Sunday, 28 August 2011

Toulouse-Lautrec, Mike Smith and the Courtauld Gallery

Toulouse-Lautrec and Jane Avril,
Beyond The Moulin Rouge
at the Courtauld Gallery:

This very small exhibition, thats squeezed into 2 rooms, is arguably most suited to fans of Toulouse-Lautrec's work and/or all things burlesque! Having said that, the entry fee is certainly worth paying for any art fan to see the Courtauld's impressive small collection, from Rubens to Kandinsky. For fans of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism especially, its one of London's must-see collections. This includes some familiar masterpieces, such as Manet's A Bar at the Folies-Bergere (1881-82) and Van Gogh's Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear (1889).

Although Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec's poster designs (for the Moulin Rouge) are what he is more famous for producing, he was arguably more accomplished using oil on canvas. I feel that in paintings such as At the Moulin Rouge (1892 - 95) (below) Toulouse-Lautrec manages to capture what it was like at the club far more effectively than in his posters. Two of the performers are on stage and preparing to perform respectively, whilst people socialise and drink in what is obviously a colourful and vibrant atmosphere. Even the face of the female dancer, in the foreground on the right, has been painted with a dramatic mask-like quality that in itself looks befitting of a theatre stage.

At the Moulin Rouge (1892 - 95), Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.
Copyright - The Art Institute of Chicago

The first room of the exhibiton tells (the dancer) Jane Avril's story, whilst in the second we see her more through Toulouse-Lautrec's work. For fans of the artist there is also a nearby room of Toulouse-Lautrec's lithogragh's as part of the Courtauld's permanent collection.

If starting with the Renaissance Europe room and working round the galleries chronologically, it is maybe worth saving the more contemporary room on the ground floor until last. The highlight of this Falling Up, The Gravity of Art exhibition is perhaps another of Cornelia Parker's hanging sculptures. In Neither From Nor Towards (1992) (below) Parker used various sizes of smooth stones and bricks, most of which are suspended at various heights off the floor:

Neither From Nor Towards (1992), Cornelia Parker

Finally, at Somerset House itself there is a small interesting exhibition of Mike Smith's line drawings of contemporary musicians. Aside from talent spotting as Columbia Records' Managing Director, Smith is a trustee of the New Deal of the Mind charity. All the artworks in these two rooms are for sale, with some of the proceeds going towards their work:

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