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Toulouse-Lautrec and the Stars of Paris at the MFA

Toulouse-Lautrec and the Stars of Paris at the MFA

Boston, MA– Art should be accessible for everyone, regardless of zip code, education, or age. The artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901) and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston both embody the principle that art is for everyone. In partnership with the Boston Public Library, which has loaned its collection of rarely seen works by the artist, the MFA will display around 200 works by Toulouse-Lautrec and his contemporaries. And for the month of June, all Boston Public Library cardholders will be granted free admission to the MFA.

The MFA exhibition “Toulouse-Lautrec and the Stars of Paris” opens on Sunday April 7th (with an MFA Member Preview from April 2-6). Toulouse-Lautrec captured the bold colors and personalities of the stars of his time: nightclub dancers, singers, and other performers including Sarah Bernhardt, Jane Avril, and Aristide Bruant. His iconic works laid the groundwork for our modern celebrity culture; our fascination with the stars.

“The exhibition addresses the roots of a major aspect of public life today: celebrity culture and the power of images,” said Helen Burnham, the Pamela and Peter Voss Curator of Prints and Drawings. His works promoted each star's fame and gave them a distinct public image. Toulouse-Lautrec’s commercial and promotional posters, which were displayed in public view on poster walls around Paris, would have been perhaps the most familiar and accessible art of the time.

Though he came from an aristocratic background, Toulouse-Lautrec socialized with the margins of French society in the Montmartre neighborhood of Paris, known for its brothels and nightclubs like the famous Moulin Rouge. Many of his paintings and drawings capture the quiet, intimate moments in the lives of the women who lived in the brothels. These works make up the Elles portfolio (1896, BPL) which offers a view into the daily lives of Parisienne sex workers and courtesans.

An immersive journey into the world of Parisian nightlife in the 1880s, the exhibition features a restored film of can-can dancers, played to the iconic “can-can” music from Orpheus in the Underworld. Another film shows a woman dancing “Le Serpentine,” a dance made famous by the nightclub dancer Loïe Fuller, who was often depicted by Toulouse-Lautrec.

Moulin Rouge: La Goulue, 1891, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1932 (Courtesy, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)

Speaking of dance, the exhibition features immersive dance theater performances in the galleries by The Davis Sisters on four Wednesday evenings during April and May, starting on April 10, free with museum admission. The Davis Sisters are Joy and Alexander Davis, choreographers in residence at the MFA.

As part of this historic partnership between two of Boston’s great cultural institutions, the BPL and MFA have collaborated on a number of free public programs, many of them family-friendly, during the run of the exhibition from April 7th through August 4th, including:

- Talks by MFA Guides introducing the exhibition at various BPL branch locations (offered in English, Spanish, and Mandarin)

- A Lowell Lecture Series event on Thursday, May 16 at the BPL by curator Helen Burnham

- During April vacation week (April 16-19), there will be a children’s art-making activity at the MFA

- Exhibition-themed MFA Playdates (recommended for children aged 4 and younger) featuring story time and art projects, taking place at the MFA on June 3 and June 15 and at BPL on June 20 and June 29

- Story Walk at the MFA from June 22-30, which leads families through the museum page by page


Other free or reduced cost admission offers to the MFA:

BPL cardholders will receive free admission to the MFA through the month of June for two adults and up to six children. During the rest of the year, BPL cardholders can reserve discounted passes to the museum through their BPL branches, with admission for two people at $10 each.

Everett residents: Thanks to the corporate sponsorship of Encore Boston Harbor, all residents of Everett will receive free admission to the MFA with proof of residence throughout the run of “Toulouse-Lautrec and the Stars of Paris.” Employees of Encore Boston Harbor are also offered free admission to the MFA for the duration of the exhibit.

MFA members receive free admission all year.

Admission for university students at participating schools is always free.

Children ages 6 and younger are always free. Children age 7-17 are admitted for $10, except on weekends, school holidays, or weekdays after 3pm, when all children’s tickets are free.

Wednesday nights from 4pm to 10pm, admission is by voluntary contribution (suggested donation is $25).

Open House: Five times during the year, the MFA puts on free Open Houses.