Aristide Bruant was a performer, lyricist, and sometime publisher who also ran the Mirliton, one of Lautrec’s favorite spots in Montmartre. Bruant presented himself as the voice of the underclass and wrote songs about the woes of Paris’s poor to perform at the Mirliton, which he designed to have a rough, working-class air. At the entrance to the club, he served as bouncer, sometimes barring selected visitors from entering, and from the stage he mocked the bourgeois who swarmed to the club precisely for the novelty of being abused by Bruant himself. Bruant commissioned several posters of himself by Lautrec, all of which telegraph Bruant’s persona by way of a firmly established costume: an intimidating sneer, a large felt hat, a hunting coat, and a red scarf so immediately familiar that he is recognizable even from the back.
Gallery label from The Paris of Toulouse-Lautrec: Prints and Posters, July 26, 2014–March 22, 2015.