The chief purpose of the exhibition conceived for the 150th anniversary of the artist’s birth is to give a comprehensive presentation of the museum’s own material of prints and drawings. As the earliest sheets in the Budapest collection are from 1892 the exhibition wishes to shed light upon the last decade of his oeuvre (1891–1901), characterised by lively lithographic activity. Besides the two drawings from the Majovszky Collection (Ballroom at the Moulin Rouge, Portrait of Singer Mlle Cocyte), the museum preserves 200 lithographs from Toulouse-Lautrec’s reproduced graphic works, 368 sheets in all, including ten large posters, his cold needle series consisting of eight pieces and several illustrated books and albums (Yvette Guilbert).
This representative ensemble of prints is the result of deliberate acquisition prior to the First World War. The first sheets were bought in the year of the artist’s death, in 1901. Being in contact with the most eminent French and German art dealers, the museum was able to attain many works printed in limited edition (12-25), equipped with numbers, signatures and at times inscriptions. There are several impressions of which only four or five copies are known to exist at present. The museum’s collection therefore enables an extensive study into the graphic work of Toulouse-Lautrec, both regarding the diverse functions (posters, book illustrations and periodicals, cover designs, theatre programmes, cast lists and covers of music) and his themes (the world of Parisian theatres, cabarets, brothels, prominent performers of night life and horse racing). It is also interesting that certain compositions can be found in different print phases or colour variants, thus offering insight into the process of artistic creation.
The exhibition plans to present the Parisian settings and people connected to Toulouse-Lautrec in thematic groups, allowing for the portrayal of the scenes of public and private life, individuals vs. types and the examination of the boundaries between popular and elitist art. The most wide-ranging unit takes stock of the key locations of the end of the 19th century entertainment industry, the café chantants, dancing clubs and cabarets (Moulin Rouge, Mirliton). Works linked to the theatre would form a separate section: posters and cast lists and the depiction of theatrical scenes (e.g. Sarah Berhardt or Marcelle Lender in their famous roles) or the audience itself. The world of brothels features in a distinct unit with the oil painting The Ladies in the Dining-room as the focus - purchased by the museum in 1913 from the exhibition staged at Ernst Museum - in addition to the 1896 series of lithographs Elles (Girls), depicting with unusual empathy the intimate moments of those living on the brink of society. The last part of the exhibition would place individuality and the world of stars at its centre by illustrating the most important performers, singers and dancers of fin-de-siècle Paris (Aristide Bruant, Jane Avril, Loïe Fuller, Marcel Lender, Yvette Guilbert), in whose careers the works of Toulouse-Lautrec played a key role.
Paris of the “belle époque” can also be evoked by archive photographs, films or even musical inserts integrated into the exhibition. The Collection of Prints and Drawings is able to give a broader context to Toulouse-Lautrec’s graphic oeuvre by involving the artworks of other contemporaries (such as Bonnard, Steinlen or Ibels).