Admire Albi’s impressive Toulouse-Lautrec Museum

Toulouse-Lautrec Museum, Albi, FranceA few weeks ago, on a trip to southwestern France, my family and I spent a day in the beautiful, medieval town of Albi.

Among the town’s many points of interest – its thousand-year-old bridge spanning the Tarn River, the largest medieval brick church in the world – Albi is known to art lovers as the birthplace of the French artist Henri Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901). The artist would later become synonymous with the nightlife culture – including the dancehall performers and prostitutes who frequented the environment and who served as the preferred models for the artist- of Monmartre, Paris.

Toulouse-Lautrec Museum, Albi, FranceAlbi houses the largest collection of Toulouse-Lautrec’s works in the world, in the Toulouse-Lautrec Musuem, housed in the gorgeous, 13th century Bishops’ palace-fortress, the Palais de la Berbie. On your visit to the museum, you can also admire the medieval palace, and wander its gardens and its river views.

Henri Toulouse-Lautrec was born 24 November 1864 in Albi, the son of local nobility. Toulouse-Lautrec already suffered from a congenital disease of the bone – thought to be caused by frequent consanguineous marriages within his aristocratic family (his mother and father were first cousins).

Toulouse-Lautrec Museum, Albi, FranceAn accident in his youth exacerbated his physical deformities. As a boy, he fell from a  chair and broke his femur. A few years later, he broke his other leg. Although his upper body was of normal proportions, the growth of his legs was stunted. Toulouse-Lautrec was less than five feet tall, and his deformities necessitated the use of  a cane. Immobilized for long periods, he began to paint and draw.

As a young boy, he favored sporting paintings, and paintings of horses. But his skill as a caricaturist was always evident. My sons loved seeing the doodles he used to do of his teachers.

Toulouse-Lautrec Museum, Albi, FranceHe had a Latin dictionary filled with these brilliant sketches, making my sons wonder how much Latin he was actually studying. For some odd reason, my kids seemed to feel a special affinity for the artist after noticing his naughtiness in class…

In 1882, Toulouse-Lautrec moved from Albi to Paris, where he undertook formal studies with academic painters.

Throughout his career he favored marginalized subjects – his works of prostitutes are some of his best known, and they depict a humanity and sadness of their daily existence.

Toulouse-LautrecHis work is heavily influenced by Japanese prints, with flat color and clearly delineated outlines.

Toulouse-Lautrec’s Paris career coincided with the birth of modern advertisement. The artist was the premier poster artist of Paris for some time, and the museum has a wonderful collection of his colorful, turn-of-the-century posters, including favorite actors, actresses, showgirls, products and even (scandalous) book covers.

He died at only thirty-six, from complications of alcoholism and syphilis.

Toulouse-Lautrec Museum, Albi, FranceIt was his mother who gathered the core collection of his work and ensured it formed the core of a Toulouse-Lautrec Museum in his hometown of Albi.

Although his artistic career was short, Toulouse-Lautrec holds an important place in turn-of-the -century art, and he can be considered an influence for many artists who came later.

Don’t miss this fabulous museum – nor this spectacular medieval town – on your trip to southwestern France.



  1. ledrakenoir on December 31, 2013 at 9:45 am

    All the best wishes for You and Yours – Happy New Year… 🙂

    • kimberlysullivan on December 31, 2013 at 10:11 am

      Thanks, Ledrake. And a Happy New Year to you and yours, too! All the best for a great start to 2014.

  2. […] I already posted about the great, outdoor Christmas market  we enjoyed. I’ve also posted about the day trip we made to Albi, to see the impressive Toulouse-Lautrec Museum. […]

  3. […] While you’re exploring this medieval gem of a city, also make sure you view the works of a native son, in the fabulous Toulouse-Lautrec Museum I wrote about in an earlier post. […]

  4. Mélanie on June 27, 2014 at 3:46 pm

    I love Albi… <3 only 50'-drive from Toulouse… 🙂

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