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Commissioned in 1892 by Edouard Fournier, director of the Divan Japonais, a café-concert hall decked out in fashionable Japanese décor, Toulouse-Lautrec completed one of his most iconic and enduring posters in “Le Divan Japonais”. Featuring two of the artist’s recurrent characters — the dancer Jane Avril and singer Yvette Guilbert — Lautrec greatly reduced the color spectrum, processing the image through a series of large flat areas of block color. In the foreground, the intensity of the black dress and hat of Jane Avril highlights the brightness of the scene, and draws the eye to Yvette Guilbert singing in the background. Between both the gray silhouette of the cellos and the waving arms of the conductor is a remarkable sense of space forged between the show and the audience. Rendered in the style of Japanese wood-block prints that had effectively taken the Parisian art world by storm in the late nineteenth century, “Le Divan Japonais” is resplendent in empty spaces and characters conjured with an almost calligraphic intensity. The shaping lines, rarely hesitant and always flexible, create a series of rhythmic gestures that seems to pulsate through the scene. Known during his lifetime more for his poster work than for his canvases, Lautrec was a popular figure in the local social scene. As such he was closely acquainted with each figure in the picture, imbuing the work with a familiarity and lack of distance that goes a long way to collapse the boundaries between stage and audience. It is a work of staggering modernity and has a stark ability to represent an imagined era of golden age Paris.