Toulouse-Lautrec Reinterprets Degas

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.

At the Ambassadeurs_Toulouse-Lautrec

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, At the Ambassadeurs, Singer at the Café-Concert, 1894. Crayon, brush and spatter lithograph, printed in six colors. Key stone printed in olive green, color stones in yellow, beige-gray, salmon pink, black, and blue on wove paper. Only state, 12 × 9 3/4 in. Private collection

At the Ambassadeurs, Singer at the Café-Concert (1894)

“Degas has encouraged me by saying my work this summer wasn’t too bad. I’d like to believe it.”
—Toulouse-Lautrec to his mother, 1891

Degas comparison_thumbnail size_Mlle Bécat at the Café des Ambassadeurs degas

Edgar Degas, Mademoiselle Bécat at the Café des Ambassadeurs, 1877/85. Pastel over lithograph, 9 1/16 x 7 7/8 in. Thaw Collection. Pierpont Morgan Library Dept. of Drawings and Prints

Taking inspiration from an artist he admired, Toulouse-Lautrec reinterpreted Edgar Degas’s Mlle Bécat at the Café des Ambassadeurs as a moment glimpsed from behind the scenes. He reversed the position of the singer and placed all of the action within the upper half of the composition. For light and atmosphere, he covered the key stone in crayon and added layers of tone with brushed ink and spatter. This lithograph appeared in the sixth L’Estampe originale album of April–June 1894.

What are the similarities and differences you find most striking between the two works? If you were to reinterpret Toulouse-Lautrec’s At the Ambassadeurs, Singer at the Café-Concert, what would you change?


In this series, Education Specialist for Public Programs Emily Bray highlights participants in the 2016 James McLaughlin Memorial Staff Show, on view through September 19, 2016.

Brittany O'Dowd, "Study of Adam"

Brittany-Rose O’Dowd, “Study of Adam”


Brittany-Rose O’Dowd

Brittany-Rose O'Dowd, Photo: Rhiannon Newman

Brittany-Rose O’Dowd, Photo: Rhiannon Newman

Tell us about yourself.

I am an amateur of many media—I photograph nature, paint bright abstract pieces, and do still life and studies in charcoal.

What do you do at The Phillips Collection? Are there any unique/interesting parts about your job that most people might not know about?

I work in Membership and Development, and my job consists of keeping our database clean and up to date, processing gifts, and helping out wherever the Membership team needs it.

Who are your favorite artists in the collection?

I love Sam Gilliam. The first time I saw his work in the gallery I gasped, it was so beautiful! I’m also a big Degas fan. I was home-schooled when I was very young and he was a favorite artist of ours to learn about.

What is your favorite gallery or space within The Phillips Collection?

I enjoy the second floor of the original Phillips house a lot. I always find something that I love there, and since it’s small and quiet I get to spend time alone with the works.

What would you like people to know about your artwork on view in the 2016 Staff Show (or your work in general)?

I selected this study because I had seen an image with the figure posed this way, and found the torso almost disturbing—it seemed twisted and uncomfortable. I never had an art-anatomy course so it was new to me to think about what the muscles and bones are doing under the skin. Portraits and figures are not something I usually draw, so it was a challenge to me, but I enjoyed it.

The 2016 James McLaughlin Memorial Staff Show is on view August 14 through September 19, 2016.

Mutts of the Masters

Breakup of the Boating Party from Michael Patrick’s book Mutts of the Masters

When some friends gave me the 1996 book Mutts of the Masters by Michael Patrick, I thought it was just an overview of famous paintings that include dogs, such as the Phillips’s masterpiece by Renoir, Luncheon of the Boating Party. But as I flipped through the pages, the truth was exposed–Renoir’s real painting features another, much bigger dog with the title Breakup of the Boat Party.



Pas De Deux from Michael Patrick’s from Mutts of the Masters

Okay, the book is a satire (and a very amusing one at that) of historical art treasures overrun by dogs (and the occasional cat). Another Phillips masterpiece, Edgar Degas’s Dancers at the Barre, is also featured, only in this version titled Pas De Deuxa froofy French poodle dances (or otherwise conducts her business) in the lower right corner.