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the rare complete set of twelve lithographs, including the cover and frontispiece
an extremely fine, uniform set
on wove paper, watermark G. PELLET/T. LAUTREC
signed 'TLautrec' in pencil by the artist on the inside of the cover (lower left)
numbered '87' in pencil (lower right), with the publisher's red ink stamp (Lugt 1192)
printed by Auguste Clot, Paris, published by Gustave Pellet, Paris, in an edition of one hundred
Images & Sheets 521 x 400 mm. (and similar)
Private collection, Japan.
Anonymous sale, Christie's, New York, 16 November 1982, lot 351 (illustrated on the cover).
Acquired at the above sale, and thence by descent to the present owners.
L. Delteil, Le Peintre-Graveur Illustré: Toulouse-Lautrec, Paris, vol. X, 1920, nos. 179-189 (other impressions illustrated).
J. Adhémar, Toulouse-Lautrec: His Complete Lithographs and Drypoints, London, 1965, pp. 200-210 (other impressions illustrated).
W. Wittrock, Toulouse-Lautrec: The Complete Prints, London, 1985, nos. 155-165, pp. 374-399 (other impressions illustrated).
G. Adriani, Toulouse-Lautrec: Das Gesamte Graphische Werk - Sammlung Gerstenberg, Cologne, 1986, nos. 171-181, pp. 222-243 (other impressions illustrated).

R. Castleman & W. Wittrock, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Images of the 1890s, exh. cat., New York, 1985, nos. 139-158, pp. 170-179 (other impressions illustrated).
P. Gassier, Toulouse-Lautrec, exh. cat., Martigny, 1987, nos. 138-150, pp. 200-152 (other impressions illustrated).
C. Frèches-Thory, A. Roquebert & R. Thomson, Toulouse-Lautrec, exh. cat., London, 1992, nos. 141A-K, pp. 436-453 (no. 141F, this impression illustrated; otherwise other impressions illustrated).
P.D. Cate, G. B. Murray & R. Thomson, Prints Abound, Paris in the 1890s, exh. cat., Washington, 2001, nos. 51-55, pp. 117-119 (other impressions, partially illustrated).
K. Koutsomallis, B. du Vignaud de Villefort, D. Devynck & G. Adriani, Toulouse-Lautrec, Woman as Myth, exh. cat., Andros, 2001, nos. 75-85 (other impressions illustrated).
J. Döring, Toulouse-Lautrec und die Belle-Époque, exh. cat., Hamburg, 2002, pp. 186-195 (other impressions, partially illustrated).
R. Thomson, P.D. Cate & M.W. Chapin, Toulouse-Lautrec and Montmartre, exh. cat., Washington, 2005, nos. 259a-l (other impressions illustrated).
F. Roos Rosa de Carvalho, Printmaking in Paris, The rage for prints at the fin de siècle, exh. cat., Amsterdam, 2012, pp. 102-105 (other impressions, partially illustrated).
J. A. Clarke, ed., The Impressionist Line from Degas to Toulouse-Lautrec, Drawings and Prints from the Clark, exh. cat., New York, 2013, pp. 128-131 (other impressions, partially illustrated).
S. Suzuki, The Paris of Toulouse-Lautrec: Prints and Posters, exh. cat., New York, 2014, nos. 49-58 (other impressions, partially illustrated).

Paris, Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, Toulouse-Lautrec, February - June 1992, nos. 141A-K (with their labels).

Brought to you by

Keith Gill
Keith Gill Head of Department

Lot Essay

The portfolio includes the following lithographs:
i. Cover (Wittrock 155)
ii. Frontispiece (W. 155)
iii. La clownesse assise (Madamoiselle CHA-U-KA-O) (W. 156)
iv. Femme au plateau - Petit déjeuner (W. 157)
v. Femme couchée - Réveil (W. 158)
vi. Femme au tub - Le tub (W. 159)
vii. Femme qui se lave - La toilette (W. 160)
viii. Femme à glace - La glace à main (W. 161)
ix. Femme qui se peigne - La coiffure (W. 162)
x. Femme au lit, profil - Au petit lever (W. 163)
xi. Femme en corset - Conquête de passage (W. 164)
xii. Femme sur le dos - Lassitude (W. 165).

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s Elles is one of the most celebrated and sought-after series in the history of printmaking and a masterpiece of 19th century lithography. The prints are the culmination of the artist’s exploration of the medium, demonstrating his versatility and mastery of the lithographic technique.
In the years preceding the creation of Elles, between 1892 and 1895, the artist became well acquainted with the prostitutes who lived and worked at the brothels of rue des Moulins, rue d'Amboise and rue Joubert. As an aristocrat, a regular visitor and, at times, long-term guest of these so-called maisons closes, the artist lived both at the centre and at the margins of Parisian life, flitting between but never fully erasing the boundaries of these opposing social worlds. The women of the demi-monde fascinated Toulouse-Lautrec and his contemporaries, most notably Edgar Degas, and their work proved to be a catalyst for the young Pablo Picasso, who arrived in Paris in 1901, the year of Toulouse-Lautrec’s death.
Many of the images in Elles depict scenes of everyday life within a maison close, intimate observations of the women getting ready to receive their clients or being looked after by the Madame. Toulouse-Lautrec was particularly interested in depicting his subject’s daily routines, at the wash table or dozing in bed. The familiarity and sense of ease of the women with the artist enabled him to capture these moments of unguarded preoccupation. The artist’s depiction of these women is sympathetic and un-intrusive, despite their varying states of undress, as he explores the complexities of living as a woman and a prostitute rather than eroticizing or sensationalising their profession.
'They were his friends as well as his models,' remarked his friend Jane Avril. 'He in turn had an uplifting effect on them. In his presence they were just women, and he treated them as equals. When he ate with them, often bringing a party of friends, they held their knives and forks daintily, restrained their conversation, had the feeling of being women of some standing. Lautrec's almost womanly intuition and sympathy shone like a light for them' (J. Avril quoted in D. Sweetman, Toulouse-Lautrec and the Fin-de-Siècle, London, 1999, p. 341).
La Clownesse assise, the most famous lithograph in the series, depicts a stage performer, not a prostitute, the dancer Mademoiselle CHA-U-KA-O . A performer at the Nouveau Cirque and the Moulin Rouge, she is shown in full costume, in a bright yellow pleated ruff, resting back stage. Mademoiselle CHA-U-KA-O claimed to be Japanese, yet her name is in fact a phonetic transcription of the French words chahut, an acrobatic dance derived from the cancan, and the chaos she caused whenever she came on stage. CHA-U-KA-O began her performing life as a lithe and supple gymnast, as evident in a photograph taken by Toulouse-Lautrec's close companion Maurice Guibert, for whom she would pose. By 1895 however, the agile, slender dancer had metamorphosed into that of the ageing, slightly overweight clownesse. The arc of CHA-U-KA-O ’s life, ending in physical ruin, was bound to attract Toulouse-Lautrec. Fascinated as he was by decadence and decline, it is his ability to empathize with his subjects and his willingness to show them in all their human frailty and vulnerability – off-stage rather than in the spotlight – that sets him apart from most of his contemporaries. We feel the performer’s aching feet and heavy limbs, see her wry, crooked little smile, and understand, this is a woman who hasn't given up, but knows her glamorous days have passed.
The influence of Japanese ukiyo-e woodcuts on Toulouse-Lautrec and the French avant-garde in general has often been pointed out. Inspired by the vivid, flat colours, strong contours and non-linear perspective, artists turned to colour lithography as a truly modern medium, thereby changing the course of Western art. In the case of the Elles series, Toulouse-Lautrec seems to have found inspiration in a specific masterpiece of Japanese printmaking, Kitagawa Utamaro’s Seiro juni toki tsuzuki (The twelve hours in the pleasure quarter), first published circa 1794. In twelve images - one for each of the traditional Japanese hours of the day - the series depicts the activities of the women in a brothel, a so-called `green house’. Utamaro had spent considerable time with the women of Yoshiwara, the amusement district of Edo, and for a while had even lived with them, as Lautrec had in Paris. Just as the French artist would do one hundred years later, Utamaro depicted the women in quiet, domestic scenes – dressing, washing, resting, but never with their customers. The connections between the two print series run deep, both formally and in spirit, and it seems that Toulouse-Lautrec modelled the Elles very consciously on the Japanese master’s example.
Elles was first exhibited in 1896 in the gallery of the literary and artistic periodical La Plume at 31 rue Bonaparte on 22 April 1896. The following year three of the prints were shown at the Salon des Indépendants and the complete set was exhibited again at La Libre Esthétique in Brussels. The art dealer and publisher Ambroise Vollard then exhibited the series in June of 1897 at his gallery at 41 rue Lafitte, where it was offered complete at 300 francs or individual lithographs at 25 francs each. The considerable price at the time reflected the high production value of the portfolio as well as the esteem in which Vollard held Toulouse-Lautrec as a printmaker. Despite the publicity and notoriety that the prints attracted, very few complete sets were sold at the time, making the present work a rare and important example. Many of the prints from the series were sold individually by the publisher over the course of the next two decades. Of the surviving sets that remain extant, the majority are in public collections. Only six other sets have been offered at auction in the last three decades.

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