HENRI DE TOULOUSE-LAUTREC
Henri Marie Raymond de Toulouse-Lautrec Monfa, November 24, 1864 (Albi, Tarn, Midi-Pyrenees, France); died September 9, 1901 (Malrome, France)
Scenes of bohemian Paris nightlife and decadence; use of blocks of color; striking graphic designs for posters; stylized portraits
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, painter, draftsman, graphic artist, illustrator, and lithographer, became one of the art world's most recognizable figures - due to a childhood deformity. The son of a French count, he was born in the town of Albi near Toulouse. After breaking both his legs, he was left with two stunted legs while the rest of his body grew normally. His resulting stature made him the subject of countless cartoons. Toulouse-Lautrec's wealthy, eccentric father paid for his son - a keen artist from a young age - to study in Paris and rented a studio for him. He became well known in Montmartre, spending night after night sketching at the Moulin Rouge and other nightspots. He regularly made advertising posters for his favorite places. He adored women and spent much of his time in brothels. He not only slept with the prostitutes but became friends with them and used them as his models. His works include characteristic vivacious views of bohemian life, such as At the Moulin Rouge: the Dance (1890), lesbian scenes, including The Kiss (1892), and tender images, such as The Two Friends (1894). He painted many of his works on cardboard and used specially thinned oil paint, or paint mixed with gouache or tempera, to create distinctive lines and colors. Thanks to his work, the names of dancers such as Jane Avril and La Goulue are still known today. He was influenced by Paul Gauguin, Francisco Goya, and Edgar Degas in his use of color, lively style, and choice of subject matter, respectively; in turn, he tutored other artists, including his model and lover Suzanne Valadon. Toulouse-Lautrec was an alcoholic who suffered from syphilis. A combination of the two illnesses led to deep periods of depression, as well as to his death aged just thirty-six.