An Afternoon with Toulouse-Lautrec

Toulouse-Lautrec at the Milwaukee Art Museum

Earlier this month, I had a super fun day with my goddaughter at the Milwaukee Art Museum (MAM). I’m a huge fan of poster art and she likes fashion, so we checked out the Posters of Paris exhibit. It fit our tastes beautifully.

“In the 1890s, Paris was celebrated as a city of posters,” describes the exhibit details. “Art critics praised these new artistic posters for bringing joy and color to daily life and for ‘giving Paris a museum of pictures, an open-air exhibition’ that changed daily as new posters were pasted up.”

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, La Goulue
Moulin Rouge: La Goulue, 1891
Lithograph printed in four colors; three sheets of wove paper
With permission:

The exhibit’s featured artist is Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, a French painter, printmaker, draughtsman and illustrator. When the Paris cabaret Moulin Rouge opened in 1889, Toulouse-Lautrec was commissioned to do a series of promotional posters.


Toulouse Lautrec La Chaine Simpson
La Chaine Simpson
Lithographed advertisement for a La Chaîne Simpson, 1896
public domain

Even though creating posters was generally pooh-poohed by art community, and even though Toulouse-Lautrec’s aristocracy allowed him financial privilege, his love for the art impassioned him to do more than 300 prints and posters. In turn, these gave notice to his thousands of oil, watercolor, drawing, ceramic and stained glass works, all done within a short 20-year career.


Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Dvian Japonais
Divan Japonais, 1892–93
Lithograph printed in four colors on wove paper
With permission:

Toulouse-Lautrec led a very bohemian lifestyle. Much of his work portrays the decadent goings-on of the times (although the MAM exhibit is tastefully selective). Other pieces, however, show landscapes, portraits and even the Madonna and Child.


The MAM does superb promotions for its exhibits. Wouldn’t this be a fun design or copywriting job?

And of course, there’s the MAM’s architecture! The Brise Soleil itself is a Milwaukee landmark. My favorite is the galleria entry. After coming through a warehouse-like entrance and up an elevator, opening the door to this view is an immediate ‘aaaah’ moment.

Plus, my goddaughter is so beautiful, isn’t she?

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