Henri De Toulouse Lautrec Biography | Oil Paintings.

11-24-1864 Albi, FRA - 9-9-1901 Paris, FRA

Toulouse Lautrec, Henri De

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec was a descendant of one of France’s oldest noble families who had been rulers of Navarre in the Middle Ages. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec was a chronically sick child. At twelve, young Toulouse-Lautrec broke his left leg and at fourteen, his right leg. The bones never healed properly and eventually stopped growing. He reached young adulthood with a body trunk of normal size but with abnormally short legs, he was only four and a half feet tall.

At eight years old, Henri went to live with his mother in Paris where he drew sketches and caricatures in his workbooks. The family immediately saw that Henri had a gift for drawing and painting. A friend of the family, René Princeteau, sometimes gave him informal painting lessons. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec immersed himself in his art since he was unable to play with friends his age.

René Princeteau persuaded Toulouse-Lautrec's parents to let him study art. In 1882 at the age of seventeen, he went to Paris to study art under the acclaimed portrait painter Léon Bonnat at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, but later that same year Toulouse-Lautrec moved to the studio of Fernand Cormon where he studied for five years and also established a group of friends he kept for the rest of his life. At this time he met Émile Bernard and Vincent van Gogh. Cormon, whose direction was more casual than Bonnat's, allowed his pupils to wander Paris, searching for subjects to paint. While attending painting courses in Paris he was drawn to the work of Impressionists and shared their taste for real-life events and their stylistic appreciation of Oriental prints.

When he finished his art training in 1887 he settled in the Montmartre district of Paris, where he sketched and painted the cabaret performers, can-can dancers, clowns, barmaids, and prostitutes, although occasionally he painted more conventional subjects as well. Along with Van Gogh and Louis Anquetin, Toulouse-Lautrec participated in expositions in Toulouse and Paris. From 1889 until 1894, Toulouse-Lautrec took part in the Société des Artistes Indépendants Salon (Society of Independent Artists) regularly. One of the paintings exhibited was The Toilette. Toulouse-Lautrec's paintings are characterized by their free yet incisive draftsmanship. Here Toulouse-Lautrec manages to convey the character, physiognomy, and well-defined personality of the figure seated with her back to the viewer. This painting belongs to the Elles series of portraits of prostitutes, painted sympathetically and with great respect.

He related most closely with Edgar Degas, who was focusing his attention on dancers and washer-women, who he painted sympathetically, without turning them into caricatures. In the same period as Van Gogh, Toulouse-Lautrec found his way of going beyond Impressionism by analyzing and accentuating the use of line and graphics, and by simplifying the means of expression. This noble descendant of the Lautrec family found his inspiration in working-class, even disreputable, places like cafe-chantant, brothels, squalid dance halls, and small-time circuses.

Toulouse-Lautrec's life of Cabaret and Ladies of the Night in Paris.

Only a few years after Pierre-Auguste Renoir painted the popular Dance At The Moulin De La Galette and other lower-middle-class places of entertainment in Paris, Toulouse-Lautrec gave a very different interpretation with At the Moulin Rouge. No longer do we find the radiant joie de vivre of Impressionism, but rather something forced, precarious, and unexpressed, as suggested in the pallid skin tones of the women seen under the artificial lights. Echoes of the drawings of Honore Daumier and Edgar Degas, along with the aristocratic melancholy of Edouard Manet's late works, combine here with Toulouse-Lautrec's unique evocative capacity.

After centuries of modesty and delicacy, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec showed the other side of life, one that is brutal, and possessive. Thanks to Toulouse-Lautrec, the red couch in the Maison Close on the Rue des Moulins in Paris has become one of the typical elements in late nineteenth-century painting. It is easy to imagine de Maupassant's stories taking place in this setting. In Salon de la Rue des Moulins, a number of prostitutes await clients in a brightly illuminated room with ostentatiously luxurious furnishings. Toulouse-Lautrec presents this very real group of women without the least intention of caricaturing them. Private lives surface, glow brightly for an instant and then suddenly fade. The painted hints at the women's moods (ill at ease, sluggish, bored, or, tired) through their faces, clothes, poses, and gestures. His friend Édouard Vuillard later said that Toulouse-Lautrec had engaged in sex with prostitutes because he found an affinity between his own condition and the moral-ethical lack of resources of the prostitutes.

He had started drinking early on, in the shadows of the orange trees in the courtyard of Chateau Malrome, the Countess Adele de Toulouse-Lautrec built a small garden to enjoy the aperitifs with her son. He used to frequent this dwelling which was bought in 1883 by his mother. As an unconditional and enlightened amateur of wine, Henri would profit from the vineyards of Marlome and especially of the Bordeaux region. Every year he sent barrels of wine to Paris and bottled them himself at his residence there. His initial fondness for beer and wine changed into hard liquor, especially the powerful absinthe, and to make sure he always had a drink of alcohol, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec hollowed out his walking cane and filled it with liquor. Alcoholism led to a complete breakdown and confinement in a sanatorium in 1899 but he recovered sufficiently for a last frenzied bout of hard work. He suffered a second breakdown and died at the age of only thirty-six at the family Chateau.

He played a prominent part in raising the lithographic poster to a recognized art form. He worked rapidly and feverishly from life, seldom using posed models. Yvette Guilbert Saluant le Public is one of these paintings. Toulouse-Lautrec is the illustrator of the fin de siecle Parisian life, dances, shows, nighttime entertainment, lights, theater, laughter, and applause for cabaret stars, dancers, and chansonniers. These images were often taken directly from real life and reworked into paintings or colored lithographs. He belonged to the artistic milieu in which Impressionists and Post-Impressionists mingled and both schools left their mark on his work.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec produced paintings, drawings, lithographs, and posters. He often combined these diverse media to create a very free art that never shrank from risque subjects. In his all too brief career, he laid the foundations for important artistic developments, he was seminal to several art movements, including pop art, and is an early forerunner to Andy Warhol. On the one hand, his explicit departure from Impressionism made him a source of inspiration for Expressionism, while on the other, his effective synthesis of image, word, and color, has caused him to be considered the founder of a new artistic genre, the advertisement

Although exhibitions of his work were not well-received in his lifetime, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec is now represented in the major museums of the world as one of the world's artists. His painting La Blanchisseuse (The Laundress), was auctioned in 2005 for US$$22.4 million.

Art Movement: Impressionism, Post-impressionism.
Artists Influencing Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
: Edgar Degas, Léon Bonnat, Fernand Cormon.
He Traveled To
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec Influenced: Andy Warhol.
Artist Biography compiled by Albert L. Mansour at The World's Artist.

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