1 More
4 More

Étude de danseuse

Étude de danseuse
oil on canvas
21 3/4 x 18 1/8 in. (55.2 x 56 cm.)
Painted in 1888
Albert Grenier, Paris.
Gustave Pellet, Paris.
Ermann collection.
Anon. sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 20 November 1922, lot 77.
M. Lefevre, Paris (acquired at the above sale).
Mme Junod, Switzerland.
Private collection, Japan; sale, Christie's, New York, 8 November 2000, lot 31.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
M. Joyant, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Paris, 1926, vol. I, p. 265.
H.G. Oeri, Oeuvres du XIX siècle, Basel, 1944, p. 87, no. 54 (illustrated).
M.G. Dortu, Toulouse-Lautrec et son oeuvre, New York, 1971, vol. II, p. 144, no. P.309 (illustrated, p. 145).
G.M. Sugana, Tout l'oeuvre peint de Toulouse-Lautrec, Paris, 1986, p. 107, no. 305 (illustrated).
Kunsthalle Basel, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, May-June 1947, p. 22, no. 157.
Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum and Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Toulouse-Lautrec, July-November 1947, p. 8, no. 14.
Martigny, Fondation Pierre Gianadda, Toulouse-Lautrec, May-November 1987, p. 106, no. 41 (illustrated in color).

Lot Essay

Painted in 1888, several years after Toulouse-Lautrec had moved to Paris, Étude de danseuse embodies the radical transformation that his art underwent during the 1880s. This decade was pivotal in the young artist’s development, seeing him transition from a conservative style depicting traditional subjects such as portraiture and sporting pictures, to becoming one of the great masters of Post-Impressionism, inextricably associated with the seedy glamour of Montmartre nightlife and the demi-monde of fin-de-siècle Paris.
The first recorded owner of the work was Albert Grenier, who had been Toulouse-Lautrec’s fellow student at the ateliers of the renowned history painter Fernand Cormon and the famous academic painter Léon Bonnat, the latter under whom they both studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. Although the traditional genre painting of Cormon was completely contrary to Toulouse-Lautrec’s artistic interests, Cormon’s instruction would prove essential to the young artist’s development. His atelier was situated in Montmartre, an area devoid of any academic connotation and one of the less reputable quarters of Paris. However, rather than seek to shelter his students from the surrounding area, upon the conclusion of his morning classes, Cormon would encourage his students to take to the streets and sketch the passers-by. Having lived a relatively sheltered life in the French countryside at his aristocratic family’s estate, Toulouse-Lautrec was fascinated by the Montmartre locals, who were from every class and walk of life and wildly different to the more conventional social circles in which he had grown up.
Grenier and Toulouse-Lautrec became fast friends, and he too proved instrumental for Toulouse-Lautrec’s artistic development. He and his group of friends introduced Toulouse-Lautrec to the intoxicating and glamorous world of Parisian nightlife. They frequented not only the more prestigious venues such as the Comédie Française, the Opéra and the café-concerts at Les Ambassadeurs, Le Mirleton and the Folies Bergère, but also the more notorious and disreputably raunchy dance halls on the Butte of Montmartre, such as the Moulin de la Galette and the fabled Moulin Rouge. They quickly befriended the performers of these locales with their charm and quick wit, open minded spirits and artistic abilities, and themselves became regular fixtures of Montmartre nightspots. Images of this dazzling and colourful world began to flood Toulouse-Lautrec’s canvases.
For some time, Grenier shared Toulouse-Lautrec’s studio on rue Caulaincourt in Montmartre, which Toulouse-Lautrec occupied between 1886 and 1898 and where he executed some of his most important works, such as At the Moulin Rouge, the Dance. According to a note written by Grenier, Étude de Danseuse was executed at this very studio on rue Caulaincourt. He and Toulouse-Lautrec had styled a model they had hired as a ballerina, undoubtedly influenced not only by their nocturnal adventures but also by the work of artists such as Edgar Degas. Over the course of a week, Toulouse-Lautrec executed two studies of her. The other study was a full-length depiction of the model, which he gifted to Gustave Pellet, a French publisher of art who had published Toulouse-Lautrec’s erotic lithographs and incidentally, was the second owner of Étude de Danseuse.
In the present work, the dancer’s skin is rendered in unnatural hues of yellow-greens and tones of mauve, calling to mind brightly colored lights of the theater and dance halls, and the sharp frenetic lines of deep shades of violet and magenta convey the sense of energy and motion of the dance hall. Rather than approaching his study as an anatomical exercise, Etude de Danseuse showcases Toulouse-Lautrec’s masterful psychological approach to depicting these dancers, creating emotional portraits that empathize with his subjects. His theatrical composition frames just her torso in the composition, instead concentrating on revealing hidden emotions. Layers of sharp, energetic brushstrokes and in sickly unnatural colors create a sense of a deeply emotional and tumultuous inner state concentrated in her expression. It was said that certain models and dancers would refuse to continue posing for him, so unnerved they were of these portraits that so accurately depicted their innermost feelings.
Although ballerinas appear sporadically as a motif in Toulouse-Lautrec's works throughout the 1880s and 1890s, he fundamentally felt that the world of the Opéra ballet had already been explored by artists such as Degas and Jean-Louis Forain. Etude de danseuse is thus a rarity within Toulouse-Lautrec’s oeuvre, depicting the figure of the ballerina with unsentimental empathy. Combining themes of dance, theater and nightlife with his talent for insightful portraiture, Etude de Danseuse brings together all of the elements that made Toulouse-Lautrec the quintessential artist of fin-de-siècle Paris.

More from Impressionist & Modern Art Day Sale

View All
View All