Henri de TOULOUSE-LAUTREC | Mademoiselle Eglantine’s troupe [La troupe de Mademoiselle Eglantine]

Henri de TOULOUSE-LAUTREC
artist France 1864 – 1901

Mademoiselle Eglantine’s troupe [La troupe de Mademoiselle Eglantine] 1896 planographic , brush, crayon and spatter lithograph on wove paper
61.4 (h) x 79.0 (w) cm
signed lower left, printed from the stone in blue ink, 'HTLautrec'/ 'HTL' monogram not dated National Gallery of Australia, Canberra NGA 2012.1147 The Poynton Bequest 2012

In Jane Avril’s memoirs she points to the general air of despondency in Paris in the years following the assassination of the French president Marie François Sadi Carnot in 1894 and the political scandal of the Dreyfus Affair. A trip to London to perform at the Palace Theatre of Varieties from 20 January until 22 February 1896 was a welcome respite. The ‘amiable English’ with their ‘gracious and obliging women’ and the ‘distinguished manager’ of the theatre, Charles Morton, added to her admiration for the English.[1] This was her second trip to London, having previously accompanied May Milton there in 1892. Like Lautrec, Jane Avril was an ardent Anglophile.

The theatre, on Cambridge Circus in central London, was previously the D’Oyly Carte Opera House and Morton was keen that the recently reopened venue would attract a wider clientele with a new program of events. Lautrec was commissioned by Avril to create a poster advertising the performance of La troupe de Mlle Eglantine, a group of cancan dancers – Jane Avril, Mlle Eglantine, Cléopatre and Gazelle. Though the artist had not seen the troupe perform in England – Eglantine had taken a group of dancers to the same theatre, without Avril, a year earlier – he may have seen them dancing at a venue such as the Moulin Rouge before they embarked on their tour. A photograph of the troupe, a nervous sketch in graphite, and a thinned oil sketch on cardboard assisted him in his preparations.[2] A first proof in colour was blueprinted, which would have enabled him to confirm that his composition was a success.[3]

This is one of several posters created by Lautrec featuring the famous Parisian dancer, and his muse, Jane Avril: she is seen on the far left of the troupe. In his extraordinary composition that is all legs, frothy petticoats and plumed hats, Lautrec evokes the excitement of the wild and energetic movement of the dancers as they perform the cancan. The troupe is shown in line on stage, performing the ronde de jambe, or rotation of the leg. Other elements of this dance are the high kick, the jump splits and the cartwheel, performed to music in two-four time.

This poster with its bright yellow background reveals that the artist’s debt still remained to a poster that encouraged him to explore this art form – Pierre Bonnard’s France-Champagne 1891, with its yellows and bubbly forms; and, before him, Jules Chéret’s Rococo-inspired posters of lively young women known as ‘Chérettes’. There is also a hint of Japonisme in the raised white, cloud-like shapes of the petticoats from which the dark stockinged and high-heeled legs emerge, along with flat patterning and flowing lines. Although Avril is furthest from the viewer, Lautrec has given her prominence by having her step forward from the troupe and kicking in a more exaggerated manner than the other dancers. He magically captures the essence of this self-taught, idiosyncratic dancer. With her shock of orange hair, willowy features and vibrant, high-kicking action, Lautrec showed Avril to be the star of
the stage.

JK       

[1] Jane Avril, Mes mémoires: suivi de Erastène Ramiro, cours de danse fin-de-siècle, Paris: Editions Phébus, 2005, p. 86.

[2] The photograph is held at the Musée Toulouse-Lautrec, Albi; the drawing at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London – not listed in Dortu; the oil sketch is M.G. Dortu, Toulouse-Lautrec et son oeuvre, New York: Paul Brame et C.M. de Hauke, Collectors Editions, 1971, vol. 3, P.631.

[3] Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris.

In Jane Avril’s memoirs she points to the general air of despondency in Paris in the years following the assassination of the French president Marie François Sadi Carnot in 1894 and the political scandal of the Dreyfus Affair. A trip to London to perform at the Palace Theatre of Varieties from 20 January until 22 February 1896 was a welcome respite. The ‘amiable English’ with their ‘gracious and obliging women’ and the ‘distinguished manager’ of the theatre, Charles Morton, added to her admiration for the English.[1] This was her second trip to London, having previously accompanied May Milton there in 1892. Like Lautrec, Jane Avril was an ardent Anglophile.

The theatre, on Cambridge Circus in central London, was previously the D’Oyly Carte Opera House and Morton was keen that the recently reopened venue would attract a wider clientele with a new program of events. Lautrec was commissioned by Avril to create a poster advertising the performance of La troupe de Mlle Eglantine, a group of cancan dancers – Jane Avril, Mlle Eglantine, Cléopatre and Gazelle. Though the artist had not seen the troupe perform in England – Eglantine had taken a group of dancers to the same theatre, without Avril, a year earlier – he may have seen them dancing at a venue such as the Moulin Rouge before they embarked on their tour. A photograph of the troupe, a nervous sketch in graphite, and a thinned oil sketch on cardboard assisted him in his preparations.[2] A first proof in colour was blueprinted, which would have enabled him to confirm that his composition was a success.[3]

This is one of several posters created by Lautrec featuring the famous Parisian dancer, and his muse, Jane Avril: she is seen on the far left of the troupe. In his extraordinary composition that is all legs, frothy petticoats and plumed hats, Lautrec evokes the excitement of the wild and energetic movement of the dancers as they perform the cancan. The troupe is shown in line on stage, performing the ronde de jambe, or rotation of the leg. Other elements of this dance are the high kick, the jump splits and the cartwheel, performed to music in two-four time.

This poster with its bright yellow background reveals that the artist’s debt still remained to a poster that encouraged him to explore this art form – Pierre Bonnard’s France-Champagne 1891, with its yellows and bubbly forms; and, before him, Jules Chéret’s Rococo-inspired posters of lively young women known as ‘Chérettes’. There is also a hint of Japonisme in the raised white, cloud-like shapes of the petticoats from which the dark stockinged and high-heeled legs emerge, along with flat patterning and flowing lines. Although Avril is furthest from the viewer, Lautrec has given her prominence by having her step forward from the troupe and kicking in a more exaggerated manner than the other dancers. He magically captures the essence of this self-taught, idiosyncratic dancer. With her shock of orange hair, willowy features and vibrant, high-kicking action, Lautrec showed Avril to be the star of
the stage.

JK       

[1] Jane Avril, Mes mémoires: suivi de Erastène Ramiro, cours de danse fin-de-siècle, Paris: Editions Phébus, 2005, p. 86.

[2] The photograph is held at the Musée Toulouse-Lautrec, Albi; the drawing at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London – not listed in Dortu; the oil sketch is M.G. Dortu, Toulouse-Lautrec et son oeuvre, New York: Paul Brame et C.M. de Hauke, Collectors Editions, 1971, vol. 3, P.631.

[3] Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris.

In Jane Avril’s memoirs she points to the general air of despondency in Paris in the years following the assassination of the French president Marie François Sadi Carnot in 1894 and the political scandal of the Dreyfus Affair. A trip to London to perform at the Palace Theatre of Varieties from 20 January until 22 February 1896 was a welcome respite. The ‘amiable English’ with their ‘gracious and obliging women’ and the ‘distinguished manager’ of the theatre, Charles Morton, added to her admiration for the English.[1] This was her second trip to London, having previously accompanied May Milton there in 1892. Like Lautrec, Jane Avril was an ardent Anglophile.

The theatre, on Cambridge Circus in central London, was previously the D’Oyly Carte Opera House and Morton was keen that the recently reopened venue would attract a wider clientele with a new program of events. Lautrec was commissioned by Avril to create a poster advertising the performance of La troupe de Mlle Eglantine, a group of cancan dancers – Jane Avril, Mlle Eglantine, Cléopatre and Gazelle. Though the artist had not seen the troupe perform in England – Eglantine had taken a group of dancers to the same theatre, without Avril, a year earlier – he may have seen them dancing at a venue such as the Moulin Rouge before they embarked on their tour. A photograph of the troupe, a nervous sketch in graphite, and a thinned oil sketch on cardboard assisted him in his preparations.[2] A first proof in colour was blueprinted, which would have enabled him to confirm that his composition was a success.[3]

This is one of several posters created by Lautrec featuring the famous Parisian dancer, and his muse, Jane Avril: she is seen on the far left of the troupe. In his extraordinary composition that is all legs, frothy petticoats and plumed hats, Lautrec evokes the excitement of the wild and energetic movement of the dancers as they perform the cancan. The troupe is shown in line on stage, performing the ronde de jambe, or rotation of the leg. Other elements of this dance are the high kick, the jump splits and the cartwheel, performed to music in two-four time.

This poster with its bright yellow background reveals that the artist’s debt still remained to a poster that encouraged him to explore this art form – Pierre Bonnard’s France-Champagne 1891, with its yellows and bubbly forms; and, before him, Jules Chéret’s Rococo-inspired posters of lively young women known as ‘Chérettes’. There is also a hint of Japonisme in the raised white, cloud-like shapes of the petticoats from which the dark stockinged and high-heeled legs emerge, along with flat patterning and flowing lines. Although Avril is furthest from the viewer, Lautrec has given her prominence by having her step forward from the troupe and kicking in a more exaggerated manner than the other dancers. He magically captures the essence of this self-taught, idiosyncratic dancer. With her shock of orange hair, willowy features and vibrant, high-kicking action, Lautrec showed Avril to be the star of
the stage.

JK       

[1] Jane Avril, Mes mémoires: suivi de Erastène Ramiro, cours de danse fin-de-siècle, Paris: Editions Phébus, 2005, p. 86.

[2] The photograph is held at the Musée Toulouse-Lautrec, Albi; the drawing at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London – not listed in Dortu; the oil sketch is M.G. Dortu, Toulouse-Lautrec et son oeuvre, New York: Paul Brame et C.M. de Hauke, Collectors Editions, 1971, vol. 3, P.631.

[3] Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris.



Image detail: Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec La Goulue entering the Moulin Rouge [La Goulue entrant au Moulin Rouge] 1892
The Museum of Modern Art, New York Gift of Mrs David M. Levy