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World's biggest Toulouse-Lautrec collection reopens in south-west France

Musée Toulouse-Lautrec

The world’s most complete collection of the works of French artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec shows off its new look to the public on Monday in the town of Albi in south-west France.


The Toulouse-Lautrec museum reopens after being closed since the beginning of the year as the final touches were put to a 33-million-euro conversion programme that took 11 years.

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The collection of nearly 1,000 works has been rehung in a presentation that combines chronological order and themes, such as brothels, 19th-century Parisian night-spot stars and posters.

The building that houses the collection is the mediaeval Palais de la Berbie, built by the bishops who ruled the city and the surrounding area in the 13th century.

Before the makeover parts of it were in such a decrepit condition that visitors sometimes stumbled upon basins placed under leaking ceilings, a situation judged unworthy of the home of the works one of France’s best-known artists.

A major restoration programme has not only rendered the museum more presentable but also brought to light mediaeval pavements in varnished clay. The 15th-century painted ceilings have not been restored in time for the reopening, however.

Albi’s Episcopal city was put on Unesco’s World Heritage list in 2010.

The basis of the museum’s collection was donated by Toulouse-Lautrec’s mother, Countess Adèle de Toulouse-Lautrec, after her son’s death at the age of 36 in1901.

Paris’s Musée du Luxembourg declined the offer of the collection, which eventually went on show in Albi in 1922.

“Many of the works were left in the studio because he didn’t need, financially, to sell them, even if he did regard sales as a recognition of his art,” the museum’s curator, Danièle Devynck, told the AFP news agency.

Although the Bohemian who haunted Montmartre’s sleazier areas in the late 19th century is now one of the most expensive artists in the world – rivalling Vincent Van Gogh in the price stakes, according to Devynck – the museum continues to update the collection.

Recent acquisitions La Modiste, Mlle Margouin en fourreau de mannequin, and Elsa la Viennoise will be on show in Albi for the first time.


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