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Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, (Albi, France, 1864–1901, Langon, France), Napoléon, 1895. The William Sparling Kinkead Collection of Toulouse-Lautrec Art 1984-44-6
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, (Albi, France, 1864–1901, Langon, France), Napoléon, 1895. The William Sparling Kinkead Collection of Toulouse-Lautrec Art 1984-44-6
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
1895

33 x 28 inches

By 1895 Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec was firmly established within avant-garde circles in Paris and beyond.

Since 1887 he had been represented by the Paris gallery Boussod and Valadon, where Vincent van Gogh's brother Theo was the first to promote his work. By 1891, when Lautrec conceived his famous poster for the notorious Moulin Rouge cabaret and dance-hall, his artistic career was flourishing and he had begun to explore the multicolored lithograph as a fine-art as well as commercial medium.

Napoléon was a submission to a competition sponsored by Boussod and Valadon for a poster to advertise a new biography of the emperor. Lautrec's composition is relatively conservative in its drafting and naturalistic in its detail, yet it is infused with a characteristic sense of immediacy and unconventional symbolism: the red, white, and blue horses suggest the French tri-color and the soldiers' costumes evoke Napoleon's campaigns in North Africa and Europe.

Though Lautrec had tempered his style to suit the academic tastes of the jury, the winner of the competition was Lucien Métivet—like Lautrec, a former pupil of Fernand Cormon—who submitted an emblematic and heraldic design. Despite his third-place ranking, Lautrec was satisfied enough with his image to produce it in an edition of 100, without lettering, for an ever-growing market of collectors of fine-art lithographic prints.

Napoléon is one of more than forty works on paper by Lautrec held by Krannert Art Museum.

Text by Gisele Atterberry, from Krannert Art Museum: Selected Works, 2008

 

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Krishna Leaves Radha. India, Guler-Kangra (18th century). Opaque color on paper. 8 1/2 x 6 1/2 inches. Gift of George P. Bickford 1970-10-5
Krishna Leaves Radha. India, Guler-Kangra (18th century). Opaque color on paper. 8 1/2 x 6 1/2 inches. Gift of George P. Bickford 1970-10-5
India, Guler-Kangra
18th Century

8 1/2 x 6 1/2 inches

This painting is one of four illustrations of the Bhagavata Purana in Krannert Art Museum's collection. The works are from different areas of India and therefore differ stylistically from one another. The Bhagavata Purana, a popular Hindu text dating from the ninth or tenth century, narrates the life and adventures of Krishna, an avatar or incarnation of the god Vishnu. Hindus believe in a formless god whose three primary manifestations are Brahma the creator, Siva the destroyer, and Vishnu the preserver. Vishnu's Krishna avatar is known as "the dark one" and is usually shown with black or dark-blue skin.

In this work, Krishna has turned away from the goddess Radha, who looks dismayed by his action. It seems not even the lotus in Krishna's hand pacified her. As the rejected Krishna departs, his annoyance is evident on his face. He wears a saffron yellow dhoti and a crown such as the god Vishnu would wear, denoting his divinity. Radha, referred to as a gopi ("cowherd") in the Bhagavata Purana text, is depicted in this painting as a princess in her palace.

Until paper became commonly used in India in the fifteenth century, illustrated texts were made on horizontal pieces of palm leaf which were pierced and threaded together with a wooden cover. The artists were usually anonymous and the works unsigned. Some patrons were rajas (kings) who employed a studio of artists. Other patrons hired itinerant painters, both Hindu and Muslim, to illustrate their favorite texts. By commissioning this work, donors gained religious merit as well as aesthetic pleasure. The paintings were not meant to be hung on the wall but rather held in the hand for examination and admiration. Paintings of this genre embody bhakti, an intense personal devotion to a god. The love between Krishna and Radha was that of a divine union.

Text by Barbara H. Friedell, from Krannert Art Museum: Selected Works, 2008