Arts Around Town

Arrts Around Town: 'Toulouse-Lautrec and His World' exhibit to open at Allentown Art Museum

It was the late 19th century, a colorful time of cabarets, cafés and brothels in Paris. For one Bohemian artist living in the north district of Montmartre, the nightlife provided the perfect backdrop for his posters and prints as he captured real people including singers, actors, and other characters during the Belle Epoque, or "beautiful era." The most recognizable work of his short lifespan of 36 years became his first poster of the Moulin Rouge nightclub in 1891. However, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec proved to be a most innovative printmaker whose expressive use of line was well suited to the medium of lithography.

His Paris-themed posters and prints can be enjoyed locally with the summer exhibit, "Toulouse-Lautrec and His World," opening Sunday through Sept. 1, at the Allentown Art Museum. A preview party featuring cabaret-style performances will be held Saturday from 6 to 8 p.m.

According to Diane Fischer, chief curator at the museum, approximately 150 original posters, lithographs, drawings and book illustrations by the French artist will be displayed, along with photographs and furniture representing the Art Nouveau style of the late 19th century.

The traveling exhibition is on loan from the private Herakleidon Museum in Athens, Greece, whose founders are husband-and-wife team Paul Firos and Anna-Belinda. Allentown is one of the first locations outside of Europe to host the exhibition. The tour kicked off earlier this year in New Britain, Conn., and will head to Flint, Mich.

Lautrec was influenced by the French Impressionist movement and strove to incorporate the ideals of such painters as Monet and Renoir into his own work. He also was influenced by Edgar Degas and Japanese printmaking. In addition to posters, he illustrated theater programs, book covers, menus and other ephemera. The Allentown exhibit will include the posters "Jane Avril," "Divan Japonais," "La Revue Blanche," and "Mademoiselle Eglantine's Troupe," depicting four women dancing the Can-Can. Fischer said Lautrec's Moulin Rouge poster will not be part of the exhibition because a good copy has not been found.

"People will leave feeling like they've been transported back to the 1890s in France. His work is outstanding," Fischer said of the Lautrec exhibition. "He never made a distinction between commercial and fine art, even though he also painted in oil."

Due to a genetic bone condition, Lautrec grew to be only five feet tall and needed to walk with a cane. His unusual physical appearance only contributed to his legendary persona. He died in 1901, at the age of 36, with deteriorating health due to alcohol abuse and the effects of syphilis.

In support of the exhibition at the Allentown Art Museum, a series of Lautrec-related events include:

  • Wednesday, noon talk: "The Beautiful Bodice: Fashions from the 1890s" by Kayla O'Connor, the museum's adjunct curator of textiles;
  • Sunday, June 9, 1 p.m.: "Toulouse-Lautrec and His Muse – Paris during the Belle Epoque" by Lisa Norris, associate professor of art history at Kutztown University;
  • Sunday, June 16, 1 p.m.: "Dispensing Beauty" by Annette Blaugrund, author and lecturer ("Dispensing Beauty: The Triumphs and Tragedies of Harriet Hubbard Ayer"), Victorian-era entrepreneur who owned and operated a cosmetics company, and
  • Sunday, July 14: Bastille Day at the Museum, with "French/European Printmaking in the Late 19th Century," at 1 p.m., by Christine Giviskos, associate curator of European Art at the Jane Vorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, Rutgers University.

Also opening at the Allentown Art Museum beginning Sunday will be the exhibition, "South Asian Temple Art," items from temples or associated with or used directly in religious practices. The works range in date from 200 AD up to and including the 1900s and were produced in India, Tibet and Nepal.

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Todd Stone's exhibition, "Midstream," 20 years of painting along the Delaware River, runs through June 10 at the Nuture Nature Center, 518 Northampton St., Easton. Through oils and watercolors, Stone, of Kintnersville and New York City, presents the changing landscape of the Gallows Run Watershed and the Narrows of the Delaware River at the Nockamixon Palisades and the changes wrought by recent severe weather and flooding.

Stone has exhibited internationally for more than 30 years. He was in his New York studio during 9/11 and painted on his roof until evacuation. His exhibition, "Witness," depicting a series of events of 9/11 and the aftermath, was shown at the James A. Michener in Doylestown.  His recent series, "Downtown Rising," chronicles the rebuilding of the first skyscrapers at Ground Zero.

In addition to Stone's exhibition, the Nurture Nature Center also has paintings by Anna Kodama, titled "Animals from the Dreaming World," and work by artists of the Lehigh Art Alliance, including Pat Delluva, Jody Matthews, Sydney McGinley, Kay Stauffer, and Patti Tinsman-Schaffer.

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A special exhibition featuring Capture Greater Lehigh Valley photographers and the release of the hard-bound book, "Capture Greater Lehigh Valley," will open Wednesday through June 29, at The Baum School of Art in Allentown. An opening reception will be held Wednesday from 6 to 8 p.m.

The exhibition will feature one photograph from each Capture Greater Lehigh Valley category, curated by the Baum School.

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"Joie de Vivre: Sculptures and Drawings by Karel Mikolas and Antonio Salemme" opens Sunday through June 30, at the gallery of the Antonio Salemme Foundation, 542 W. Hamilton St., Suite 203, Allentown. An opening reception will be held from noon to 5 p.m.

Joie de Vivre, the joy and exaltation of life, expresses the message of classical art and two well-known masters of classical figurative sculpture. Both artists were born in Europe – Mikolas in Czechoslovakia, Salemme in Italy – received rigorous training in an academic system of apprenticeship with roots in the Renaissance, and found their way to the Lehigh Valley. Mikolas has resided in Newside, Lehigh County, since 1975. Salemme settled in Williams Twp., Northampton Co., in 1962, and passed away in 1995, at the age of 102.

The exhibition will include rarely-shown terra-cotta (fired clay) figures called bozzetti, or sculptural ideas in sketch; drawings in charcoal, chalk and ink; plaster and bronze works, and bronze portraits.

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