Exhibition: High Kicks and Low Life, Bedford Gallery, Bedford, until April 10 2011
© The Trustees of the British Museum
The 36 years wildchild French eccentric Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec spent on Earth make for a salacious life story.
Born to an aristocratic family, he moved to Paris in 1882 and established a studio among the brothels, nightclubs and dancespots of the Montmatre district, floating through museums and galleries during the day and heading to clubs such as his beloved Moulin Rouge after dark.
His final years were lost to alcohol, but his achievements remain monumentally greater than most of his peers, creating timeless prints which capture the decadent cool the French capital is forever intertwined with.
Divided into sections contemplating the theatrical and everyday sides of life, Lautrec portrays the private lives of can-can dancers and prostitutes, knowing more than most about the latter group due to his residence in several brothels.
He was prolific, etching out posters, theatre programmes, songsheets, periodicals and special edition prints in a chronicle of both the glamorous and the seedy, and his La Blanchisseuse painting sold for £14 million at Christie’s in 2005.
One of just four venues the show is touring to from the British Museum, this also marks the final exhibition at the gallery before it closes for a £6.6 million redevelopment.