The Allentown Art Museum of the Lehigh Valley is thrilled to be one of the first venues outside of Europe—and the closest to Philadelphia and New York—to host Toulouse-Lautrec and His World. This popular exhibition is on loan from the collection of the Herakleidon Museum in Athens, Greece, and focuses on the art and life of one of the most fascinating artists and personalities of the Belle Époque (Beautiful Era) in France, which dates from the late nineteenth century through World War I. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec lived in Paris during this colorful time of cabarets and cafés, and he captured its famous singers, actors, and other characters in his highly celebrated posters, prints, and sketches.

At the center of this exhibition of approximately 150 works is a rare collection of original works on paper. Some of these are accompanied by appropriate passages from French literature, photographs, and other objects, in order to help the viewer better understand the atmosphere of the period.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864–1901) was greatly influenced by the French Impressionist movement and strove to incorporate the ideals of such painters as Monet and Renoir into his own work. Categorized as a Post-Impressionist, he is best known for his works depicting scenes from cabarets, theaters, dancehalls, and brothels. These were social scenes and experiences that he himself lived through when he moved to the north district of Montmartre in Paris in 1885. His interest lay in portraying people, not only those he met during his nights on the town but also his friends and the working-class citizens of Paris.


The Toulouse-Lautrec exhibition was a major hit! The collection itself is marvelous, including so many aspects of Lautrec’s career, from small-scale illustrations for periodicals and books, as well as original drawings that show his “hand,” to the large-scale posters that made his career. These rare and fragile works were in excellent condition.
The exhibition was very well attended and lent itself to so many exciting programs. A big hit was the French Fridays gallery talks, which were so crowded that we needed to split the group into two separate tours some weeks! Sunday lectures were also popular. They included Mr. Firos talking about his collection, which was a real treat, and Professor Lisa Norris discussing the “Belle-Epoque.” Children’s summer workshops were also lively, planned around the themes of making posters, sketching in the galleries, and “French Flair, Food, and Fun.” Our children’s area, Art Ways, was developed into an interactive area with the theme of the Moulin Rouge.
In sum, we were delighted with the collection and the associated programs were able to develop.

DIANE FISCHER, Chief CuratorThe Allentown Art Museum, Allentown, PA USA