It is an absolute privilege to be able to view Toulouse-Lautrec’s work up close. Not just for his energetic painting style, capturing the seedier side of Parisian nightlife, but also for his art direction and typography.
Over the years, there have been many articles about whether advertising can be art, and I’m pretty sure that it can’t be whilst it is selling something. I think it can transcend into art after it has served its purpose and becomes era defining.
In Lautrec’s case, I’ll make an exception, as he was already well known for being an artist when he was commissioned to create posters for various clubs and salons.
Any art director or designer worth their salt should be aware of the influence of art in layout and design purely from a composition point of view.
In this Jane Avril example, I love the way he frames the poster using the double base. (How many ‘frames’ have we seen like this for contemporary brands?)
Obviously, Lautrec wasn’t a 19th century ‘ad man’. He was a brilliant artist and spent much of his time in Montmartre hanging out with philosophers, writers, artists and the like. Then popping off to brothels to draw/paint the staff and clientele. He was a reportage photographer before they’d even been invented. That, coupled with the eye of a poet, lead to some breathtakingly intimate works.
So, for inspiring a 17-year-old art student, Mr. Toulouse-Lautrec, I am very grateful.