Masterpiece Stories

Masterpiece Story: Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Aristide Bruant in his Cabaret

Zuzanna Stańska 24 November 2021 min Read

In the 1890s Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec was one of a group of young avant-garde artists whose color lithography was a vehicle for innovative printmaking. Lautrec eventually established himself as the premier poster artist of Paris and was often commissioned to advertise famous performers in his prints.

 

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Aristide Bruant in his Cabaret,1893, Cincinnati Art Museum
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Aristide Bruant in his Cabaret, 1893, Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati, OH, USA.

Aristide Bruant was a French cabaret singer, comedian, and nightclub owner. He always wore his wide-brimmed hat, red scarf, bulky cape, and tall boots when singing in a harsh voice of the violence and poverty in a Paris most of his audience never saw. This poster, commissioned by Bruant, is one of Toulouse-Lautrec’s most dramatic. The artist condensed the personality into three bold shapes symbolic of Bruant himself—black cape, red scarf, and black hat.

Aristide Bruant
Photograph of singer and comedian Aristide Bruant. Memoire Chante.

Bruant began performing at cafe-concerts and developed a singing and comedy act that led to him being signed to appear at the Le Chat Noir club. He soon became a star of Montmartre, and when Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec began showing up at the cabarets and clubs, Bruant became one of the artist’s first friends to be featured on certain famous posters by Lautrec.

Lautrec designed a sparse yet iconic image that promoted both the performer’s career as well as his own. We have also found something unique for you – Bruant’s voice. Here you can hear Aristide singing, on a record from 1912:

 

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