From the brothels of Paris to the walls of the National Gallery
From exuberant can-can dancers to posh gentlemen who roamed through the Moulin Rouge during the 1890s, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec's fantastic scenes of Parisian nightlife are officially in Canberra for the capital's next great exhibition.
The National Gallery of Australia's blockbuster exhibition Toulouse-Lautrec: Paris and the Moulin Rouge, featuring about 110 art works from the famed French artist, will open to the public tomorrow.
Media were given a sneak peek at the collection this morning, with the gallery showing off its remarkable holding of Lautrec's work, alongside works it has borrowed from 30 international collections.
Patrons get their first glance at the exhibition, which opens to the public tomorrow. Photo: Karleen Minney
Director of the gallery Dr Ron Radford said many of the works were extremely fragile.
"This is the exhibition you have been waiting for," he said.
"It is the first comprehensive exhibition of Toulouse-Lautrec held in Australia.
National Gallery staff Katie Russell, Sarah Carlson and Julia Greenstreet play in the Toulouse-Lautrec-inspired children and family area. Photo: Karleen Minney
"His paintings, his drawings, his prints and of course his famous posters.
"His works are very fragile and have been very hard to secure."
The summer blockbuster exhibition is expected to bring visitors from across the country and around the world.
Opening of the Toulouse Lautrec exhibition
National Gallery director Ron Radford. Photo: Karleen Minney
"We have very generously been loaned some of these works. Some of the images will be instantly recognisable while others will be a complete surprise but all will delight you," Dr Radford said.
Lautrec made his mark on Paris in the 1890s with stunning posters depicting scenes of the city's nightlife, especially the Moulin Rouge.
He embraced the seedy side of city, at times living in brothels to further inspire his art.
La Goulue entering the Moulin Rouge hanging on the NGA's walls. Photo: Karleen Minney
His iconic works are extremely limited, given that he died at just 36 years of age.
"He is the inventor of the modern poster," Dr Radford said.
"What you probably don't know is that he is one of the great portraitists of the late 1890s.
"He painted his subjects in their surroundings. They are different from seated portraits, though he did those as well. One of his most famous is of La Goulue entering the Moulin Rouge. She oozed sexuality and self confidence. It was a new sort of portrait for its time."
The image La Goulue entering the Moulin Rouge has been has been chosen as a signature piece for the exhibition and it is the enormous image that has been transposed onto the main entry of the gallery.
The transparent 11 x 10-metre poster of La Goulue is on the windows above the entrance and is invisible from the inside of the gallery.
Dr Radford told media this morning the gallery had substantially increased its own holdings of Lautrec's work ahead of the exhibition.
"We added 10 of his most famous posters and 46 lithographs," he said.
"We now hold one of the world's largest collections of his graphic art."
The exhibition is the first major event of the Centenary of Canberra celebrations. It will be be on display until April 2, 2013.
The gallery is conducting the exhibition on a timed-ticket basis, with sessions available every half hour.
Tickets can also be purchased from Ticketek.