Toulouse-Lautrec, brushes and a Moulin

8 février 2017

If Albi saw the birth of one of the greatest painters of the nineteenth century, Montmartre have revealed it to the eyes of the whole world. Enlivened by the Parisian evenings, the work of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec remains in history as one of the most striking representations of the French frivolity of the Belle Epoque.

Le Moulin Rouge, a special place

"The Parisians do not realize it, but the reputation of the Moulin Rouge abroad is ten times higher than the one in France," says Olivier Villalon, director of the institution. Mythical cabaret of the French capital, the establishment founded in 1889 in the XVIIIth arrondissement, now shines for more than 120 years without having taken a single wrinkle. Time and time again, filmed, sung, copied and sublimated, the Moulin Rouge and its spectacular representations owe a part of their current fame to many elements that have made it enter the collective and popular culture. 

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How not to think about the memorable and Oscar-winning film Moulin-Rouge, which saw in 2001 the cameras of Baz Luhrmann pacing the corridors and the cabaret scene to tell a love story perfectly interpreted by Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor. But long before the heady chorus of Lady Marmelade of the quartet Christina Aguilera, Lil'Kim, Mya and Pink who repeatedly quotes the Moulin Rouge in what was one of the tubes of the 2000’s, long before the jokes of Gad Elmaleh in The “Coco” film and well before an almost perfect representation of the institution was made in Las Vegas, the Moulin Rouge, in its beginnings, was only a cabaret among the others. In the Paris of the Belle Epoque of the 1900s, in the middle of the Olympia, the Chat Noir, the Folies Bergères or the Bal Tabarin, the institution fulfills its mission perfectly to enable a whole fringe of the Parisian bourgeois population Rogue hoodlums, to slap into a trendy neighborhood. But beyond its revolutionary architecture that allowed rapid changes of scenery, beyond the champagne festive evenings and unprecedented attractions, the Moulin Rouge was already a bit of a place apart, thanks to the artists who liked to frequent its rooms regularly. But it is especially with one of them, the most emblematic, that the cabaret knew a fast and international notoriety, a certain Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, whose name will remain eternally linked to the Moulin Rouge.

When fate becomes involved

Henri-Marie Raymond of Toulouse-Lautrec-Monfa, was born in November 24, 1864 in Albi, of an old aristocratic family coming from the oldest provincial nobility. His mother, Adèle Tapié de Céleyran, married his cousin Alphonse, count of Toulouse-Lautrec, emeritus horseman, passionate, like all his lineage, by hunting and riding. Little Henri grew up between the castle of Bosc, located north of Albi in the Rouergue and the castle of Céleyran, near Narbonne. For Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, the year 1878 is markable: he is the victim of an accident that takes place in the living room of his native house. The young man rises from a low chair, slips and fractures the left femur. Less than a year later, he fractures the other leg as a result of a totally banal fall. It should be noted that Toulouse-Lautrec suffers from a bone disease of congenital origin presumably due to the consanguineous marriage of his parents, first cousins. Sometimes destiny puts an evil pleasure in doing things and it will guide the young man forever. Immobilized for many months, he occupied his days by drawing and then painting, mainly horses, developing a taste widespread among his entourage, and a gift that he had manifested very young, until making it a vocation: he will be a painter. 

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After apprehending the academic painting in Princeteau's studio, Toulouse-Lautrec entered the studio of Leon Bonnat in 1882, then in the one of Fernand Cormon at the Ecole des Beaux Arts. He met Van Gogh, he approached and then detached himself from Impressionism to tame the independent movement like Renoir, but his undisputed master remained Edgar Degas. But once settled in Paris, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec discovers Montmartre and its popular entertainment, which will become an infinite source of inspiration for the painter.

The image of the most famous cabaret in the world

"As a sort of refuge, he devoted himself to his passion for drawing and painting. He developed his art in Paris, in the Montmartre district, where he painted particular characters or scenes from the life of this neighborhood and the cabarets that he frequents at night. He becomes a regular, whose table is reserved every evening. The Moulin Rouge, associated with the famous quadrille which will become the French cancan, constitutes for Toulouse-Lautrec a very important source of inspiration" explains Jacques Marec, speaker. The painter of Albi reveals himself discovering Montmartre where reigns a great melting pot of social classes and cultures. Misty by the evenings where alcohol is everywhere, his eyes smoked by cigarettes and pipes, he draws his subjects in amusements, balls, cafes-concerts, circuses and theaters, in spectacles mixing colors and sounds, unbridled charms and popular joys. He is trained by all that is new, by the personality of certain stars such as Caudieux, a comedian cafe-concert nicknamed "L'Homme-canon", or Valentin “the boneless", or again by the banter of the songwriters who surround the cabarets every night.

But a nocturnal institution attracts Toulouse-Lautrec more than the others. At its creation in 1889 by Joseph Oller and Charles Zidler, the Moulin Rouge is a great success and the public comes to indulge in the pleasures of dancing on the immense track, to discover the mirrors, the gallery but also the garden - and his immense elephant - of the Moulin Rouge. How to talk about the Moulin Rouge without mentioning the dance that made its international fame: the French Cancan. It was the great British master of the music hall Charles Morton, inspired by the quadrille, which renamed it French Cancan in 1861. In 1891, following an order from Charles Zidler, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec made the first poster "Moulin-Rouge, la Goulue" which was a success as much for the painter as for the Moulin. It remains today the image of the most famous cabaret in the world. This encouraged Lautrec to get in the creation of posters and, more broadly, lithographs. Between 1891 and 1900, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec created nearly thirty posters and more than 320 lithographs which enabled him to make himself known to the general public. Lautrec no longer only sets the nightlife. He creates posters to advertise novels, soap operas, magazines, advertising...

Following a crisis of delirium tremens, he will be interned in a clinic by his family. He will have to follow a detox, he who used to absorb mixtures of alcohol every night. In 1900, his mother was obliged to reduce her pension because the vine gave her less money. In 1901, when he was very weak, he made a pilgrimage to all those whom he knew well and died in his family at the age of 36, leaving behind him more than 1,000 paintings, 350 lithographs and about 5,000 drawings. The Toulouse-Lautrec museum in Albi, opened in 1922, includes a collection of works by the artist whose name will remain forever associated with the Moulin Rouge, even more than the one of Nicole Kidman.

Nicole Garilli, a tribute to the spectacle of life

With a cabaret music father, Nicole grew up in an artistic environment. Music occupies a very early place in his life. Little girl, she devotes herself to all sorts of creative activities to the feverish rhythm of jazz. After studying and starting a professional life very far from the artistic milieu, she succumbed to the call of her passion by starting in 2000 a training course at the Higher School of Art in Perpignan. In 2012, she created a workshop in Collioure. With its lot of surprises and unexpected, life inspires her in all its instability. Her art is in perpetual change. Ideas and projects jostle in her head creating new inspirations. With a quick brush stroke, the artist loves to grasp the movement. Her joyous characters really seem to move on the flat surface of the support. Nicole creates animated compositions in the style of a comic strip. Free and spontaneous, her works maliciously crack the marvelous spectacle of life.

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