Toulouse-Lautrec and Cycle Michael

Each week for the duration of the exhibition, we’ll focus on one work of art from Toulouse-Lautrec Illustrates the Belle Époque, on view Feb. 4 through April 30, 2017.

Simpson Chain, The

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, The Simpson Chain, 1896. Brush, crayon, and spatter lithograph, printed in three colors. Key stone printed in blue, color stones in red and yellow on wove paper, 32 5⁄8 × 47 1/4 in. Private Collection

Following the invention of the pneumatic tire in 1888, cycling became a fashionable, modern-day sport. Competitive cyclists raced at Vélodrome Buffalo and Vélodrome de la Seine on Sunday afternoons, with Toulouse-Lautrec in attendance. In 1896, Louis Bouglé, the French representative of the English Simpson cycling company, commissioned Cycle Michael, which advertises a bicycle chain. Bouglé also managed Welsh racing champion Jimmy Michael, shown here sucking a toothpick as he is timed by trainer “Choppy” Warburton.

Bouglé rejected the poster design due to the inaccurate rendering of the chain product. Toulouse-Lautrec printed 200 impressions in olive-green for cycling fans.

The Simpson Chain—Toulouse-Lautrec’s second attempt at the Simpson cycling company’s commission—was a success. For this work, he accurately depicted the chain and infused the scene with dozens of cyclists zipping around the track, their blurring wheels creating the effect of speed. French cyclist Constant Huret follows two pacing riders, the first partially cropped to reinforce movement. In the center of the ring stand Bouglé and company owner William Spears Simpson.

Performers of the Belle Époque: Aristide Bruant

Each week for the duration of the exhibition, we’ll focus on one work of art from Toulouse-Lautrec Illustrates the Belle Époque, on view Feb. 4 through April 30, 2017.

Ambassadeurs Aristide Bruant_Toulouse-Lautrec

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Ambassadeurs, Aristide Bruant, 1892. Brush and spatter lithograph, printed in five colors. Key stone printed in olive green, color stones in orange, red, blue and black on two sheets of wove paper, 52 15⁄16 × 36 5⁄8 in. Private collection

Presenting himself as the voice of the underclass, Aristide Bruant performed in the persona of a rough laborer singing songs in Parisian slang about the conditions of the poor. After making a name for himself at the Chat Noir cabaret, he opened the Mirliton in 1885, warning his audience that it was “for those seeking to be abused.” Once inside, patrons, especially those “born with a silver spoon in their mouth,” were subjected to his mocking insults. Bruant’s notoriety grew beyond Montmartre to more sophisticated entertainment venues near the Champs-Élysées.

Toulouse-Lautrec created this striking poster for Bruant’s limited engagement at the Ambassadeurs, one of the city’s oldest café-concerts. He first drew his sitter at half-length in pencil, then created a large scale watercolor and gouache study. With bold, expansive regions of color, Toulouse-Lautrec simplified and synthesized Bruant’s most identifiable attributes—his overbearing confidence and his signature costume (dark cloak, hat, red scarf, boots, and walking stick)—and immortalized the entertainer. After Pierre Ducarre, the manager of the Ambassadeurs, rejected this radical poster, Bruant threatened: “You will post it on either side of the stage. . . . If it is not done . . . then I’m not going on!” Both the performance and the poster were tremendously successful, but Ducarre refused to pay for the design.

Who is George Condo?

Exhibition at The Phillips Collection, Washington DC.

Installation view of George Condo: The Way I Think. Photo: Lee Stalsworth

With a net worth of almost as much as the celebrities he creates works for, George Condo has quickly taken over the celebrity art world. Even if you have never heard his name, chances are you have seen some of his work. The truth is, Condo has a foothold over our culture in ways that we may not even know. Condo was born in Concord, New Hampshire, and has worked with the likes of Kim Kardashian and Jack Kerouac. One of his biggest clients has been Kanye West, who he worked with to explore everything from twitter profile pictures to album cover art and back-up dancers for a VMA performance.

Condo is also known for his breakdown of pictorial images in a way that differs from mainstream art historical styles such as expressionism or surrealism. Instead, he creates a hybridization of different styles to create his own unique one. His art is filled with inventiveness and existential humor. The Way I think surveys over 200 works spanning Condo’s entire career, including a few drawings of when he was just eight year old. This exhibition gives us a view into the mind of the artist and how he sees the world around him. It is rather extraordinary to peer into the humorous world of someone who is as talented and established as Condo.

Britta Galanis, Marketing & Communications Intern