Toulouse-Lautrec and His
19th Century Mentors
On Exhibit November 17, 2011 ~ February 11, 2012
Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec
( 1864- 1901 )
Henri Marie Raymond de Toulouse-Lautrec-Monfa was born as the son of an aristocratic and wealthy
family in the South of France. Encouraged by his fragile health, Henri developed a passion for drawing
and painting. He received painting and drawing lessons by a professional artist of the time, Rene
At the age of 12 and 14, the young Henri broke both his legs. These injuries never healed properly and
stopped the growth of his legs while the rest of his body continued to develop normally. He never
managed to cope mentally with this disability.
The young Henri went to Paris in 1882 to attend different, conventional painting studios where he met
the artists Emil Bernard and Vincent van Gogh. Soon he was more attracted by the Impressionist artists
like Edgar Degas than by the conventional painting style and gave up his painting lessons.
Lautrec lived in the Montmartre section, the nightlife quarter of cabarets, cafes, restaurants, sleazy
dance halls and brothels. He soon emerged himself into this world and became a part of the bohemian
community. In the evenings, he could be seen chatting with friends and drinking, and at the same time
drawing sketches on paper. Then the next day, he would transform the sketches into paintings and
Toulouse Lautrec exhibited his first works in the cafes and restaurants of Montmartre. His paintings
soon attracted general attention and he received his first commissions.
As his fame grew, so did his consumption of alcohol but he managed to keep up with his passion for
painting and printmaking at the same time. He soon had a few exhibitions in galleries, acquired general
recognition and was flooded with commissions.
The lithographs of Lautrec show the famous personalities of the French Belle Epoque. Lautrec knew
them all personally – singers and dancers like Yvette Guilbert, May Belfort, Jane Avril or the poet Aristide
Bruant. Many of these lithographs were commissioned by these artists for posters, theater billboards or
as illustrations for magazines.
The impressionists saw Ukiyo-e art (Japanese woodblock prints) and were impressed. And like so many
other artists of the late nineteenth century, Lautrec was also impressed and started collecting Japanese
art. At that time, everything Japanese was en vogue – very fashionable.
Japanese printmaking had a very pervasive influence on his style. For Toulouse Lautrec, movement and
forms were important. His compositions, unusual perspectives and the use of large areas of flat color are
undoubtedly inspired by Japanese prints.
It is not only the form of his designs. It is the same environment in which both his works and the art of
the great Ukiyo-e artists were created in the world of the pleasure quarters, restaurants, actors, theaters
and brothels. It is this same world out of which the commissions came – prints and posters as an
advertising medium for theater plays or newly opened tea houses, respectively bars.
After 1897, the artist spent his time more in the bars than in his studio. In 1899, he suffered a severe
nervous breakdown and was confined to a clinic for three months. He tried to recover his health by
staying at sea resorts in Normandy and at the Atlantic coast. But he could not overcome his alcohol
abuse. His health was completely deteriorated. He suffered a stroke with a subsequent partial paralysis
and was taken to the castle residence of his mother on August 20. A few days later, on September 9,
Henri de Toulouse Lautrec died at the age of 36.
Members and children under 12: Free
Wednesday Free Admission
Coral Springs Museum of Art
2855 Coral Springs Drive
Coral Springs, FL 33065
(954) 346-4424 fax
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