In 1892, the French cabaret singer, comedian, and nightclub owner Aristide Bruant commissioned Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec to design a poster for his performances at the Ambassadeurs and Eldorado clubs. Toulouse-Lautrec captured Bruant’s commanding personality with his iconic portrait of him wearing a wide-brimmed hat, black cloak, and bright-red scarf. The lithograph poster was printed in five colors on wove paper.
Toulouse-Lautrec successfully conveyed Bruant’s street slang and rowdiness on stage through his use of bold and graphic lines. He emphasized Bruant’s signature red scarf to draw attention to him as a performer. Unlike other posters of that time period which portrayed performers as elegant and refined, Toulouse-Lautrec chose to portray Bruant in a gritty manner that evoked the feeling of being in the lively Parisian cabarets.
This iconic poster became one of Toulouse-Lautrec’s greatest works and cemented both his reputation as an artist and Bruant’s status as a popular entertainer. The poster not only depicted Briuant, but it also served as an advertisement for Parisian nightlife during this period when art was experiencing huge transformations throughout France.