Toulouse-Lautrec and Belle Epoque set to stay in Athens a little longer

At this time of year, all the coffee shops in the pedestrian zone that runs along Irakleidon Street in Thiseion are full of young people who gather there to enjoy the beauty of this quiet neighborhood. In these colorful surroundings, one will find the charming neoclassical building that houses the Herakleidon, Experience of Visual Arts museum (16 Irakleidon, 210.-346.1981). Here, the exhibition «Toulouse-Lautrec and the Belle Epoque in Paris and in Athens» has been extended to October 5, and 17 new works have been added. Descending the two stairs to enter through the small door of the museum’s shop, the feeling is similar to arriving at a hospitable house. The signposts lead to the first floor where another door leads to an entirely different world where one is all of a sudden immersed in the period of Belle Epoque. Edith Piaf’s songs are heard playing at the right volume and darkness is interrupted by the light that is directed on the works and information panels. The two floors of exhibition space are occupied by posters, lithographs, drawings, images and art from the Greek and French Belle Epoque. There are images of «ladies» of doubtful repute and their persistent admirers. There is plenty of explanatory material and a film that features interviews with experts on Toulouse-Lautrec. Undoubtedly, the most impressive piece from the new works that have been added to the exhibition is the advertising poster for «Babylone d’Allemagne,» a caustic book by Victor Joze on the habits and customs of Berliners. The publication of the book caused a diplomatic episode in Germany (the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71 was still fresh in the memory) and Toulouse Lautrec’s poster was never displayed in public. Other details that stand out are the bright red dress of the Irish singer May Belfort or the tall and slim female figure with the fiery red hair – Lautrec’s favorite color – who is depicted in the poster advertising the «Divan Japonais» cabaret.

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