The New Wave: Bonnard, Toulouse-Lautrec and Vuillard and the French Color Print

The New Wave: Bonnard, Toulouse-Lautrec and Vuillard and the French Color Print  features thirty-eight color lithographs of three of the most avant-garde painters and printmakers of the nineteenth-century: Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947), Henri Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901), and Edouard Vuillard (1868-1940). At the end of the nineteenth-century, France saw an unprecedented revival of the print. Bonnard, Toulouse-Lautrec, and Vuillard found color lithography a sympathetic medium in which to experiment with new pictorial ideas, many of which were born in the burgeoning avant-garde community of Paris.

On view are examples from Bonnard’s Selected Aspects of the Life of Paris  (1899), where his interest in the casual incident and the ever-changing scene along the boulevards is manifest. Elevated perspectives and sweeping views reveal his admiration of compositions by Japanese printmakers. Bonnard’s acknowledgement of the Parisian caricaturists, who published in the popular journals, filters through in his idiosyncratic portrayals of certain characters and their pets. Color lithographs from Vuillard’s Landscapes and Interiors  suite (1899), also on view, display his love of the silhouette form and its interplay with the blank page. The flat, bold shapes that overlap and abut each other in his compositions recall the silhouette figures of the shadow theatre so popular in the café society of Montmartre. The festive, popular, and even risque activities of urban life fueled Toulouse-Lautrec’s art practice. The lithographs that comprise the Elles  series (1896) present the daily rituals of prostitues. Neither spectacular nor shocking, the images are a quiet, unsentimentalized homage to these women. Toulouse-Lautrec’s openness to ideas from the avant-garde and from the aesthetics of Art Noveau are evident in the lean, flowing lines that delineate his figures, and from the surprising perspectives he occasionally chooses to view them.