Christie's announces sale of Impressionist & Modern, Post-War & Contemporary Art
The First Art Newspaper on the Net    Established in 1996 Thursday, July 25, 2024

Christie's announces sale of Impressionist & Modern, Post-War & Contemporary Art
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Jane Avril au Divan Japonais, 1892. Grease pencil and graphite on cardboard, 82 x 63.4 cm. Estimate: €2,500,000 – €3,500,000. © Christie’s Images Ltd 2024.

PARIS.- Christie’s, Avant-Garde(s) Including Thinking Italian – the most important auction of 20th and 21st century art in Paris – takes center stage once again. During this event – the culmination of a series of auctions organized to coincide with Art Basel Paris – Christie’s is presenting a key work by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec: Jane Avril au Divan Japonais, a preparatory study for the famous lithograph, Divan Japonais. Commissioned by Édouard Fournier for his famous cabaret of the same name, this work was in a private collection for 90 years. The work belonged successively to the collections of Georges Viau, S. Sévadjian and the great Norwegian collector J.B. Stang, and its sale constitutes a sensational rediscovery. Jane Avril au Divan Japonais is estimated to fetch between €2.5 and €3.5 million. It will be one of the highlights of the fall art market.

An iconic image

Decorated in an Oriental style, Le Divan Japonais is one of the many cafés-concerts that Toulouse-Lautrec frequents in Paris at the end of the 19th century. The lithograph that serves as its poster is one of the most famous and best-selling lithographs in the world. Jane Avril au Divan Japonais is the painting on which it is based. This 1861 work which uses peinture à l’essence depicts three figures who were close to the artist and widely known in Parisian artistic and literary circles of the period. Seated in the foreground as a spectator is the elegant figure of the famous cancan dancer Jane Avril. To her right is the art critic Édouard Dujardin, and in the background, on stage, the singer Yvette Guilbet. While Toulouse-Lautrec places her face out of the frame, she is easily recognizable by her pair of long black gloves – the favorite accessory of this big star of the Belle Époque.

A Belle Époque Chronicler

Despite his frail health and a chaotic lifestyle that led to his premature death at the age of 36, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec is for more than a decade the leading chronicler of Parisian nightlife. At the time, Montmartre is a working-class neighborhood with numerous cabarets, dance halls and theaters where many artists find refuge. Toulouse-Lautrec is one of the key figures of Montmartre. His paintings, drawings, prints and above all his posters capture the local atmosphere and paint a portrait of its inhabitants. Thanks to these works, the artists who bring life to Montmartre’s night life become celebrities. Toulouse-Lautrec establishes himself as the leading poster artist in Paris. When Édouard Fournier reopens his cabaret after renovation, he asks the painter to promote it. For the Divan Japonais, Toulouse-Lautrec creates a poster that offers a striking snapshot of the bustle and vivacity of the cabaret. It quickly becomes an emblem of the Belle Époque.

A key work by Toulouse-Lautrec

This work has not been shown to the public since the artist’s retrospective in 1931 at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, and its appearance on the market represents a major rediscovery for the art world. In the 1890s, lithograph posters proliferate thanks to technical advances in color printing and new regulations around their display. Toulouse-Lautrec’s advertising creations immortalize the vibrant atmosphere of dance halls, cafés-concerts and the lively Parisian nightlife. They are the very incarnation of the Belle Époque and the perfect embodiment of the artist’s work. This auction at Christie’s offers a rare opportunity to rediscover and acquire a major piece of Paris’s cultural history and a work that significantly influenced poster art.

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