In a garden designed by the renowned André Le Nôtre, creator of the "green geometries" at Versailles, the landmark Palais de la Berbie (Berbie Palace), between the cathedral and the Pont Vieux (Old Bridge), is the setting for this exceptional museum. Built in 1265 as a residence for Albi's archbishops, the fortresslike structure was transformed in 1922 into a museum to honor Albi's most celebrated son, Belle Époque painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864–1901). Toulouse-Lautrec left Albi for Paris in 1882 and soon became famous for his colorful, tumultuous evocations of the lifestyle of bohemian glamour found in and around Montmartre. Son of a wealthy and aristocratic family (Lautrec is a village not far from Toulouse), the young Henri suffered from a genetic bone deficiency and broke both legs as a child, which stunted his growth. But it was the artist's fascination with the decadent side of life that led him to an early grave at the age of 37. The museum's collection of
artworks—more than a thousand, representing the world's largest Toulouse-Lautrec corpus—has been deftly organized into themed rooms, including galleries devoted to some of his greatest portraits and scenes from Paris's maisons closées (brothels), with paintings stylishly hung amid the palace's brick ogival arches. There are other masterworks here, including paintings by Georges de la Tour and Francesco Guardi.