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Prints in Paris 1900. From Elite to the Street

At the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, a wonderful exhibition is on show.  Prints in Paris 1900. From Elite to the Street takes you back to Paris at the fin-de-siècle. A time when print art is undergoing an interesting change. 

The French fin-de-siècle is an exciting time, especially for Paris and the arts. The city is filled with colorful posters, made by famous artists. The same artists who produce exclusive works of art for the rich Parisian elite are also working on these street posters. This exhibition shows both the contrasts and the differences between elite art and popular art.


Prints in Paris 1900. Van elitair tot populair.
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Poster for the café-concert Le Divan Japonais, 1893.

On the ground floor you are guided through the world of the Parisian art lovers. These rich, white men were collecting graphic works, which they gathered in their richly decorated houses. Handcarved leather folders, even large wooden cupboards were made especially for the collecting of these fine print works. The design of this exhibition clearly demonstrates the way in which these collectors celebrated this art form.

Prints in Paris 1900. From Elite to the Street.
Image of the exhibition Prints in Paris 1900. From Elite to the Street.


If you move up one floor, you are transported to another world. It is the Paris of the streets. Large, colorful prints are competing for your attention. These posters are often made by exactly the same artists whose work you admired downstairs. In this particular period, men like Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Pierre Bonnard are experimenting with newly discovered printing techniques. These Avant-garde artists started to explore what was then considered  ‘lower’ art forms, such as decorative designs, prints, and posters. Slowly but surely, Paris’ streets were covered with provocative artworks that focused on the sensual nightlife of the French capital. Among them are world-famous posters like Le Chat Noir and Le Moulin Rouge.

End game

Finally, it all comes back together again in the houses of the elite. They are so in love with this art form, that they move the posters of the outside world into their homes. Both the lower and the high art are now on display in their private little galleries. The demand for these posters created a certain over-the-top effect, preluding the end of its popularity.

The exhibition is a must-see for fans of poster art. It gives you a great sense of the art climate of Paris around 1900.

Van Gogh Museum. Prints in Paris 1900: From Elite to the Street. 3 March to 11 June 2017.
Want to find out what is on show in the rest of Amsterdam? Click here.




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