France 1864 – 1901

Eldorado: Aristide Bruant 1892 Materials & Technique: prints, posters, planographic brush and spatter lithograph, printed in five colours Support: wove paper
Edition: unknown
Place Published: Paris
Date Published: 1892

Edition Notes: printed by Bourgerie & Cie. (Affiches Ancourt)
Primary Insc: signed lower right, printed from the stone in grey ink, 'HTL' monogram not dated
Dimensions: image 137.79 h x 95.88 w cm sheet 141.60 h x 98.55 w cm
Cat Raisonné: Wittrock P5
Acknowledgement: Acquired through the National Gallery of Australia Foundation, 2010
Accession No: NGA 2010.93
  • Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec became renowned for his portrayal of subjects drawn from the Parisian demimonde in the late nineteenth century, producing astonishing images executed with an unerring and penetrating eye.

    The subject of this famous poster is the singer Aristide Bruant. Bruant was a notorious character as renowned for his rich baritone voice as he was for insulting his audiences. Despite this, his patrons kept coming back for more, attracted not only to the outrageousness of his performances but also because he sang lyrics in a Parisian argot.

    Toulouse-Lautrec was a master draughtsman and we can see this in the seemingly effortless way he has captured Bruant’s physical presence and character. As one critic of the day said of Bruant, he was ‘Tall, with a broad barrel chest and a Napoleonic profile: but his eye is sly and his lip sardonic’.

    Bruant commissioned this poster for his debut in 1892 at the Parisian caf�-concert Eldorado, which was more luxurious than some of the seedier caf�-concerts found in Montmartre. The poster brilliantly captures Bruant’s character; his larger than life presence, his signature scarf and black fedora almost burst from the picture frame. Behind Bruant is the ominous silhouette of a city ruffian suggesting the singer’s links with the Parisian underworld. Bruant was keen to promote such an association to provide him with the streetwise credentials that attracted his wealthier patrons, who enjoyed slumming it.

    This is an iconic work by Toulouse-Lautrec, who applied fine-art qualities to low-art subjects. Eldorado with its sinuous lines, bold colouring and simplified forms also reveals the artist’s enthusiasm for Japanese ukiyo-e prints. Now, through the generosity of the National Gallery of Australia Foundation, this justifiably famous poster will become one of the highlights of the collection.

    Jane Kinsman
    Senior Curator, International Prints, Drawings and Illustrated Books
    in artonview, issue 62, winter 2010

    in artonview, issue 62, winter 2010