Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901)
Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901)

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

Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901)
Au Cirque: Clownesse (Mademoiselle Cha-U-Kao)
signed with monogram (upper left) and stamped with monogram (Lugt 1338; lower right)
charcoal and pencil on paper
14 x 10 in. (35.5 x 25.4 cm.)
drawn in 1899
Estate of the artist.
Maurice Joyant, Paris.
Matthiesen Gallery, Ltd., London (by 1951).
Private collection, Switzerland; sale, Christie's, London, 23 June 2005, lot 356.
Jan Krugier, acquired at the above sale.
A. Alexandre, Le Figaro Illustré, Paris, April 1902, no. 145 (illustrated, p. 14).
T. Duret, Lautrec, Paris, 1920, pp. 69-70.
G. Coquiot, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec ou quinze ans de moeurs parisiennes, 1885-1890, Paris, 1921, p. 82.
M. Joyant, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec: Peintre, Paris, 1926, pp. 223-226.
M. Joyant, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec: Dessins, estampes, affiches, Paris, 1927, p. 239.
P. Mac Orlan, Lautrec, Paris, 1934, pp. 156 and 163.
G. Mack, Toulouse-Lautrec: Peintre de la lumière froide, New York, 1938, pp. 219 and 333.
E. Julien, Dessins de Toulouse-Lautrec, Monaco, 1942, p. XII.
M. Delaroche-Vernet-Henraux, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec dessinateur, Paris, 1948, p. 9.
W. Kern, Lautrec, Munich, 1948, p. 16.
M.G. Dortu, L'étrange Toulouse-Lautrec, Paris, 1951, p. 6.
E. Julien, Dessins de Lautrec, Paris, 1951, p. 11.
M.G. Dortu, Toulouse-Lautrec, Paris, 1952, p. 8.
F. Jourdain and J. Adhémar, Toulouse-Lautrec, Paris, 1952, p. 55.
J. Lassaigne, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Geneva, 1953, p. 104.
D. Cooper, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, London, 1955, p. 44.
H. Landolt, Toulouse-Lautrec, Basel, 1955, no. 29.
H. Perruchot, La vie de Toulouse-Lautrec, Paris, 1958, pp. 314 and 320.
E. Julien, Toulouse-Lautrec, Cologne and Milan, 1959, p. 53.
M.G. Dortu, Toulouse-Lautrec et son oeuvre, New York, 1971, vol. VI, p. 878, no. D.4.559 (illustrated, p. 879).
A. Roqueret, "Cirkustegninger" in Louisiana Revy-Toulouse-Lautrec og Paris, November 1994, vol. 35, no. 1, p. 74 (illustrated).
Paris, Musée des Arts décoratifs, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec: trentenaire, 1931, p. 92, no. 279.
Humlebaek, Denmark, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, November 1994-February 1995, no. 76.
Munich, Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung, Das ewige Auge: Von Rembrandt bis Picasso, Meisterwerke aus der Sammlung Jan Krugier und Marie Anne Krugier-Poniatowski, July-October 2007, p. 300, no. 142 (illustrated in color, p. 301).

Lot Essay

Lautrec was confined at Dr. Semelaigne's clinic in Neuilly for treatment of his chronic alcoholism for about two and a half months between early March and mid-May 1899. By mid-April he was allowed to take supervised trips off the institution's grounds. His series of circus drawings proceeded apace. Julia Frey described his progress: "As the finished drawings accumulated, Henri's confidence grew. He was going out regularly to Paris now, on business, to lunch with friends and family, even to his mother's [Mme de Toulouse-Lautrec was responsible for having had the artist committed against his will]. He began to take control of his life again. He persuaded his mother to ask the doctors to look at his drawings and to review his case. She, the doctors, and Henri were all eager for the whole ordeal to be over. Six weeks had passed since the last conference. On 17 May, the doctors met again. This time, Henri passed" (in Toulouse-Lautrec: A Life, London, 1994, p. 471). Back in Paris, while preparing to visit his family in Albi, the artist wrote to an unidentified correspondent, "Lautrec is out of gaol" (Letters, no. 574).

Lautrec was proud of his circus album, which by any comparison was an extraordinary feat of sustained, virtuosic draughtsmanship, like a composer's musical variations on a theme, carrying forth characters and visual motifs from one sheet to the next. These drawings, numbering 37 in all (as published in the Dortu catalogue), are among his most masterly, and comprise 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).

The present drawing exemplifies one of the chief themes in the Au cirque sequence (Dortu, nos. D.4.522-560): the pathetic plight of an unfortunate animal trained to perform comic tricks before the public. A piglet sits up before the famous Mme Cha-U-Kao who was a dancer and clown at the Nouveau Cirque and the Moulin Rouge. Elsewhere in the circus series there is a performing baboon, an elephant, and a number of dogs. 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. He too was being forced to control his urges, to obey the rules, to conform to a certain code of conduct. 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" (Toulouse-Lautrec and Montmartre, exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 2005, p. 241).

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