Another local celebrity : Toulouse Lautrec
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec was 21 years old when he painted this (Femme assise nue) “sitting naked woman” in 1883 (picture 1); this could denote either a premature authority and perversity, or a premature artistic sensitivity, or both, but whatever, the great painter was already there, in this painting which is a symbol of the biggest part of the rest of his life; painting, of course, but also patronizing cabarets and brothels, treating prostitutes, who in the end, were one of his inspiration source.
Toulouse Lautrec had a very distinctive style, best expressed in his lithographies or “à plat” paintings and has a big place in world art history. Albi is now proud of her son, coming from a local gentry family, but it was not the same when he was living, and when the local petty bougeois knew of his life in Paris.
Toulouse Lautrec was the son of close cousins and had a congenital malformation, looked ugly, lived his adult life as alcoholic, and died of syphilis! Uff!
With all these “handicaps” he became a great artist with a big influence on Art Nouveau, and many modern posters owe to his drawing style.
On pictures 2 and 3, are two posters showing his sober style and personal use of colours. On picture 4 is a painting of his youth (Portrait of René Princeteau).
He is the short guy on picture 5.
The famous Toulouse Lautrec Museum, set in a medieval bishops palace (art, prostitutes, bishops. . . I like that sort of improbable ties. . . ), in the city centre, has been created in 1922 and renovated in 2002; some of his major works are there.
The website shows many paints, posters and drawings, if you want to have an idea.
Ste.-Cecile: The Last Judgement
When Bishop Louis I d’Amboise first decided to decorate his church (1480), he immediately realized that the west front was already finished on the outside and did not look like others. He could not use a tympanum to educate and lecture his flock. Somehow (undoubtedly with the help of Cluny) they located a group of painters who created one of the largest pictures ever made on the inner surface of the brick walls of the west end. They did not cover it with plaster and create a fresco but devised materials based upon egg-yolk as both binder and adhesive incorporating ground pigments applied directly to the brick. The mural has the layout of a magnified version of the tympanum of the Last Judgement at Conques (See our Tips there).There appears to be nothing like it elsewhere in the world, and it still is in its original state with very little attempt at repair. The largest disruption to it occurred in the late 17C when the central midsection was removed to provide an entry to the St. Clair Chapel under the belfry. This section contained Archangel Michael with his scales plus Mary and St. John. Nobody knows who the artists were but it is suspected that they were originally trained by Flemish artists in Burgundy. One or more unidentified “Flemish” masters were around such as the Master of Moulins (Jean Hey; see the Rolin Museum in our Autun Tips). Documents say they were French. At any rate the characters have a liveliness and expression very akin to the work of Bosch and van der Weyden (they were never in these parts). The blessings and sins (with details of the tortures) are delineated in the captions. The punishments for the sinners are easy to see. Above the banner on the left is Heaven with 12 white robed Apostles with a crowd of notables (big-shots who made it like Charlemagne). Just below the banner are the Saved with the Book of Life in their hands. Where did the artist(s) get the source iconography? There is nothing but speculation.
The Occitan cross
Ah I wrote a few words about the Cathars in the intro ; almost nothing from that period is left in Albi, except some names and it is now more a commercial argument rather than any other thing; if you are looking for a summer house, even cathar estate agents offer their services (picture 1); but Cathars had no external artefacts or signs like crosses, so the crosses above the window have no meaning, despite their original shape.
To the contrary, you will see in Occitania many crosses like the one on the sign on picture 2, and generally red coloured; this is the Occitan cross.