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Toulouse-Lautrec in Albi, France (2:00)

Albi, France

The largest collection of art by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec hangs in Albi. Using bright colors, the artist painted candid yet respectful portraits of the Parisian underclass as well as striking, bold advertising posters for businesses.

Complete Video Script

Next to the church, the former home of Albi's archbishop contains the world's largest collection of art by Henri Toulouse-Lautrec. The museum displays his work chronologically, letting you follow the evolution of his art with his fascinating life's story.

Toulouse-Lautrec, who was born here in Albi in 1864, was crippled from his youth. Because of this, he was on the fringe of society, and had an affinity for people who didn't fit in.

He made his mark painting the Parisian underclass with an intimacy possible only by someone with his life experience. His subjects were from bars, brothels, and cabarets. Henri was particularly fascinated by cancan dancers — whose legs moved with an agility he would never experience.

In the 1890s Henri frequented brothels and befriended many prostitutes. He respected the women, feeling both fascination and empathy toward them. The prostitutes accepted Henri as he was. They allowed him into their world… and he sketched candid portraits.

Eventually Toulouse-Lautrec established his unique style: colors — garish, subject matter — hidden worlds, moralism — none.

Toulouse-Lautrec's advertising posters were his bread and butter. He was an innovative advertiser, creating simple, bold lithographic images for posters.

Posters, such as this one promoting the famous Moulin Rouge, established his business reputation in Paris. Successful as he was, his career was short.

Toulouse-Lautrec had a self-destructive lifestyle. He died at the age of 37, alcoholic, depressed, and paranoid. He was unmourned and unappreciated by the art establishment. Thankfully his mother and a best friend recognized his genius and saved his work. They first offered it to the Louvre, which refused. But in 1922, the mayor of Albi accepted the collection and hung it here. A wise move.