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In the years when Art Nouveau reigned supreme, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and his contemporaries filled the boulevards of the French capital with colorful designs, giving rise to a period of poster mania and the images most readily associated with fin-de-siecle Paris. During the turn of the century painters in Paris took to making prints in greater numbers than ever before in the history of French art; working together with adventurous publishers and skillful printers, they produced some of the most beautiful color prints ever made.
Selected from the Museum's collection, over 100 prints by leading Impressionist and Post-Impressionist painters are exhibited in Paris in the 1890s. Also featured are posters, song sheet covers, magazine supplements, and a splendid array of limited-edition prints executed by some of the best-known artists of the day, including Mary Cassatt, Edgar Degas, Paul Gauguin, Odilon Redon, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Paul Signac. Among the highlights of the exhibition are three celebrated sets of color lithographs by Pierre Bonnard, Édouard Vuillard, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.
Most of the color prints on view are in pristine, unfaded condition, having been only rarely shown before. Among the highlights of the exhibition are three celebrated suites of color lithographs by Pierre Bonnard, Édouard Vuillard, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Consisting of thirteen lithographs apiece, Bonnard's Some Aspects of the City of Paris and Vuillard's Landscapes and Interiors, offer a melange of views, alternating scenes of quiet domesticity with glimpses of the city's bustling streets. Toulouse-Lautrec, on the other hand, presents quite a different slice of life in a series of ten prints titled Women, an intimate chronicle of the daily routine of a Paris brothel.
During the 1890s, a new generation of artists flooded Paris with prints that bridged the gap between mass-produced hand-colored lithography and limited edition black-and-white etching, until that time considered the only suitable method for painters to make original prints. The boulevards of Paris were awash in color posters by Toulouse-Lautrec and his cohorts, who saw no conflict between such commercial work and fine art. Painters supplied prints as program covers for experimental theaters and as song sheets for cabaret stars, while avant-garde art journals and political newspapers now regularly included original fine prints as bonuses for subscribers. A sampling of posters, song sheet covers, and magazine supplements produced by prominent painters are on display along with a splendid array of limited-edition prints, in black-and-white as well as color, by a roster of the best-known artists of the day, including Mary Cassatt, Edgar Degas, Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh, Camille Pissarro, Odilon Redon, Paul Signac and Félix Vallatton.
The printmaking accomplishments at the end of the last century of all of these famous painters are surveyed in Post-Impressionist Prints: Paris in the 1890s, an 80-page soft cover book with 48 illustrations (36 in color), published by the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
By John Ittmann, Curator of Prints, Philadelphia Museum of Art