Moulin Rouge-La Goulue

 
Artist
Creation date
Materials
color lithograph
Dimensions
67 x 46 3/4 in.
Credit line
Gift of the Gamboliers
Accession number
36.4
Collection
Not Currently On View

The Moulin Rouge dance hall opened in Montmartre in 1889 and Toulouse-Lautrec was a regular from the beginning.  For his first poster and for the first time in poster design, Toulouse-Lautrec featured the actual entertainers in the advertisement: La Goulue (the Glutton) dancing the can-can accompanied by her partner "No-Bones" Valentin.

No one in the fall of 1891 would have predicted that this ephemeral advertisement would become within days a collected item, within weeks the object of press reviews, within months the partner of paintings in avant-garde exhibitions, and within a year the internationally recognized symbol of 1890s Paris.

Purchased by Mary Quinn Sullivan [1877-1939], New York, for The Gamboliers of Indianapolis in 1932;{1} given to the John Herron Institute of Art, now the Indianapolis Museum of Art, in 1936 (36.4).

{1}See IMA Archives, folder on Gamboliers. For more information on this society which collected modern art and on Mary Quinn Sullivan, see the exhibition guide by Annette Schlagenhauff, Gifts of the Gamboliers, Indianapolis Museum of Art, 2009.
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Indianapolis Museum of Art: Highlights of the Collection (2005)

Center stage on the garishly lit dance floor of the new Paris music hall, Le Moulin Rouge, the dancer known as La Goulue (The Glutton) kicks up her skirts in her scandalous nightly Cancan. Her gangly partner, "No-Bones" Valentin, fills the foreground. Toulouse-Lautrec's commission to create a poster to advertise the Moulin Rouge owed more to his friendship with the manager than to his nonexistent credentials as a commercial artist, but the performers and regulars at the Moulin Rouge were Toulouse-Lautrec's crowd, and the Montmartre nightspot was his milieu. With his talent for caricature sketches, Toulouse-Lautrec was well suited to craft a daringly original poster, which maximizes the rollicking nature of the place with a minimum of elements. These are reduced, at dead center, to none at all-the white paper that a few deft strokes transform into the dancer's drawers and petticoats.

Moulin Rouge was artfully designed to command attention amid the clutter of text-heavy posters on the walls of Paris. No one, however, in the fall of 1891, would have predicted that this ephemeral advertisement would become within days a collected item, within weeks the object of press reviews, within months the partner of paintings in avant-garde exhibitions, and within a year the recognized symbol of an era.

Toulouse-Lautrec brings a genuine spiritual and tragic force to the study of faces and the penetration of character.
-Critic Octave Mirbeau, 1891