In the 1890s Henri Marie Raymond de Toulouse-Lautrec Monfa was one of a group of young avant-garde artists whose color lithography was a vehicle for innovative printmaking. Even in this company, Toulouse-Lautrec's use of color lithography was revolutionary, revitalizing graphic design. Equally radical was his appeal to mass culture through his art. To reach the public, he did not seek traditional venues or alternative salons: the intellectual and popular media and the walls of Parisian streets constituted Lautrec’s salon.
Aristide Bruant was a popular singer, poet, and composer. A burly, swaggering man, 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. He insulted and mocked the smart clientele drawn to his café-concerts at Les Ambassadeurs, the Eldorado and, in 1885, his own cabaret Le Mirliton. This poster, commissioned by Bruant, is one of Toulouse-Lautrec’s most dramatic, featuring a back view with Bruant’s head in profile for impact. Toulouse-Lautrec condensed the personality into three bold shapes symbolic of Bruant himself—black cape, red scarf, and black hat.