The beautiful town in Occitanne is the artist’s birthplace and home to the Toulouse-Lautrec Museum (http://musee-toulouse-lautrec.com), where the largest public collection of his work in the world is on display.
The museum, in the Berbie Palace, is currently hosting a new exhibition on Swiss-born sculptor Alberto Giacometti, giving an extra incentive to head for this wonderful region.
The stylish Toulouse-Lautrec Museum is located at the very centre of the town in the square Place Sainte Cecile, near to the imposing Sainte Cecile Cathedral, the largest brick-built building in the world and a UNESCO world heritage sites.
Established in 1922, 21-years after Lautrec died at the age of 36, it showcases the lifework of the artist, who had an exceptionally productive career. Over 219 paintings and 563 drawings are presented, from his very first sketches to the lithographs depicting the lively nightlife of Belle Epoque Paris that made his name.
Not to be missed are his promotional posters of Parisian dance-halls and cabarets such as Moulin Rouge, whose Japanese inspiration revolutionised modern advertising and influence art even to this day.
Until June 30, 2019, the museum is also host to a temporary exhibition on the work of Swiss-born sculptor Alberto Giacometti. Presenting over 80 artworks, the exhibition will tell the tale of an artist’s endless quest for the perfect depiction of the human body. Sketches and drawings of the many illustrious figures Giacometti met during his life in Paris will also be on display, offering a touching tribute to famous names such as Simone de Beauvoir or Jean-Paul Sartre.
As you step out of the museum, turn right and follow the narrow alley that leads down to the stunning Berbie Gardens, beautiful views of the River Tarn below and the medieval citadel behind.
The Pont-Vieux – the oldest bridge in Albi – and the numerous red-brick buildings across the river all create a timeless landscape similar to the ones which inspired Lautrec’s early works.
As you return to the medieval streets, spot the many Tudor style houses, narrow alleys, secret passageways and guildhalls which have barely changed in centuries.
An appropriate end for you walk through Albi would be the Rue Henri-de-Toulouse-Lautrec and the front of Hotel du Bosc, easily recognisable thanks to its grand gate and impressive 18th century façade.
It was there that Toulouse Lautrec was born in 1864 to an aristocratic family, and where he suffered the ill-fated accident that left him reliant on a walking stick for the rest of his life -stunting his growth and giving him his well-known, child-like stature.
Outside of Albi, head to the village of Lautrec at the heart of the ‘Pays de Cocagne’ to discover the ancestral home of the painter’s family. The historic village is full of charming medieval houses which retains much of their original features and boasts several restored workshops in which you can learn more about the traditional crafts of the area.
The family also owned Chateau de Mauriac, which was built by one of Toulouse Lautrec’s ancestor – a templar – in the 13th century. Today the castle retains much of its cultural heritage and artistic ties: it was bought in the 1960s by painter Bernard Bistes, who created large galleries in the various rooms to display his beautiful artwork.
More information and places to stay at www.tourisme-tarn.com/tarn/en