Déjà vu in Paris: Two exhibits recreate classic expositions


A  familiar rendering of La Goulue

Consider visiting Paris for two remarkable exhibitions recherché.

This summer Le Musee d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris has recreated an exact exhibition of the legendary Henri Cartier Bresson, while at Le Musee Des Arts Decoratifs there is a fine exhibit that was first seen in 2001 of works by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.


By 1975, Cartier-Bresson, the photographer many consider the earliest and certainly one of the best photojournalists to ever pick up a camera, decided to give up photography for drawing. To mark this momentous change Cartier-Bresson selected and curated himself 73 pieces, which he felt represented the best of his existing body of work. Visiting turned out to be more than a rare experience. It provided a window into the mind of the man who gave us the terms "decisive moment" and "convulsive beauty".

Déjà vu in Paris


In his words, "To take photographs is to hold one's breath when all faculties converge in the face of fleeing reality. It is that moment that mastering an image becomes a great physical and intellectual joy." Cartier-Bresson never cropped an image and never allowed any publication to crop one of his images. Those who photograph can appreciate how incredibly artistic, geometrically sensitive, and fast a photographer must be to produce work at this level. Isn't it fascinating that Cartier-Bresson gave up photography, which he called an immediate action, for drawing which he considered a meditation.

A famous Cartier-Bresson image

Le Musee Des Arts Decoratifs currently has up an exhibit that was first seen in 2001. It includes 26 of the 30 posters that Toulouse-Lautrec created for friends and people he admired. He was no starving artist, rather Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec was from a very noble French family. He probably suffered from osteogenesis imperfecta (he grew to be only 5' tall). He was friends with such notables as Edgar Degas, Vincent  Van Gogh, James Whistler, and Bernard but it was the famous Moulin Rouge, La Goulue poster that made him an overnight success. The shadow profiles in this particular poster are friends and acquaintances of Toulouse-Lautrec. Can you guess which one is Toulouse-Lautrec himself? What we call the "can-can" was a nine-minute dance performed by four which always ended with a "split". The most familiar music, which, every American can hum, was made famous as a section of Gaite Parisienne by Jacques Offenbach. The dancers danced not on stage but in the middle of the dance floor and it brought the house down when a high kick took the hat right off of a gentleman's head. And yes, it is true, no undergarments were worn.  There were often underlying themes of a social or political nature in Toulouse-Lautrec's posters. By the way we owe the success and proliferation of these posters to lithography which was introduced into the art world during the last part of the 19th century.

Display of Touluse-Lautrec's technique

Many thanks to Chris Boicos, art historian and owner of Gallery B.O.B. here in Paris. Chris is guide, mentor, and friend to many English speaking expatriates in Paris. If ever you come to Paris and want the best, Chris is the one to call.


Bisous (kisses) de Paris,













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