Wednesday 6 May 2015

Birthday Boy

Here's an image familiar from every student bedsit and hangout of the Sixties, Seventies and beyond - and from many a more respectable wall to this day. It is almost the defining Toulouse-Lautrec print, and certainly the defining image of its subject, Aristide Bruant, born on this day in 1851. Bruant was a very successful singer, scabrous comedian and showbiz entrepreneur in the golden age of seedy bohemian Montmartre. When Bruant opened his own club, Le Mirliton, Toulouse-Lautrec was among the first patrons - and the only one consistently treated with respect; most were denounced as they arrived with various salty epithets, but for T-L, Bruant would silence the house and announce: 'Here comes the great painter Toulouse-Lautrec...'  The great painter certainly did Bruant plenty of favours in return, plastering his striking image all over Paris - and, as it turned out, ensuring this otherwise marginal figure would be remembered by posterity. If only for his image.

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