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Divan Japonais

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec1893

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Nineteenth-century guidebooks described Paris as “the capital of pleasure,” with its thousands of theaters, dance halls, cafés, circuses, racetracks, and other entertainments. Posters advertising these amusements were made possible by the development of color lithography, a process capable of producing large editions of high-quality prints. The clever, eye-catching posters of Toulouse-Lautrec—with their stylized shapes and flat areas of color—immortalized such places as the cabaret Divan Japonais. Here, seated in the audience are the popular dancer Jane Avril and the critic Edouard Dujardin. In the background, beyond the musicians, is the singer Yvette Guilbert, instantly recognizable although the artist does not show her face. A journalist described Guilbert: “She has no bosom to speak of and her chest is quite extraordinarily narrow. She has long—too long—thin arms clad in high black gloves that look like flimsy streamers.”

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