Henri de (Henri-Marie-Raymond de Toulouse-Lautrec Monfa). French painter. Renowned, post-impressionist painter, lithographer, and art nouveau illustrator Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec is famous for his depictions of French urban life. Working his characteristic linear style, Toulouse Lautrec frequently portrayed scenes from brothels and cabaret clubs, including “the Moulin Rouge”, since its opening in 1888. Lautrec was influenced by the artists Edgar Degas and Édouard Manet, who shared with them a keen interest in the observation of social culture.
Henri Toulouse-Lautrec was born on November 24th 1864 in southern France. He was the last in line of a long aristocratic bloodline, stretching back to the Crusades. His parents divorced after the loss of a child, born three years after Henri. Henri’s mother became overly devoted to him, her only child. Lautrec was a sickly child. With his bones already weak due to genetics, he fractured both legs due to minor falls so his bones failed to heal properly. Lautrec was never going to be able to live a typical life from that point on. His legs had become stunted while the rest of his body grew into maturity.
A rising star
Feeling isolated and outcast, Lautrec devoted himself to art. His mother leveraged the family’s influence, so that Lautrec could study, under the acclaimed painter Leon Bona in 1882 in Paris. Bona, looked down on Henry’s drawing, but worked to strengthen the young artist’s sense of form. When Bona closes his studio, Lautrec studied under Fernand Cormon. Cormon allowed his students to roam the streets of Paris, searching for subjects to paint. Lautrec took to the northern neighborhood of Paris, in Montmartre. Montmartre, was abuzz with artists, writers and philosophers. Lautrec was enamoured by the nightlife. He would sit in the crowded nightclubs laughing and drinking, all the while, swiftly making sketches of scenes that caught his eye.
At the opening of the now legendary Moulin Rouge cabaret, Lautrec was hired to produce posters to advertise the show. An avid collector of Japanese woodblock prints, his work echoed that Japanese style. Lautrec soon became the premier poster artist of Paris. Lautrec posters showed off the cabaret dancers as celebrities. But his paintings offered a somehow more personal view of these women. With the lights and the glamour stripped away, Lautrec gave a direst and honest depiction of these women, behind the scenes. His style emphasized the outlines of his subjects. Henri Toulouse Lautrec felt like an outcast throughout his life. His own insecurities led him to seek out the downtrodden and those marginalized by society with a sympathetic eye.
Finally, to cope with the ridicule of his deformity, Lautrec abused alcohol and he fell deeper and deeper as the years went on. The painter finally passed away due to alcoholism.
Despite a short life marked by illness, the painter’s work is very vast: the catalog of his works, published in 1971, lists 737 paintings, 275 watercolors, 369 lithographs (including posters) and about 5,000 drawings. In his youth, horses were his usual subject. Since childhood, he loved riding and had to give it up because of his illness. He continued to live in his works with his passion for horses. At the beginning of his career, he painted some nude men as exercises, but his best nudes are women. Usually Henri’s models are not beautiful girls, but women who are starting to grow old. To paint this kind of paintings he was inspired by Edgar Degas. In general, he preferred to start with sketches. He kept drawing: some drawings are works in themselves, but many are sketches for paintings or lithographs. Sometimes his drawings resembled caricatures (by pencil , ink , pastel and charcoal).
He created 325 posters and lithographs, inventing a technique of spray original, consisting scratch a toothbrush charged with ink or paint with a knife. As an illustrator, Toulouse-Lautrec has made famous posters and, less known part of his work, he also illustrated some forty songs, successes mainly interpreted in the two big Parisian cabarets of the time: “Le Moulin Rouge”, and “The Mirliton” by Aristide Bruant. As he did not need to always subject himself to pleasing everyone, he chose subjects that were of interest to him and that is why his paintings covered a wide range of social classes: nobles and artists, writers and sportsmen, doctors, nurses and picturesque figures of Montmartre. Many of his paintings (such as the Salon des Moulins street) show prostitutes because he saw them as ideal models for the spontaneity with which they knew how to move, whether they were naked or half-dressed. He painted their lives with curiosity, but without moralism or sentimentality and, above all, without trying to attribute to them any fascination.
Like Degas - but unlike most of the Impressionists -Lautrec was not really interested in landscape and the lighting in his pictures is often most convincing and effective when it is artificial. His favorite themes were the Parisian dance halls, cabarets and circuses (notably the Moulin Rouge and the Moulin de la Galette). And even life in the brothels, where he spent a great deal of his time-as an observer as well as a customer. Lautrec also painted relatively conventional nude studies, and he incorporated in his work in various ways many of the celebrities of the music-hall world: Jane Avril, 'La Goulue', Valentin-le Desosse, Loie Fuller and Yvette Guilbert. As the 1890s wore on, Lautrec's life became increasingly dissipated; and the quantity and quality of his work began to decline. In 1899 he suffered a complete physical and mental breakdown, and was confined to a sanatorium. While he was still an inmate he resumed work (partly to establish his sanity), and on his release he began painting again. His style, however, was now different. In the later works, the coloring is more somber, the handling broader; the emphasis has become painterly rather than linear. His health broken, and worn out by his excesses, Lautrec died in September 1901, surrounded by his family. The contents of his studio were later presented to his native town of Albi.