat. Male: Even though this was seedy, even though this was really not quite proper, and probably because it wasn't quite proper, the middle class, at least the adventurous middle class, would venture into these clubs at night. Female: In terms of its composition, in terms of its treatment of space, Toulouse-Lautrec is borrowing from Degas. Male: Look, for instance, at the balustrade that begins in the bottom of the canvas and then moves up so quickly to the left. The balustrade actually separates us from this room, but it also allows our eye in. I want to go in. In fact, I want to eavesdrop on the conversation at that table. I want to find a chair and sit down. Female: I think Toulouse-Lautrec is actually setting us up for that feeling. He's divided us from that group by that balustrade, and he's created a sense of interesting conversation happening between them. They all lean in a little bit. They're all obviously a little bit drunk, but they look very engaged in conversation, which we feel we can't quite hear, perhaps because the music is a little bit too loud. Male: On the other hand, before we can possibly get to that table, we need to address the woman at the right. Female: That woman is a famous performer as is the woman with the red hair seated at the table. Male: Look at the way Toulouse-Lautrec has rendered her face. Even in Degas' work, he's often rendering ballet dancers, for example, with stage lights coming up from below, which distorts and disfigures their faces. I'm not sure that I've ever seen something quite this grotesque. Female: Electric lights were new to the Moulin Rouge. Male: Look at the way that the artist has constructed the sense of the alien, the sense of the artificial that comes from this light. It's violent. It's scary. There is this quality of caricature, yet at the same time, there's also a kind of sensitivity and a kind of humanity. The figures are specific, but there's a kind of kindness, for instance, in the man who's seated with a top hat closest to us. There is a genuine kind of camaraderie, a genuine kind of community that this artist is able to produce, even within this stark, nocturnal world. (jazzy music)