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Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec - The famous draftsman

Henri-Marie Raymond de Toulouse-Lautrec-Monfa, was born, 1864, at Albi. Lautrec liked to work on a cardboard. He made drawings rather than paintings. Only his people matter. His drawings do not distort as much as later moderns did their subjects ...

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, leading figure of the 19th-century avant-garde in Paris

Military and Horses by Henri de Toulouse Lautrec

Military and Horses

It is not surprising that young Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec should have begun to draw. The members of his family practiced all the arts, drawing in particular, if only as amateurs. From the age of ten Lautrec became an inveterate sketcher. His school notebooks are filled with sketches of pupils and teachers. During the summer of 1880, military manoeuvres took place near Carmeaux, the village he lived, and troops in glittering uniforms caped by the Chateau du Bosc. The house he lived in. Lautrec drew dragoons, hussars artillerymen, and infantrymen.

During most years of childhood Lautrec seems to come to Paris with his parents, since his father could not miss the great racing events of the season. Born with a love of horses, like all his family, Lautrec found in painting riders or carriages an early satisfaction for his sense of movement.

Drawings published in the Mirliton magazine by Henri de Toulouse Lautrec

Drawings published in the Mirliton magazine

The Montmartre of 1883 had an equivocal charm. In its rustic setting, the Butte maintained an air og gentle innocence although its vine growers and millers were gradually being supplanted by the younger members of the bourgeoisie. it had also become a meeting-place for pimps and prostitutes. Lautrec, scion of a noble family, wavered over a long period in the difficult choice between adopting the way of life of this wondrous and captivating new milieu and adhering to that of his childhood.

Montmartre had retained its gardens, waste ground, low houses, and paths of trodden earth. Montmartre was a suburb fashionable among writers, painters, and actors and a casual dress and colorful local jargon prevailed. Toulouse-Lautrec begun to show a marked preference for that of Degas, Monet, and the Impressionists in general.

At the time of Toulouse-Latrec's initiation into the life of Montmartre, Aristide Bruant, the a little-known singer and composer, was installing himself in a tiny room in the Boulevard Rochechouart. Bruant invited Lautrec to illistrate his songs. He also proposed that Lautrec's pictures be displayed on the walls of the Mirliton and his drawings published in the Mirliton magazine. In this way, at the age of twenty-one, Lautrec became known to the public and began secure commissions for his work. (Dessins de Tréclau, an anagram of Lautrec)

The Bal du Moulin Rouge by Henri de Toulouse Lautrec

The Bal du Moulin Rouge

The newspaper announced: Opening on October 5th from ten o'clock in the evening until half past twelve, the Moulin Rouge presents a very Parisian spectacle which husbands may confidently attend accompanied by their wives. Clients passed through a log corridor, the walls of which were hung with paintings, posters, and photographs, before arriving at the dance hall itself, with multicolored hangings and the glowing gaslights. The Moulin Rouge was assuredly the largest market-place of love in Paris.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec swayed along, his appearance that of an elegant man of the world rather than of a painter. Lautrec had compelled recognition amongst his friends and throughout Montmartre. He frequently exhibited, also outside Paris, his pictures and occasionally sold examples.

Under the name of Treclau and Lautrec or H. T.-Lautrec in ensuing years, he became widely known through the medium of magazine illustrations. He developed an interest in engraving. The necessity to simplify color tones and to select linear forms compatible with mechanical processes of reproduction began to exert a profound influence on his technique.

In 1891, after two years of success, the Moulin Rouge found itself in difficult circumstances. Jules Chéret, the unrivalled master of lithography at that period, had designed an attractive and witty poster for the original opening of the Moulin Rouge. In 1891, Zidler and Oller, partners and owners of the Moulin Rouge, took the risk of entrusting Toulouse-Lautrec with responsibility for a poster announcing the new opening. The style of this large poster was revolutionary. The figure was no longer ancillary but served almost to replace the text in its persuasiveness. In the background appeared the silhouettes of spectators, in the foreground Valentin, and, dominating the centre, an enormous and highly colored representation of La Coulue. This was lithographic work of great precision on which Lautrec was indebted for advice to his friend Pierre Bonnard.

Jane Avril, café-concerts by Henri de Toulouse Lautrec


At that time the café-concerts were immensely popular. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec preferences the cheap stuffy music halls, where future stars made their appearance alongside those already well established. Lautrec's favorites were La Cigale, La Boule-Noire, Les Décadents and Le Divan Japonais. Situated in and around Montmartre, these were all regular meeting-places for Lautrec and his friends.

When Lautrec first saw Jane Avril, she was a minor dancer at the Moulin Rouge. From 1890 onwards a close friendship grew up. Henri and jane often spent their evenings together. Jane often posed for him, figuring in his paintings, lithographs, and posters. The role played by the café-concert in Lautrec's life resembled that played by Saskia in the life of Rembrandt. It provided the background of his life.

At that time the queen of the Parisian café-concert and music hall was the actress Yvette Guilbert. Lautrec illustrated an album relating to the actress.

What charm could Lautrec have discerned in My Belfort? Standing motionless in her red and white costume and a little black cat in her arms. She instantly aroused Lautrec's interest. Lautrec executed several lithographs in which she figured.

May Milton was a close friend of Jane Avril. Toulouse-Lautrec made two portraits of her.

The heroines of the café-concerts ceased to hold Lautrec's interest when, demoralized by success, they lost their spontaneity. Jane Avril embodied his ideal throughout his life, precisely because she did not attitudinize.

Nude Art by Henri de Toulouse Lautrec

Nude Art

From time to time Toulouse-Lautrec would disappear for several days and everyone would wonder what could have become of him. Lautrec's disappearances were carefully planned. He went to the salon of the brothels in the Rue des Moulins and Rue d'Amboise. It represent the priod of his most varied and successful artistic output.

Nude painting of the most sensual and erotic kind was at that time very fashioable at the Salon and much in evidence in bourgeois houses. In the brothels he was known as Monsieur Henri, the painter and no one was surprised or chocked by his presence.

In 1892 the proprietress of the brothel in the Rue d'Amboise in which Lautrec was temporarily installed decided to redecorate the drawing-room and sought his co-operation. Lautrec painted sixteen heads. Lautrec's decoration was dismantled and sold, shortly after the Great War.

Lautrec valued the trust they placed in him and the freedom with which he was allowed to study their activities. In his presence they felt no shame, they would relax or kiss and embrace each other as if they were alone. In this leisurely fashion he would observe their lesbian behavior with fascination and later convey it in his painting.

There are about fifty paintings by lautrec on the brothel theme, besides numerous drawings and lithographs, whose development may be clearly defined.

The naturalness and spontaneity of these women, to whom nakedness was habitual, imbued them with a grace reminiscent of that of nymphs. For Lautrec, beauty was inherent in life, in movement, in the absence of physical or moral restraint, and he wished to indicate the unquestionable superiority of the prostitutes in this respect over other women.

> Read more Nude Art and Naturist Art by Loek de Winter

La Passagere Du 54 by Henri de Toulouse Lautrec

Revue Blanche, Animals and La Passagere Du 54

Alexandre Natanson, a great lover of art had founded in 1891, with his younger brothers, the revue Blanche, a lively magazine which reported all that was of consequence in literature and art.

Lautrec, brought up in the country, loved animals. As a child, he was surrounded by dogs, falcons, and horses. He did not draw a distinct frontier between men and animals. His animals usually have human expressions. Lautrec illustrate Histoires Naturelles in 1899.

For his yearly visit to his mother at Malromé he would go by train only as far as Le Havre, from where a cargo boat take him to Bordeaux. During the summer of 1985, on board was another passenger, an attractive, gracious and rather reserved young woman who was previously unknown to Lautrec. The painter was struck by her beauty and would gaze intently at her, but never attempted to speak to her. She occupied Cabin 54, La Passagere Du 54. A photograph of the passenger was taken, possibly without her knowledge, on the bridge of the ship. On the basis of this Toulouse-lautrec executed one of his most beautiful lithographs, in which the passenger from Cabin 54 sits, book in hand, lost in reverie on the bridge. An image of elegance, beauty, relaxation, and contentment.

Gourmand Henri de Toulouse Lautrec

Sporting Life and Good Food

The year 1897 marked both a climax and a turning point in Lautrec's life. During that year he left his studio in the Rue de Tourlaque to settle more comfortably in a single-storey house, surrounded by gardens, at 15 Avenue Frochot. New trends began to appear in his work, a tendency towards the use of more somber colors.

Once again he became a familiar figure of horse-races. Lautrec's enthusiasm for the latest innovations in methods of transport, in particular for the motor-car and the various new types of bicycle and tricycle was boundless. The outcome of races in the Velodrome was of little interest to Lautrec, but the setting and the people fascinated him. Even in the Revue Blanche there began to appear a sports column.

The fashion for cycling inspired portraits, lithographs, drawings, and paintings by Lautrec. At Villeneuve, Lautrec would swim and row. Sailing and hunting scoter-duck. The epicurean Lautrec loved good food and adored cooking. His friend Joyant published a book giving all the recipes used by Lautrec, including those for a number of special dishes invented by him.

But Lautrec regularly drank to excess, and there were scandals ...

Toulouse-Lautrec - Le Cirque

The Circus

One day early in March 1899 Lautrec awoke from the intoxication extolled in Baudelaire's poem to find himself in an unfamiliar room. The door was padlocked and the windows barred, and a male nurse kept watch over him. He was, in fact, in the Folie-Saint-James, at 16 Avenue de Madrid , Neuilly, near the Bois de Boulogne, a beautiful eighteenth-century mansion situated in the middle of a large park, which had been transformed into a retreat for the mentally sick.

He had decided that he should prepare an album of works on the theme of the circus, which his friend, Joyant would then publish. This plan had one great tactical advantage: one of the symptoms of Lautrec's illness, was his loss of memory. If Lautrec were able to recall in precise detail the most famous circus attractions of the previous twenty years, the psychiatrists would surely be obliged to admit that they had been mistaken in their diagnosis.

In his circus drawings Lautrec captured the comedy and pathos of the situations as well as their movement, sound and color. In the circus world Lautrec's favorite model was Georges Footit, a white-faced clown (image left).

And after these drawings the specialist: patient quite calm, could undoubtedly be maintained, but ... Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec was still sick ...

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec - L'Anglaise du Star

Lautrec's most famous Portrait

I have bought my freedom with my drawings. He was now fully aware of the risks to which he was exposed, and with admirable self-control agreed to follow the plan for a well-regulated life proposed by his mother. Lautrec hastened to leave Paris.

Lautrec went to Normandy, and began to recover his appetite for life. He stayed at Le Havre and visited the Star, a modest café-concert and sailors' bar. The barmaid was an English girl, whose radiance encouraged him to paint again. He got back his canvases and brushes, and executed a red chalk drawing and this picture. May-be his most famous portrait. (image left)

After this holiday by the sea Lautrec visited his mother at Malromé. In November 1899 Lautrec returned to Paris. He tried painting portraits, but the subject held no interest for him. For his visit to the International Exhibition of 1900, Lautrec overcome by fatigue, rode in a wheelchair. The exhibition disappointed him.

His mother brought him back to Malromé. on Sunday, September 9th, 1901, Henri was in his room, on the point of death: his mother prayed, slumped beside him, while Comte Alphonse, with touching, if immoderate, good will, endeavor to comfort his dying son.

Relationship Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec with Vincent van Gogh

Portrait of Vincent van Gogh by Toulouse-Lautrec

Toulouse-Lautrec and Van Gogh

In February 1886, Vincent van Gogh left Antwerp for Paris, where his brother Theo lived. There he enrolled in Cormon's Atelier and became a friend of Toulouse-Lautrec's. For two years they painted and exhibited together, influencing each other's work, but in February 1888, on Lautrec's advice, Van Gogh moved to the south of France. They spent one more day together in July 1890, during Van Gogh's last visit to Paris.

It was through Emile Bernard that Van Gogh struck up a closer friendship with Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Louis Anquetin, whom he had also first met at Cormon's.

Van Gogh had paid regular visits to Toulouse-Lautrec's studio in Rue Caulincourt, Paris, just around the corner from the brothers Vincent and Theo's apartment, to show his work. Theo van Gogh was the first art dealer who regularly exhibited Toulouse-Lautrec's work.

He leaves Cormon's studio in the autumn and rents a studio at no. 7 rue Tourlaque, on the corner of rue Caulaincourt, which he keeps until 1897. This is where he meets Suzanne Valadon, who models for him. She is his mistress until she attempts suicide in 1888.

Toulouse-Lautrec was invited to an exhibition in Brussels, and he exhibits with Van Gogh and Anquetin in Paris. Develops an interest in colored Japanese prints.

Belgian critic Octave Maus invites him to present eleven pieces at the Vingt (the Twenties) exhibition in Brussels in February. Theo Van Gogh buys Poudre de Riz (Rice Powder) at a price of 150 Francs for the Goupil gallery.

In 1889 he participates regularly in the Salon des Independants (Independent's exhibition) and the Cercle artistique et littéraire Volnay (the Volnay art and literature society) from now until 1894. He paints a series of outdoor portraits in the Père Forest garden in Montmartre. Spends the summer in Arcachon. Wins a regatta race aboard the Damrémont yacht. The Moulin Rouge opens on 90 boulevard de Clichy on the 5th October. Lautrec becomes a regular. He has a table reserved and displays his work there.

See also above the Portrait of Vincent van Gogh by Toulouse-Lautrec.

> Read more Musée Toulouse-Lautrec Albi Midi Pyrénées

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec's Art Techniques

Toulouse-Lautrec's Style

Toulouse-Lautrec's Style

Lautrec did not pay homage to any established theories. His self-imposed caricature is the image by which he has become so widely known. His means of touching and animated pictures, Lautrec succeeded, in spite of his lack of physical charm, in winning the hearts of the most fascinating and most courted women of his time, and it is evident that he identified himself with his Satyr, ugly in appearance but able to represent beauty.

Lautrec drew and painted with great rapidity. Lautrec's genius was manifest in the quality of his draughtsman ship. In the choice of color and subject-matter Lautrec's first real works clearly show the influence of Princeteau, although the brush-strokes are surprisingly free and spirited. Cormon's technique was excellent, and Lautrec, during his four years as Cormon's conscientious pupil, profited greatly from his teaching.

By 1890 Lautrec's admiration for Impressionism and Japanese prints had completely alienated him from the work of Cormon. I want, Lautrec said, to paint like the primitives whose painting is as simple as that on a carriage door. He avoided transparent effects and the blending of colors, and adopted instead vibrant colors and startling contrasts. His remarkable portrait of Cha-U-Kao (image left) shows the skill with which he achieved an astonishingly life-like representation with bold, assured brush-strokes.

New methods always aroused his interest, and he often used, in place of canvas, the grey or beige cardboard to which diluting his paint with turpentine.

> Read more Van Gogh's Art Techniques

Lautrec's Palette

Lautrec's Palette

Lautrec's palette was simple and classic. He put the colors in following order (ref. Edouard Julien, curatoo of the Musée d'Albi)

- white
- two chrome yellows
- vermillion
- red madder
- ultramarine blue
- Prussian blue
- cobalt green
- emerald green
- yellow ochre
- natural sienna
- burnt sienna
- natural umber
- burnt umber
- ivory black

From 1890, the umbers were replaced by a cobalt blue and a cobalt green.

Lautrec's Signature and Monogram

Lautrec's Signature and Monogram

Monfa was the signature Lautrec used during his youth. Tréclau is an anagram of Lautrec. It was a signature he used very irregularly. T.-Lautrec was the signature most frequently used.

The monogram TL, used by Lautrec, was in orange. The monogram TL was appended by Joyant, his friend, to many of Lautrec's works, after his death, using the artist's seal, and was in red.

Life of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (short biography)

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

Henri-Marie Raymond de Toulouse-Lautrec-Monfa, was born on November 24th 1864 at Albi in the South of France. His father was a count. The Lautrec's family records going back to 1196. He was born normal, a pleasant child with a bright eye and happy laugh. But soon illness overcome him and a strange bone disease destroyed his figure after he fell and broke his legs. He became a dwarf.

Henri was a born draftsman, already as a child a great maker of lines and form. One has but to see his early sketch books, the drawings on his letters during his teens, to realize he saw everything as material for his pen or pencil. Even his paintings were mostly drawn and colored, usually on cardboard, rather than painted with full values of pigments. Almost all his life he drew his paintings with bold lines or little dashing strokes, blending his forms together with the eye of a graphic artist first. It is his patterns, his scenes, his skills with the object we remember best, not the paint or the color.

Lautrec's first teacher in 1880 was René Princeteau, a fine painter of horses and soldiers, and he taught Lautrec so well that we sense in this boy's work a craftsmanship and a virtuosity in drawing that already suggests a master. His horses curve their necks and gallop, his hounds spring into the air, every pencil line of rider or carriage is alive and active. The essence of an artist is that he should be articulate a critic had written.

Few took him seriously a a painter. His first fame cane from his posters and from his lithograph drawings on the stone.; Cha-U-Kao the clown, Loie Fuller, Artistide Brant. Lautrec was a true graphic artist, saying what he had to say of the Paris of his time, its night life, the flaring gaslights outlining diners and dancers, courtesans and pleasure seekers. in poster after poster he alerted the town, and in a series of prints het captured the raddled flesh of the great actors, the strange mouths and noses of the singers, the features of the woman who served with bodies and gestures to excite an ear. The quadrille at the Moulin Rouge, La Coulue dancing, the Cirque Fernando.

The city took on color with Lautrec's posters of Le Divan Japonais, and Les Ambassadeurs. He exhibited his pictures of Montmartre life and made the mastery series of drawings of the green-eyed, long-nosed, black-gloved Yvette Guilbert, who called him: Petit monstre une horreur.

Always drawing music halls, dance dives, theatres, and the streets he passed through the 90's and came near to the 20th century. He agreed with the critic who said: To let oneself go, that is what art is always aiming at.

His mind and body deteriorated by drink, he was locked up in the Saint James Clinic at Neuilly in 1899. I am shut up and everything that is shut up dies, he said. To prove he was still capable of thinking and working he created, from memory, one of his best series of drawings: Le Cirque. This and the press campaign of his friends got his release. But the end was near. There was no way fully back. Only his drawings kept coming from the hand that had nearly reached its grasp of a pencil. The critic Ruskin wrote: The art of drawing is of more real importance than that of writing.

Lautrec asked to be taken to his mother at the Chateau de Malromé. Crippled, ugly, worn down by a hand-lived life, he sat in the sun and she held his hands. With his mother near him he died on September 9, 1901 at the age of 36. Someone who present at the end said: He watched everything but hardly talked at all. The look in his eyed had changed and he could not bring himself to laugh.

Lautrec liked to work on a cardboard. The surface yellowed quickly to grain on which with a brush he drew rapidly, trying out ideas and then throwing on some white and adding a color tone here and there. These were drawings rather than paintings and are among his most pleasing works. The board has browned and its surface has absorbed the turpentine and the oil, so that the pattern is bolder than ever and the drawing binds it together.

Much of his best work is found in the grease crayon drawings he did on the lithographer's stone. Drawing directly on the cold surface, his every touch was personal, vital and alert. The prints made from his drawings are among the glories of draftsmanship. The influence of Japanese prints shows in its placement on the paper, the neglect of shadow, of banal detail. In following the masters of Japanese prints Lautrec too caught the feeling moment, what they called: the floating world and a new way gave us pictures from a viewpoint we would not have seen without their help.

Toulouse-Lautrec's drawings do not distort as much as later moderns did their subjects. But he does have a personal viewpoint, a gem-hard ironic bite. His people are bared to us at their most intimate, at their most gay. He is an artist who always aware of the skull beneath the skin. He hides little from us, he has no moral message for us, only the futility of human effort and human despair. He never preaches, never sinks into popular cant. Some of his subject matter is strong, as in his mocking erotic scenes. Taken as a whole his vast collection of drawings picture for us an era with the skill and nuances of a great novelist, from Chocolat Dancing to Le Grand Lodge.

Only his people matter. He never bothered much with landscape. it was there but he had no interest in it. He influenced Picasso, and the young Spaniard came to Paris o meet him, only to find him already dead. Lautrec's subjects of the fin du siècle were the themes of many young modern artists. The artist Moreau told his pupils: Go study a figure by Lautrec, done entirely in absinthe. The little artist would have liked that recommendation and its reference to his habits.

> Read more Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec Biography of a many-sided artist by Musée Toulouse-Lautrec


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