Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

In this age of mass and digital media, a great artwork can often become so ubiquitous that it is nearly eclipsed by its own myriad gift-shop reproductions. Such a fate dogs the legacy of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, whose extraordinary evocations of fin-de-siècle Paris with its nightclubs and brothels, its racecourses and circuses, at times seems inoculated from its original perspicacity and becomes mere Bistro-dressing.

Lautrec has nearly become a victim of a process of which he was, himself, an early proponent. His poster lithographs, such as Moulin Rouge, La Goulue (1891), raised the reproduced image to a new height and are among the first masterpieces of mass-produced visual culture. Yet beneath the veneer of over-familiarity, Lautrec’s genius remains dazzling. His was a pioneering project of Post-Impressionism — a candid reportage that defined how later generations would observe and depict urban life.

Born to an aristocratic and eccentric French family in 1864, Lautrec’s life has become as iconic as his art. He was the archetype of the fin-de-siècle libertine artist — a syphilitic spendthrift drunk, stunted and crippled by two accidents in adolescence, who died at 36 after a brief, raucous life spent holding court at the Moulin Rouge and the brothels of Montmartre.

Lautrec became commercially successful early in his career due to the popularity of his posters for Parisian nightclubs, influenced heavily by Japanese ukiyo-e printmaking. In his paintings, he left an extraordinary record of the glorious and sordid fringes of a great 19th-century metropolis depicted with profound pathos and humanism. His work would become so closely associated with the nightclub underworld of Paris that masterpieces such as At the Moulin Rouge, the Dance (1890) and At the Fernando Circus: The Equestrienne (1888) were exhibited during his lifetime at the Moulin Rouge itself.

By the late 1890s, Lautrec’s fast living had gotten the better of him. By then he was living in brothels and in 1899, suffering from the effects of syphilis and alcoholism, had been institutionalised for some months. He died in 1901 at his mother’s house in the Gironde following a stroke.

HENRI DE TOULOUSE-LAUTREC (1864-1901)

Au cirque: Éléphant en liberté

HENRI DE TOULOUSE-LAUTREC (1864-1901)

Monsieur Emile Davoust

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901)

L'Enfant au chien, fils de Madame Marthe et la chienne Pamela-Taussat

HENRI DE TOULOUSE-LAUTREC (1864-1901)

Tristan Bernard au Vélodrome Buffalo

Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901)

Princeteau dans son atelier

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901)

Dans les coulisses: l'acrobate

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901)

Dans l'escalier de la rue des Moulins

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901)

La Modiste, Mademoiselle Margouin

Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901)

Au Cirque: Clownesse (Mademoiselle Cha-U-Kao)

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901)

Au bal du Moulin de la Galette

HENRI DE TOULOUSE-LAUTREC (1864-1901)

La Danse au Moulin Rouge

HENRI DE TOULOUSE-LAUTREC (1864-1901)

La croisée des chemins

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901)

La Clownesse assise (Mademoiselle CHA-U-KA-O)

HENRI DE TOULOUSE-LAUTREC (1864-1901)

La Danse au Moulin Rouge

HENRI DE TOULOUSE-LAUTREC (1864-1901)

La Clownesse assise (Mademoiselle CHA-U-KA-O), from Elles

Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901)

Femme nue, de profil, se coiffant

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901)

Cheval de chasse à courre

HENRI DE TOULOUSE-LAUTREC (1864-1901)

Décor indien pour le 'Chariot de terre cuite', Maquette de décor pour le théâtre de l'Oeuvre

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901)

La clownesse assise (Mademoiselle CHA-U-KA-O)

Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901)

L'Argent (Comédie en 4 actes de M.E. Fabre)

HENRI DE TOULOUSE-LAUTREC

La Clownesse assise (Mademoiselle CHA-U-KA-O), from Elles (D. 180; W. 156; Adr. 172)

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901)

Cavalier de chasse à courre ressanglant son cheval

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901)

La pierreuse Gabrielle

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901)

Portrait de femme (Médaillon pour la décoration du salon de la Maison de la rue d'Amboise, Paris)

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901)

Portrait de femme (Médaillon pour la décoration du salon de la Maison de la rue d'Amboise, Paris)

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901)

La Passagère du 54 - Promenade en Yacht (D. 366; Adr. 137; W. Posters 20)

HENRI DE TOULOUSE-LAUTREC (1864-1901)

Babylone d'Allemagne (recto) ; Études (verso)

HENRI DE TOULOUSE-LAUTREC (1864-1901)

La Clownesse assise (Mademoiselle CHA-U-KAO), from Elles

HENRI DE TOULOUSE-LAUTREC (1864-1901)

Mademoiselle Béatrix Tapié de Céleyran