Why Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec is more than Google Doodle's poster boy
Source: Date: 2014-11-25 Size:
On his 150th birthday, the subversive artist has been misremembered by Google as a man who just made posters for nightclubs...

Dangerous dancing … detail from Dance at the Moulin Rouge: La Goulue and Valentin, 1895, by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Photograph: UniversalImagesGroup/Getty Images

Google is celebrating Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s 150th birthday by reducing him to a pop-culture cliche. Its Google Doodle shows the resident artist of the Moulin Rouge perched on a stool in front of a row of can-can dancers making a poster that says Google Google Google.

It’s the thought that counts, and at least they remembered his birthday. Nor is it Google’s fault that we have such a thin and inaccurate understanding of one of the most radical, raw and courageous of all modern artists.

ToulouseLautrec has long suffered from his close association with Montmartre, the oncebohemian Paris district that has long since been turned into a tourist trap. His art decorates tea towels and place mats, his life has been caricatured by two films about the desperate glamour of the Moulin Rouge in which he was played by Jose Ferrer and John Leguizamo, and the result of all this sentimentality is that a powerful and subversive artist has been misremembered as a man who made posters for nightclubs.

He did make posters terrific onesbut Henri de ToulouseLautrec was so much more than a stylish graphic artist. The best place to get closer to him, in Paris, is not Montmartre where the last embers of artistic excitement died long ago but the Musee d’Orsay, where some of his most incisive art can be seen.

When one of his favourite dancers, La Goulue, opened a venue at a Paris fair, Toulouse Lautrec painted two huge panels to decorate her booth that are today among the most provocative things in this museum. The pictures tell the story of the Moulin Rouge, reminding visitors to the fair thatLa Goulue really had danced there and preserving a history of its wildest moments. In one panel which is about 3m sq La Goulue dances with a character called Valentin le desosse (Valentin the boneless) whose body gyrates madly, as if he was doing some punk version of a rockabilly dance.

[Editor] 古洋