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Prints and Multiples / Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901) Ambassadeurs Aristide Bruant Lithograph in colours, 1892, on two joined sheets of wove paper (as issued), Wittrock's only state, printed by Ancourt, Paris, with the République Française inkstamp, with margins, laid onto linen, with vertical and horizontal folds, skillfully repaired splits and losses and touched-in restorations in places, surface dirt, mainly to the margins, the colours slightly attenuated but still good, framed; together with the original Les Chansonniers de Montmartre songbook, a special edition on Aristide BruantSheet 1364 x 939mm. (57 x 37 7/8 in.)

Lot 3
*
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
(1864-1901)
Ambassadeurs: Aristide Bruant
29 June 2022, 14:00 BST
London, New Bond Street

Sold for £25,500 inc. premium

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Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901)

Ambassadeurs: Aristide Bruant (Delteil 343; Adriani 3; Wittrock P4)
Lithograph in colours, 1892, on two joined sheets of wove paper (as issued), Wittrock's only state, printed by Ancourt, Paris, with the République Française inkstamp, with margins, laid onto linen, with vertical and horizontal folds, skillfully repaired splits and losses and touched-in restorations in places, surface dirt, mainly to the margins, the colours slightly attenuated but still good, framed; together with the original Les Chansonniers de Montmartre songbook, a special edition on Aristide Bruant

Sheet 1364 x 939mm. (57 x 37 7/8 in.)

Footnotes

Toulouse-Lautrec's oeuvre includes paintings, prints and drawings and he considered printmaking to be just as important as painting. It was in lithography later in his career that he would excel and seal his reputation as one of the greatest colour lithographers of the 19th century.

He moved to Paris in 1882 where he experimented with lithography, using dramatic scale, bold outlines and bright colours, inspired by the aesthetics of Japanese woodblock prints which were popular at the time. Toulouse-Lautrec's studio was in Montmartre and he became very well acquainted with the theatrical world, having accepted commissions in the local dance-halls in the 1880s. His paintings hung at the Moulin Rouge and Le Mirliton, where his friend Aristide Bruant was a cabaret singer.

He produced 351 lithographs within a ten-year period. Twenty-eight of these were posters which were incredibly popular. Moulin Rouge-La Goulue, produced for the opening of the eponymous cabaret, was an overnight sensation and more commissions followed.

Aristide Bruant commissioned the present poster to advertise his new act at the Ambassadeurs café-concert just off the Champs-Elysées, having moved from Montmartre to the more fashionable boulevards of central Paris. Toulouse-Lautrec's knowledge of this world and his friendship with Bruant gave him an advantage when producing these images. He conveys Bruant's big personality by filling the frame with his imposing figure and depicting him in his recognizable customary attire of cape, broad-brimmed hat and bright red scarf, using primary colours to capture people's attention.

Toulouse-Lautrec became adept at producing the effects he wanted to render his subjects in just the right way. For Ambassadeurs he drew directly onto the stone and also employed a brush spatter technique where a fine mist of colour is sprayed onto the stone using a brush and mesh. Separate stones were used for each colour and printed in a particular order so they did not interfere with each other and registration marks ensured that they were all in the correct place. Toulouse-Lautrec was assisted by the Ancourt printing firm to print these posters. Their presses were not large enough to print the posters in a single pull so two sheets were used and stuck together.

As a commercial poster it was printed in a large edition on thin wove paper and not intended to last a long time, so it is remarkable that it has endured. This impression has been in the same family since the 1940s when it was acquired by the owner's father during a sojourn in Paris. It is accompanied by a copy of Les Chansonniers de Montmartre songbook, containing the sheet music and words for songs in Bruant's act, a further enticement for the audience.

It is a testament to Toulouse-Lautrec's technical skill, his powers of observation and use of colour that these images captured people's imagination and became part of the visual language of the belle époque era.

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