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Current time:0:00Total duration:3:11

Video transcript

if it wasn't for the long dresses in the top hats we might mistake this for New York today at 2:00 a.m. or Paris or any other major city 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 we're looking at Toulouse Lautrec at the Moulin Rouge this is what Toulouse Lautrec did so well to represent Paris after dark specifically the clubs that existed on mammarra the hill just north of Paris where artists would mingle with the lower classes in part because of the cheap brands but also because there was a kind of permissiveness the Moulin Rouge was a very popular nightclub with dancing and drinking and music and it was frequented by Toulouse Lautrec who was really irregular there and we actually see him here in the background he's the short figure walking with a very tall man with a top hat 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 in terms of its composition in terms of its treatment of space - the trick is sorrowing from dig ah 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 I N and 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 well 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 on the other hand before we can possibly get to that table we need to address the woman at the right that woman is an famous performer as is the woman with the red hair seated at the table look at the way though Toulouse Lautrec is 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 but I'm not sure that I've ever seen something quite this grotesque electric lights were new to the Moulin Rouge and look at the way that the artists were constructed the sense of the area in the sense of the artificial that comes from this light it's violent it's scary there is this quality of character in 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 men who see them at the top have 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 dark nocturnal world