Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901)
Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901)
Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901)
3 More
Property of Heirs of Franz Koenigs
Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901)

Miss May Milton

Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901)
Miss May Milton
stamped with monogram (Lugt 1338; lower right)
oil, peinture à l'essence, watercolor and charcoal on paper
16 ¼ x 13 1/8 in. (41.2 x 33.3 cm.)
Executed in 1895.
The artist's estate.
Théo van Rysselberghe, Paris, by 1914.
Marie van Rysselberghe (née Monnom), by descent from the above, until at least 1931.
Galerie Quatre Chemin (Vladimir Walter), Paris.
Paul Cassirer & Co., Amsterdam, by whom acquired from the above in 1938.
F.W. Koenigs, Haarlem, by whom acquired from the above on 11 July 1938, by descent to his daughter Nela van Eyck-Koenigs (1920-1993), and by descent in the family to the present owners.
M. Joyant, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, peintre, Paris, 1926, vol. I, p. 288.
G. Mack, Toulouse-Lautrec, New York, 1938, pp. 176-177.
J. Lassaigne, Toulouse-Lautrec, Paris, 1939, p. 21 (illustrated).
F. Jourdain and J. Adhémar, T-Lautrec, Paris, 1955, p. 94 (illustrated).
M.G. Dortu, Toulouse-Lautrec et son oeuvre, Paris, 1971, vol. III, p. 346, no. P. 570 (illustrated, p. 347; with incorrect dimensions).
Paris, Galerie Manzi-Joyant, Exposition rétrospective de l'oeuvre de H. de Toulouse-Lautrec, June-July 1914, no. 8.
Paris, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, H. de Toulouse-Lautrec, April-May 1931, p. 47, no. 146.
Amsterdam, Paul Cassirer & Co., Fransche meesters uit de XIXe eeuw: Teekeningen, aquarellen, pastels, July-August 1938, p. 20, no. 77 (with incorrect medium).
Kunsthalle Basel; Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum and Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, May-November 1947, no. 206; p. 9, no. 39 (illustrated on the cover of the Amsterdam catalogue).
Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum (on extended loan, by 1947 and until 1949).
London, The Matthiesen Gallery and Rotterdam, Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, May 1951-February 1952, no. 25 (illustrated; with incorrect medium).

Brought to you by

Emily Kaplan
Emily Kaplan Senior Vice President, Senior Specialist, Co-Head of 20th Century Evening Sale

Lot Essay

Formerly in the collection of Neo-Impressionist artist, Théo van Rysselberghe, Miss May Milton is a vivid portrayal of one of Paris’s fin-de-siècle café-concert stars, the British-born performer, May Milton. Part of a troupe of dancers when she arrived in the French capital, Milton gained enough notice to have her own solo act, her rise to fame perhaps aided by the vogue at the time for English-speaking performers. Indeed her renown must have been such that in 1895 she commissioned Lautrec to design what has since become one of his most famous and most radically composed prints, Miss May Milton, in advance of an American tour; a pendant print featured her supposed lover and fellow English performer, May Belfort. Although nothing is known of Milton after her departure for America, this poster, regarded as a masterpiece of its kind, has ensured her lasting fame. Using bold, bravura brushwork, in the present work Lautrec has depicted Milton in the same pose, her distinctive strawberry blonde hair a halo around her luminous face, and her puff-sleeve dress suggested with an impressive economy of means.
Lautrec is perhaps best known for his portrayals of Paris’s dance hall stars. Their names, Yvette Guilbert, Jane Avril, La Goulue, among others, have become inseparable from his vivid, multi-disciplinary depictions of them, these images memorializing Montmartre and its heady bohemian world of dazzling stardom, licentiousness, glamor and steaminess. The closing years of the nineteenth century witnessed the heyday of the café-concert. Thanks to the more liberal rule of the Third Republic, the strict regulations imposed upon these establishments by the Second Empire were relaxed. From 1867 onwards, performers could wear costumes on stage, as well as perform “playlets” and mimes. Sanctioned morality was replaced with a greater freedom of expression and sexuality. As a result, café-concerts, dance halls and cabarets proliferated, able to compete with the more rarified theaters, Opéra and ballets of the city, attracting new audiences and making institutions like the Moulin Rouge, Le Chat Noir, Mirliton, and Les Ambassadeurs central parts of modern life.
This riotous nocturnal underworld of hedonism was discovered by Lautrec in the mid-1880s, and he quickly found his place among the performers, artists, writers, composers and performers who inhabited primarily the sloping streets of Montmartre. He became such a regular at the Moulin Rouge that he was given his own permanently reserved table there. Captivated by the revelers and voyeurs, the collision of classes, the dazzlingly festooned costumes that both disguised and entranced, he began capturing scenes of this corner of the capital. Here Lautrec found not only unconventional artistic subjects—demi-monde dancers in crowded cabarets, or half-dressed women and paying customers backstage and in brothels—but a panorama of human emotion that forms the foundation of his art, charging his compositions with a complex combination of emotion, empathy and awe, as well as an often caustic wit and playful innuendo.
Lautrec likely met Milton in 1895, the same year that he executed the present work, through the dancer Jane Avril, one of the leading lights of turn-of-the-century Montmartre, and a frequent protagonist of the artist’s work. Together with the present Miss May Milton, and the famed print of her, Lautrec also captured the performer in an oil and pastel portrait now housed in the Art Institute of Chicago (Dortu, vol. III, P. 572), as well as featuring her at the extreme right hand side of one of his greatest works, Au Moulin Rouge (1892-1895, Art Institute of Chicago). Illuminated by the bright lights of the music hall, Milton’s unmistakable visage and striking blonde hair are transformed into a brilliant blue-green hue as she gazes upwards.
While this painting shows her in her performer’s guise, in the related Art Institute portrait she is more introspective and pensive. In the same way, while the print transforms Milton into the archetypal figure of a turn-of-the-century dancer, Miss May Milton presents her as more individualized, the intensity of her gaze adding a poignancy and humanity absent in the stylized image—a demonstration of Lautrec’s sensitivity not only to his muses and their public and private personas but to the very art of performance. For Pablo Picasso this idea proved essential to the art of his early years in Paris, as he followed in Lautrec’s footsteps in seeking out new subjects and settings in the nocturnal city. Indeed, it appears that Picasso kept a copy of Lautrec’s May Milton print in his bedroom: her flowing dress, bombshell blonde hair and deft sideways kick can be recognized on the back wall in his painting, La chambre bleue (Le Tub) of 1901 (The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.).

More from 20th Century Evening Sale

View All
View All