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    Sale 2256

    The Modern Age: The Hillman Family Collection

    5 November 2008, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 2

    Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901)

    Au cirque: travail de répétition

    Price Realised  


    Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901)
    Au cirque: travail de répétition
    signed with monogram (lower right); stamped with monogram (Lugt 1338; lower right)
    colored pencil and Conté crayon on paper
    14 x 10 in. (35.5 x 25.4 cm.)
    Executed in 1899

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    In February 1899, Toulouse-Lautrec's alcoholism had become so injurious to his health and mental stability that his despairing mother had him committed against his will to the Château Saint-James, a clinic run by Dr. Réne Sémelaigne in Neuilly, near Paris. At the beginning of his confinement, Lautrec sketched on whatever came to hand, but in late March he received from his friend Maurice Joyant some supplies he had requested: a box of watercolors and brushes, lithographic crayons, sepia and India ink, and a ream of quality paper. He decided to undertake a series of drawings which would display such discipline and mastery that they would demonstrate to Dr. Sémelaigne he had regained control of his life and could be discharged from the clinic.

    Lautrec chose the circus as his theme, a subject that evoked memories from his childhood. The spectacle of the circus was all the rage in Paris during the 1890s, and he could look to the prestigious precedents by Degas, Renoir and Seurat on this subject. Lautrec's finest circus painting, Au Cirque Fernando, L'écuyère, 1888 (Dortu, No. P.312), hung in the large corridor at the popular Moulin Rouge in Montmartre. Lautrec had first studied under the equestrian painter René Princeteau, and was an expert at drawing horses and figures in tandem. Indeed, the long years of practice had he had put into this subject proved crucial to the success of his project, for he had no access to models at the clinic or nearby--the local circus troupe was away on tour. He drew his circus scenes entirely from memory and as he visualized them in his imagination.

    The amazone or female equestrian in this drawing is a recurring character in the circus series. Joyant later described her: "Mounted on a large horse with a hooked nose and rat-tail, an Haute-Ecole equestrian, dressed in a riding habit and cap, works her horse; they go toward the right. In the right background, a trainer in a sweater and cap, whip in hand, relates it to the milieu of the circus" (in op. cit., 1927, pp. 237-38). In this drawing, the grim facial expressions of the equestrian and trainer, and the exaggeratedly large and looming silhouette of the horse harbor a sinister sentiment; the enveloping rim of the circus ring and tiers of seats, empty of any spectators, appears to reflect Lautrec's own state of confinement, and the performers' travail de répétition (rehearsal) parallels the strict working routine the artist had adopted to prove his mental competency. Richard Thomson has observed:

    "If Lautrec's great 1899 circus series is about training and discipline, about forcing animals to act against their nature to suit their human masters, to sublimate their physical instincts to his or her command, then it is also about the artist's plight. Lautrec may well have seen his own situation at the clinic in this light In the end the whole series is about order--at one level the discipline of circus performances, and at another the artist's psychological order. Both involve restraint and a degree of pain; both require mastering nature. The circus served as an ideal metaphor for the disordered Lautrec to articulate pictorially his inner struggles and traumas" (in Toulouse-Lautrec and Montmartre, exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 2005, p. 241).

    Many of the 39 drawings that Lautrec created in the Au cirque series (Dortu nos. D.4.522-560) are among his finest works on paper, and the series is one of the final, crowning achievements of his career. Not least of all they served their immediate purpose; Lautrec declared as he departed the clinic, "I've bought my release with my drawings" (quoted in M. Joyant, op, cit., 1926, p. 222). He desired that the group be published in book form. Indeed, in 1905, four years after the artist's untimely death, Joyant issued a volume of 22 Au cirque drawings in facsimile, and complete editions later followed which have made these drawings some of the best-known in all Lautrec's oeuvre.

    (fig. 1) Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Au Cirque Fernando, l'ecuyère, 1888. The Art Institute of Chicago. BARCODE 24410359


    Maurice Joyant, Paris.
    Mme. Georges Dortu, Paris.
    M. Knoedler & Co., Inc., New York.
    Alex and Rita K. Hillman, New York (acquired from the above, October 1950).
    Gift from the above to the present owner, 16 October 1968.

    Pre-Lot Text

    Property from the Alex Hillman Family Foundation


    A. Alexandre, 'Toulouse-Lautrec,' in Figaro illustré, April 1902, p. 14 (illustrated).
    H. Esswein, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Munich, 1916, p. 15 (illustrated).
    T. Duret, Lautrec, Paris, 1920, pp. 69-70.
    G. Coquiot, Lautrec: ou quinze ans de moeurs parisiennes 1885-1900, Paris, 1921, p. 82.
    M. Joyant, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, 1864-1901 peintre, Paris, 1926, pp. 223-226.
    M. Joyant, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec 1864-1901 II, Paris, 1927, pp. 237-238.
    D. Jacomet, Au cirque, dix-sept dessins aux crayons de couleur, Paris, 1938, no. 7 (illustrated in color).
    M. Orlan, Lautrec, Paris, 1934, pp. 156 and 163.
    G. Mack, Toulouse-Lautrec, New York, 1938, pp. 219 and 333.
    E. Julien, Dessins de Lautrec, Monaco, 1942, p. 12.
    M. Delaroche-Vernet Henraux, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, dessinateur, Paris, 1948, p. 9, no. 37 (illustrated in color).
    W. Kern, Toulouse-Lautrec, Bern, 1948, p. 16.
    M.G. Dortu, L'étrange Toulouse-Lautrec, Paris, 1951, p. 6.
    E. Julien, Dessins de Lautrec, Paris, 1951, p. 11.
    F. Jourdain and J. Adhémar, Toulouse-Lautrec, Paris, 1952, p. 55. M.G. Dortu, Toulouse-Lautrec, Paris, 1952, p. 8.
    J. Lassaigne, Lautrec: études biographique et critique, Geneva, 1953, p. 104.
    H. Landlot, Toulouse-Lautrec, Basel, 1955, no. 29.
    D. Cooper, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Stuttgart, 1955, p. 44.
    H. Perruchot, Toulouse-Lautrec, Eine Biographie, Esslingen, 1958, pp. 314 and 320.
    H.L.F, 'Alex L. Hillman: Courbet to Dubuffet,' in Art News, October 1959, p. 34 (illustrated; titled Equestrienne).
    E. Julien, Toulouse-Lautrec, Cologne and Milan, 1959, p. 53.
    F. Novotny, Toulouse-Lautrec, London, 1969, pp. 51-52, no. 30 (illustrated).
    M.G. Dortu, Toulouse-Laurtec et son oeuvre, Paris, 1971, vol, VI, p. 864, no. D.4550 (illustrated, p. 865).
    E. Julien, Lautrec, New York, 1991, p. 72 (illustrated).
    E. Braun, Manet to Matisse: The Hillman Family Collection, Seattle and London, 1994, p. 180, no. 70 (illustrated in color, p. 181).


    Paris, Musée des arts décoratifs, Palais du Louvre, Exposition H. de Toulouse-Lautrec, April-May 1931, no. 264.
    Philadelphia Museum of Art and The Art Institute of Chicago, Toulouse-Lautrec, October 1955-February 1956, p. 101, no. 119 (illustrated).
    New York, Wildenstein & Co., Inc., Toulouse-Lautrec, February-March 1964, no. 87 (illustrated).
    Bronx Museum of the Arts, Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture from the Alex Hillman Family Foundation, April-May 1972.
    New York, Paul Rosenberg & Co., Inc., In Celebration of Drawing, October-November 1979.
    Roslyn, Nassau County Museum of Fine Arts, Modern Masters: Paintings and Drawings from the Alex Hillman Family Foundation, December 1977-February 1978, no. 14 (illustrated).
    Austin, University of Texas; Ann Arbor, University of Michigan Museum of Art; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Museum of Art; Hunstville Museum of Art; St. Petersburg, Museum of Fine Arts; Lawrence, Spencer Museum of Art, University of Kansas; Huntington Gallery; Little Rock, Arkansas Art Center; Williamsburg, Joseph and Margaret Muscarelle Museum of Art, College of William and Mary and Ames, Brunnier Gallery and Museum, Iowa State University, Selections from the Collection of the Alex Hillman Family Foundation, January 1979-November 1985.
    The Brooklyn Museum of Art, Exhibition of Works from the Alex Hillman Family Foundation, February 1986-January 1987.
    The Brooklyn Museum of Art, Modern Masters: French Art from the Alex Hillman Family Foundation Collection, June-August 1988.
    Phoenix, University of Arizona Museum of Art, Paintings and Drawings from the Alex Hillman Family Foundation, December 1991-May 1992.
    Washington, D.C., The National Gallery of Art and The Art Institute of Chicago, Toulouse-Lautrec and Montmartre, March-October 2005, p. 259, no. 280 (illustrated in color, p. 252).