Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec



Toulouse-Lautrec (1864 -1901) was a French painter, printmaker, draughtsman, and illustrator, whose immersion in the colorful and theatrical life of fin de siècle Paris yielded an œuvre of exciting, elegant and provocative images of the modern and sometimes decadent life of those times. Toulouse-Lautrec is known along with Cézanne, Van Gogh, and Gauguin as one of the greatest painters of the Post-Impressionist period.

His debt to the Impressionists, in particular the more figurative painters Manet and Degas, is apparent. His style was also influenced by the classical Japanese woodprints, which became popular in art circles in Paris.

Born at Albi into an old southern French aristocratic family; already physically weak, he broke both of his legs in 1878 and 1879, after which he was crippled and remained a dwarf. From 1882 to 1886 he studied with F. Cormon at whose studio he met Bernard and van Gogh. At this period he painted realistic pictures of social criticism in bright impressionist colors. Lautrec began to frequent the bars and dance halls of Montmartre and to exhibit pictures there.

He excelled at capturing people in their working environment, with the color and the movement of the gaudy nightlife present with the glamour stripped away. He was masterly at capturing crowd scenes in which the figures were highly individualized. His treatment of his subject matter, whether as portraits, scenes of Parisian nightlife, or intimate studies, have been described as both sympathetic and dispassionate.

In 1889 he began to paint in new style of posters for bars, cabarets and publishing houses with a stylized, flat treatment of forms. He exhibited for the first time at the Salon des Indépendants and became a regular at the “Moulin Rouge”. In 1891 he exhibited with the Impressionists and Symbolists at the art dealer’s Le Barc de Boutteville. In1893 he had his first large exhibition at Galerie Goupil. At the same time he began to live in a brothel in order to paint and draw the life within. In 1899, after collapsing, Lautrec was taken to the mental hospital at Neuilly, despite the protest of his friends; however he continued to paint and to drink. In 1901, he became partially paralyzed and died at his mother’s castle.