Henry de Toulouse Lautrec

In this post I am going to approach the subject matter on how Lautrec influenced the world of art and the innovations and means that he used to achieve this and also how his life influenced his style and the themes he chooses. The essay is organized as it follows: in section 2 I am going to talk about the historical and artistic influences; in section 3 I will discuss about his style and how he used it to capture, in a simplistic way, the French nightlife, section 4 deals with what life changing experiences influenced Lautrec and section 5 contains some final remarks and a conclusion.

Henry-Marie-Raymonde de Toulouse-Lautrec-Manfa was born in France on November 24, 1864 in a wealthy family. Despite the environment he was raise in , he spent most of his life studying and analizing the French nightlife and capturing in a simplistic manner the essence of humans, His interest in art started after a series of accidents which lead to him being incapacitated. His first art teacher was Rene Princeteau, famous for his depiction of military subjects. After discovering Montmarte, he dedicated himself to studying the social life of the Parisians cafes. He died at Chateau de Malrome on September 9, 1901. Degas influenced his work since the very beginning this being suggested by the bold foreshortening of the stage and the proeminent placement of the bass in the foreground” (Stokstao, 2008, 1056). Another of the influences is the Japanese woodblock prints which is deducted from “the simplification of form, suppression of modeling, flattening of space and integration of the black paper into the composition” (Stokstao, 2008, 1057). A third influence that is obvious is the one of Art Nouveau characterized by ” the emphasis on curving lines and the harmonization of the lettering with the rest on the Design” (Stokstao, 2008, 1057).

Most of Lautrec’s works are represented by posters which illustrate different “faces” of the French cafe’s nightlife. We can clearly notice the simple but yet complex style of his work. The posters illustrate dynamic scenes of cabaret dance floors. The curved lines, that he emphasizes, make me think about the audio waves that the cabaret music has and the dynamic that is represented by the characters being painted in a state of movement. Lautrec simplified the human anatomy, reducing it to simple shapes. This is also suggested by the dancing women placed usually in the middle. Lautrec managed perfectly to reproduce “in a few brush strokes, the essential nature of a subject” (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2010) and we can clearly see this in almost all of his work but especially in Jane Avril Dancing (image 1) or in Jane Avril (image 2) where we can see that the human anatomy is simplified in some parts, while in the same time, in some other parts he uses a lot of detail. Also, in La Goule (image 3) we can clearly see the simplified and “economical mean ” (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2010) used for the anatomy which is practically reduced to simple rounded shapes. The color pallette is also resembling in all of the three illustrations (image 1,2,3), using mainly different shades of yellow, brown and black and manages to do the “integration of blank paper into the composition (Stokstao, 2008, p.1057). Also, in some other works, such as Moulin Rouge-La Goule (image 4) or At the Moulin Rouge(image 5) we can surely see how he managed “to capture the essence of an individual with economical means” (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2010). The colors in these two works of art are different from the ones in image 1,2 and 3. We can see here the use of dark red, light pink, dark brown, dark green, etc.

The accidents that led to Lautrec’s physical disorders influenced his work a lot, and as Leroi says in his extract from Mutants : “Lautrec was only 150 centimeters tall. Critics have also argued that Lautrec’s disorder had a more subtle effect on his art : a tendency after 1893 to truncate the limbs of his models so that only that head and the torsos remain in the frame, a device for excluding that part of his own anatomy that he would much rather forget : his legs.” (Leroi, 2004). From another point of view, his art suggests that Lautrec might have been very much influenced by his mother, the result being a series of paintings, illustrating women in different erotic positions. This can be interpreted as him being traumatized by his mother in the childhood who “was a religious nut who saw him as a punishment for marrying a first cousin. She doted on him in a guilty, suffocating way” (Januszczak, 2006) and it led to the “slow agony of the feminine wait he would evoke so superbly in his borthel pictures, or those spectacularly sad paintings of fallen women staring into their absinthe” (Januszczak, 2006).

All in all, Lautrec was a brilliant artist and his works are still a source of inspiration for graphic designers and art lovers and all the physical defects he had led to him creating all the masterpieces that today are worth a fortune. “His career was marked by boldness and a hatred for hypocrisy in people’s relationships with eachother and themselves. With frequently autobiographycal subject matter and scenes, his works have greatly influenced even the modern-day perception of turn-of-the-century Paris” (Frey, 1994).

Referencing list:

Stokstad, Marilyn (2008) Art History. 3rd edn. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Birnholz, Alan Curtis (2010) Encyclopædia Britannica. Available at:http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/600695/Henri-de-Toulouse-Lautrec (Accessed: February 24 2011).

Leroi, Armand Marie  (2004) Noble Figure. Available at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2004/nov/20/featuresreviews.guardianreview33 (Accessed: February 24 2011)

Janszczak, Waldemar (2006) Why Lautrec Was a Giant. Available at: http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/visual_arts/article662158.ece (Accessed: February 24 2011)

Frey, Julia (1994) Toulouse-Lautrec: A Life. London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson. Available at: http://blogs.princeton.edu/writingart14/archives/2004/12/toulouselautrec_2.html (Accessed: February 24 2011)

image 1 – Henri de Toulouse Lautrec (1892) Jane Avril Dancing, image source: http://www.artilim.com/painting/t/toulouse-lautrec-henri-de/jane-avril-dancing.jpg

image 2 – Henri de Toulouse Lautrec (1893) Jane Avril, image source: http://rlv.zcache.com/lautrec_jane_avril_dancing_the_can_can_postcard-p239681994608176565trdg_400.jpg

image 3 – Henri de Toulouse Lautrec (1891) La Goulue, image source: http://www.globalgallery.com/prod_images/600/bm-l282.jpg

image 4 – Henri de Toulouse Lautrec (1890) Moulin Rouge La Goulue, image source:http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_XnsBmpz0kTI/S6m1QGxMA7I/AAAAAAAAER0/5hGKhpWlaJg/s1600/toulouse-lautrec-moulin-rouge.JPG

image 5 – Henri de Toulouse Lautrec (1893) At the Moulin Rouge, image source:http://curezone.com/upload/Art/Toulouse_Lautrec/Toulouse-Lautrec_Au_Moulin_Rouge.jpg


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. willahilditch
    Apr 21, 2013 @ 16:25:20

    Reblogged this on Willa Hilditch.


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