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France 1864 – 1901

Moulin Rouge: La Goulue 1891 prints, poster, planographic
Technique: brush and spatter lithograph, printed in four colours on three sheets
Edition: unknown
Primary Insc: signed and dated, lower left, printed from the stone in black ink, 'HTLautrec'
image 191.0 h x 117.0 w cm
sheet 195.0 h x 122.0 w cm
Cat Raisonné: Wittrock P1
Acquired through the National Gallery of Australia Foundation and the Poynton Bequest, 2010
Accession No: NGA 2010.506


  • The appearance of the poster Moulin Rouge: La Goulue on the Parisian streets in 1891 established the reputation of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec in the French art world. The dance hall Moulin Rouge had opened in October 1889 and proved a popular haunt among the city’s demimonde. By 1891, however, attendances had fallen and in a competition the proprietor Harold Zidler chose Lautrec’s poster design to advertise the venue.

    The result was sensational in its scale and originality, revealing Lautrec’s brilliance as a draughtsman. Instead of depicting the venue itself, a commonplace method for such publicity, he focused on the performers. One of his favourite subjects, Louise Weber, called La Goulue (The Glutton), was known for her outrageous behaviour. She is shown performing her high-kicking dance, provocatively raising her hem to reveal her red stockings and white frilly bloomers. The scandalous La Goulue was even known to wear nothing at all under her billowing skirt on occasions, which added to her notoriety. Yet, Lautrec has portrayed her facial expression with great sensitivity, indicating her vulnerability. Such skilful characterisation was something not seen in poster art before.

    In front of La Goulue, we see her regular partner, the remarkable and willowy ‘boneless’ Valentin le Désossé (Jacques Renaudin). This gentleman amateur dancer (La Goulue was paid) wears his signature top hat and tails. The silhouetted crowd of onlookers, beautiful patterning of La Goulue’s blouse, sinuous lines and simplified forms—devices Lautrec borrowed from Japanese ukiyo-e prints—complete the picture.

    In the history of poster design, Lautrec remains its most pre-eminent figure and Moulin Rouge: La Goulue is most iconic. The original poster remains one of the rarest and is, therefore, especially desirable for the national art collection. The acquisition of the work was generously funded by National Gallery of Australia Foundation and the bequest of the late Orde Poynton AO, CMG.

    Jane Kinsman Senior Curator, International Prints, Drawings and Illustrated Books
    in artonview, issue 64,  summer 2010

    in artonview, issue 64, summer 2010