Musée d'Orsay: Splendour and Misery. Pictures of Prostitution, 1850-1910

Splendour and Misery. Pictures of Prostitution, 1850-1910


Henri de Toulouse-LautrecAu Moulin Rouge© The Art Institute of Chicago
The first major show on the subject of prostitution, this exhibition attempts to retrace the way French and foreign artists, fascinated by the people and places involved in prostitution, have constantly sought to find new pictorial resources for depicting the realities and fantasies it implied.

From Manet's Olympia to Degas's Absinthe, from Toulouse-Lautrec and Munch's forays into brothels to the bold figures of Vlaminck, Van Dongen or Picasso, the exhibition focuses on showing the central place held by this shady world in the development of modern painting. The topic is also covered with regard to its social and cultural dimensions through Salon painting, sculpture, decorative arts décoratifs and photography. A wealth of documentary material recalls the ambivalent status of prostitutes, from the splendour of the demi-mondaine to the misery of the pierreuse (street walker).

Please note that some of the pieces presented in the exhibition may be shocking to some visitors (particularly children).


Marie Robert and Isolde Pludermacher, curators, Musée d'Orsay
Richard Thomson, Professor of Art History, Edinburgh University,
Nienke Bakker, curator, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam


Robert Carsen, set designer and art director

The exhibition can also be seen at the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam from 19 February to 19 June 2016


This exhibition was made with the exceptional participation of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France

With the generous sponsorship of Empreinte and La Maison Souquet

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