Toulouse has been a long time favorite of mine and I was excited to find out there was a museum, dedicated to him, not too far away. I bought my Mom a set of Toulouse-Lautrec coasters on my first trip to Paris, in 1977. One of the coasters survived the 40 year stretch, and I treasure it and have in my home today. My Mom loved all things Parisian and French, and true to form, she researched him, wrote to tell me all about him, and sent me a book about him the next Christmas.
The Toulouse-Lautrec Museum was about a 2 hour drive, on back roads, from Carcassonne to the town of Albi. It was a cold, bleak, rainy day, the kind I like, and we even ran into snow as we crossed a mountain. It was, however, colder than I anticipated, and I froze as we wandered the town looking for the museum.
The museum has the largest public collection of his works and is arrange in chronological order, so one can follow his progress as an artist. Toulouse-Lautrec is famous for his portraits, paintings of brothels, but especially for his lithograph posters of the colorful and theatrical night-life of Paris at the end of the 1800’s. Many of his paintings are very simple but dramatic. His bold lines and color advertised shows and stars in the dancehalls in the Montmartre District of Paris (that I’ll visit next week) and at the famed Moulin Rouge. He is considered the forerunner of 20th century poster art. Toulouse also did advertisements for buisnesses and the covers of some publications. These covers made me think of the vintage covers of Vogue magazine. He was truly a unique and innovative artist for his time.
The museum, established in 1922, is in the Palais de la Berbie, an imposing 13th century fortress for the bishops of Albi, that became more of a palace with changes and improvements in the 17th and 18th century. The Palais de la Berbie is a UNESCO World Heritage Site
The town looked quite charming, but it was a cold, rainy day, so instead of exploring it, we stopped for a pizza before heading back to Carcassonne. Tomorrow we are off to Saint Rémy de Provence, a pretty and picturesque town where Van Gogh painted Starry Night, Nostradamus was born and Dr Albert Schweitzer was a prisoner.