Arts Everyday Living: Toulouse-Lautrec—Artistic Companion of the Week—Fast Facts

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This week I’ll be spotlighting artistic companion of the week, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, the Moulin Rouge’s premiere artist-in-residence.  (Coming Wednesday: More Nights in Paris.)


Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, c. 1890, photo by Maurice Guilbert


BORN:   November 24, 1864, Hotel du Bosc, Albi in southern France

DIED:    September 9, 1901, Chateau Malrome, near Bordeaux, France

THE COUNT’S SON:   Count Alphonse de Toulouse-Lautrec-Monfa, father; Countess Adele Tapie de Celeyran, mother: family lineage from Charlemagne’s reign, 9th century; Henri, only surviving son (younger brother died at 1); parents are first cousins, separated when Henri still young to prevent birth of more children, possible personality differences as well.

Henri de Toulouse Laturec, Portrait of Father, 1881, oil on panel, Musee Toulouse-Lautrec, Albi, France


LIFETIME DISABILITY:   Inherited bone disease, likely evident by age 10; broke both legs, one at 13, the other when 14, growth ceased at 5 feet and an inch; incapable physically of following father’s aristocratic lifestyle of sports and huntingfated to be professional artist or in Lature’s own words, “To think I would never have painted if my legs had been just a little longer.”  Always self-conscious of appearance, considered himself ugly; history of alcoholism, committed briefly to asylum near end of life, dies prematurely at 36, at mother’s chateau.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, c. 1892, photo


MOULIN ROUGE’S ARTIST-IN-RESIDENCE:   Displayed talent as adolescent, focused on pets especially dogs and horses; father who painted as hobby, initially supportive, arranged lessons with local animal painter, Rene Princeteau, then established master Leon Bonnat in Paris where Henri moves when about 18; at first resides with his family in fashionable quarter of the city.

In 1884, Henri moves to another district Monmartre, on the heights of Pairs, and spends next decade at epicenter of revolution in art; there influenced by Impressionists and other avant-garde artists; studies with Fernard Cormon, classmates include Vincent Van Gogh; Lautrec’s idol is Degas, who generally remains aloof from his would be follower.

Moulin Rouge, c. 1900, photo


Celebrities, Celebrities, Celebrities:   Regular client at cabarets, cafe concerts and dance halls, especially popular Moulin Rouge (“Red Mill”); gains wide recognition through posters such as Moulin Rouge—La Goulue below, hung all over Paris as advertisements; early example of mass marketing through new medium of lithography.

So let’s meet Lautrec’s super stars such as teenager (and former laundress) Louise Weber or La Goulue performing with her partner Valentin-le-Desosse in a striking composition of bold colors and energetic line, typical of Lautrec’s posters.


Toulouse Lautrec


La Goulue or “the glutton,” enjoyed her 15 minutes of fame as the major attraction of the Moulin Rouge, although she died in poverty and obscurity years later at 60.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, La Goulue Entering the Moulin Rouge, 1891-92, oil on cardboard, The Museum of Modern Art, NY


Next, the elegant and graceful Jane Avril, who was a close friend of Lautrec and commissioned him to advertise her successful dance act. The illegitimate daughter of an Italian nobleman, Avril (or “April” which was her stage name) survived an abusive childhood to become a popular performer at cafe concerts such as the Le Jardin de Paris.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Jane Avril at Le Jardin de Paris, c. 1893, poster










Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Jane Avril, 1899, poster


Then Aristide Bruant, also immortalized by Lautrec’s genius. This singer and poet first headlined the notorious Le Chat Noir (“The Black Cat”), then his own cabaret while free lancing at other more upscale venues in Paris. Bruant’s dashing appearance marked by a dark cape, wide brimmed hat, and red scarf lives on long after his moment on the stage.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Ambassadeurs: Aristide Bruant, c.1892, poster


LAUTREC CLOSEUP“Beneath a mocking exterior, Lautrec was highly sensitive; he had nothing but friends.  He was very close to his friends and always ready to help.  A weak man himself, he admired the strength of wrestlers or acrobats.  He had been excellently educated.  In matters of art he was always serious.”* Francois Gauzi

*All quotes of Toulouse-Lautre and others are from Henri de TouloouseLautrec: The Theatre of Life by Matthias Arnold, published by Taschen, 1987, Cologne.

The above images are used solely for educational purposes.



















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