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Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

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Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
Toulouse-Lautrec in 1894
Henry Marie Raymond de Toulouse-Lautrec-Monfa

(1864-11-24)24 November 1864
Died9 September 1901(1901-09-09) (aged 36)
Resting placeCimetière de Verdelais
Known forPainting, printmaking, drawing, draughting, illustration
Notable workAt the Moulin Rouge
Le Lit
La Toilette
MovementPost-Impressionism, Art Nouveau

Comte Henri Marie Raymond de Toulouse-Lautrec-Monfa (24 November 1864 – 9 September 1901), known as Toulouse-Lautrec (French: [tuluz lotʁɛk]), was a French painter, printmaker, draughtsman, caricaturist, and illustrator whose immersion in the colourful and theatrical life of Paris in the late 19th century allowed him to produce a collection of enticing, elegant, and provocative images of the sometimes decadent affairs of those times.

Born into the aristocracy, Toulouse-Lautrec broke both his legs around the time of his adolescence and, possibly due to the rare condition pycnodysostosis, was very short as an adult due to his undersized legs. In addition to alcoholism, he developed an affinity for brothels and prostitutes that directed the subject matter for many of his works, which record details of the late-19th-century bohemian lifestyle in Paris. He is among the painters described as being Post-Impressionists, with Paul Cézanne, Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, and Georges Seurat also commonly considered as belonging in this loose group.

In a 2005 auction at Christie's auction house, La Blanchisseuse, Toulouse-Lautrec's early painting of a young laundress, sold for US$22.4 million, setting a new record for the artist for a price at auction.[1]

Early life


Henri[2] Marie Raymond de Toulouse-Lautrec Monfa was born at the Château du Bosc, Camjac, Aveyron, in the south of France, the firstborn child of Count Alphonse de Toulouse-Lautrec Montfa (1838–1913)[3] and Adèle Zoë Tapié de Celeyran (1841–1930).[4] He was a member of an aristocratic family (descended from both the Counts of Toulouse and Odet de Foix, Vicomte de Lautrec, as well as the Viscounts of Montfa). His younger brother was born in 1867 but died the following year. Both sons enjoyed the titres de courtoisie of Comte.[5] If Henri had outlived his father, he would have been accorded the family title of Comte de Toulouse-Lautrec.[6]

After the death of his brother, Toulouse-Lautrec's parents separated and a nanny cared for him.[7] At the age of eight, Toulouse-Lautrec lived with his mother in Paris, where he drew sketches and caricatures in his exercise workbooks. A friend of his father, René Princeteau, sometimes visited to give informal lessons. Some of Toulouse-Lautrec's early paintings are of horses, a speciality of Princeteau's and a subject Toulouse-Lautrec later revisited in his "Circus Paintings".[7][8]

In 1875, Toulouse-Lautrec returned to Albi because his mother had concerns about his health. He took thermal baths at Amélie-les-Bains, and his mother consulted doctors in the hope of finding a way to improve her son's growth and development.[7]

Disability and health problems

Mr. Toulouse paints Mr. Lautrec (c. 1891), a photomontage by Maurice Guibert

Toulouse-Lautrec's parents were first cousins (their mothers were sisters),[9] and his congenital health conditions have often been attributed to a family history of inbreeding.[10]

At the age of 13, Toulouse-Lautrec fractured his right femur, and at age 14, he fractured his left femur.[11] The breaks did not heal properly. Modern physicians attribute this to an unknown genetic disorder, possibly pycnodysostosis (sometimes known as Toulouse-Lautrec Syndrome),[12][13] or a variant disorder along the lines of osteopetrosis, achondroplasia, or osteogenesis imperfecta.[14] Toulouse-Lautrec's legs ceased to grow when he reached 1.52 m or 5 ft 0 in.[15] He developed an adult torso while retaining his child-sized legs.[16]


The Marble Polisher, 1882–1887, Princeton University Art Museum, probably painted while a student of Fernand Cormon, demonstrating his classical training[17]

During a stay in Nice, France, his progress in painting and drawing impressed Princeteau, who persuaded Toulouse-Lautrec's parents to allow him to return to Paris and study under the portrait painter Léon Bonnat. He returned to Paris in 1882.[18] Toulouse-Lautrec's mother had high ambitions and, with the aim of her son becoming a fashionable and respected painter, used their family's influence to gain him entry to Bonnat's studio.[7] He was drawn to Montmartre, the area of Paris known for its bohemian lifestyle and the haunt of artists, writers, and philosophers. Studying with Bonnat placed Toulouse-Lautrec in the heart of Montmartre, an area he rarely left over the next 20 years.

After Bonnat took a new job, Toulouse-Lautrec moved to the studio of Fernand Cormon in 1882 and studied for a further five years and established the group of friends he kept for the rest of his life. At this time, he met Émile Bernard and Vincent van Gogh. Cormon, whose instruction was more relaxed than Bonnat's, allowed his pupils to roam Paris, looking for subjects to paint. During this period, Toulouse-Lautrec had his first encounter with a prostitute (reputedly sponsored by his friends), which led him to paint his first painting of a prostitute in Montmartre, a woman rumoured to be Marie-Charlet.[7]

A thin woman's back and hair are prominent. She faces away from the viewer and has on only a towel around her waist and knee-high stockings.
La toilette, oil on board, 1889

Early career


In 1885, Toulouse-Lautrec began to exhibit his work at the cabaret of Aristide Bruant's Mirliton.[19]

With his studies finished, Toulouse-Lautrec participated in an exposition in 1887 in Toulouse using the pseudonym "Tréclau", the verlan of the family name "Lautrec". He later exhibited in Paris with Van Gogh and Louis Anquetin.[7]

In 1885, Toulouse-Lautrec met Suzanne Valadon. He made several portraits of her and supported her ambition as an artist. It is believed that they were lovers and that she wanted to marry him. Their relationship ended, and Valadon attempted suicide in 1888.[20]

Rise to recognition


In 1888, the Belgian critic Octave Maus invited Lautrec to present eleven pieces at the Vingt (the 'Twenties') exhibition in Brussels in February. Theo van Gogh, the artist's brother, bought Poudre de Riz (Rice Powder) for 150 francs for the Goupil & Cie gallery.

From 1889 to 1894, Toulouse-Lautrec took part in the Salon des Indépendants regularly. He made several landscapes of Montmartre.[7] Tucked deep into Montmartre in Monsieur Pere Foret's garden, Toulouse-Lautrec executed a series of pleasant en plein air paintings of Carmen Gaudin, the same red-headed model who appears in The Laundress (1888).

In 1890, during the banquet of the XX exhibition in Brussels, he challenged to a duel the artist Henri de Groux, who criticised van Gogh's works. Paul Signac also declared he would continue to fight for Van Gogh's honour if Lautrec was killed. De Groux apologised for the slight and left the group, and the duel never took place.[21][22]

Toulouse-Lautrec contributed several illustrations to the magazine Le Rire during the mid-1890s.[23]

Interactions with women


In addition to his growing alcoholism, Toulouse-Lautrec also visited prostitutes.[24] He was fascinated by their lifestyle as well as that of the "urban underclass", and he incorporated those characters into his paintings.[25] Fellow painter Édouard Vuillard later said that while Toulouse-Lautrec did engage in sex with prostitutes, "the real reasons for his behaviour were moral ones ... Lautrec was too proud to submit to his lot, as a physical freak, an aristocrat cut off from his kind by his grotesque appearance. He found an affinity between his condition and the moral penury of the prostitute."[26]

The prostitutes inspired Toulouse-Lautrec. He would frequently visit a brothel located in Rue d'Amboise, where he had a favourite called Mireille.[27] He created about a hundred drawings and fifty paintings inspired by the life of these women. In 1892 and 1893, he created a series of two women in bed together called Le Lit, and in 1894 he painted Salón de la Rue des Moulins from memory in his studio.[27]

Toulouse-Lautrec declared, "A model is always a stuffed doll, but these women are alive. I wouldn't venture to pay them the hundred sous to sit for me, and god knows whether they would be worth it. They stretch out on the sofas like animals, make no demand and they are not in the least bit conceited." He was well appreciated by the women, saying, "I have found girls of my own size! Nowhere else do I feel so much at home."[27]

The Moulin Rouge


When the Moulin Rouge cabaret opened in 1889,[19] Toulouse-Lautrec was commissioned to produce a series of posters. His mother had left Paris and, though he had a regular income from his family, making posters offered him a living of his own. Other artists looked down on the work, but he ignored them.[28] The cabaret reserved a seat for him and displayed his paintings.[29] Among the works that he painted for the Moulin Rouge and other Parisian nightclubs are depictions of the singer Yvette Guilbert; the dancer Louise Weber, better known as La Goulue (The Glutton), who created the French can-can; and the much subtler dancer Jane Avril.


Woman at the Tub from the portfolio Elles (1896)

Toulouse-Lautrec's family were Anglophiles,[30] and though he was not as fluent as he pretended to be, he spoke English well enough.[28] He travelled to London, where he was commissioned by the J. & E. Bella company to make a poster advertising their paper confetti (plaster confetti was banned after the 1892 Mardi Gras)[31][32] and the bicycle advert La Chaîne Simpson.[33]

While in London, Toulouse-Lautrec met and befriended Oscar Wilde.[28] When Wilde faced imprisonment in Britain, Toulouse-Lautrec became a very vocal supporter of him, and his portrait of Oscar Wilde was painted the same year as Wilde's trial.[28][34]


La Promeneuse by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Oil on cardboard, dated 1892.

Toulouse-Lautrec was mocked for his short stature and physical appearance, which some biographers have conjectured may have contributed to his abuse of alcohol.[35]

Toulouse-Lautrec initially drank only beer and wine, but his tastes expanded into spirits, namely absinthe.[24] The "Earthquake Cocktail" (Tremblement de Terre) is attributed to Toulouse-Lautrec: a potent mixture containing half absinthe and half cognac in a wine goblet.[36] Because of his underdeveloped legs, he walked with the aid of a cane, which he hollowed out and kept filled with liquor in order to ensure that he was never without alcohol.[28][37]

Cooking skills


A fine and hospitable cook, Toulouse-Lautrec built up a collection of favourite recipes – some original, some adapted – which were posthumously published by his friend and dealer Maurice Joyant as L'Art de la Cuisine.[38] The book was republished in English translation in 1966 as The Art of Cuisine[39] – a tribute to his inventive (and wide-ranging) cooking.


Toulouse-Lautrec's grave in Verdelais

By February 1899, Toulouse-Lautrec's alcoholism began to take its toll and he collapsed from exhaustion. His family had him committed to Folie Saint-James, a sanatorium in Neuilly-sur-Seine for three months.[40] While committed, he drew 39 circus portraits. After his release, he returned to the Paris studio and travelled throughout France.[41] Both his physical and mental health began to decline due to alcoholism and syphilis.[42]

On 9 September 1901, at the age of 36, Toulouse-Lautrec died from complications due to alcoholism and syphilis at his mother's estate, Château Malromé, in Saint-André-du-Bois. He is buried in Cimetière de Verdelais, Gironde, a few kilometres from the estate.[42][43] Toulouse-Lautrec's last words reportedly were "Le vieux con!" ("The old fool!"), his goodbye to his father.[28]

After Toulouse-Lautrec's death, his mother, Adèle Comtesse de Toulouse-Lautrec-Monfa, and his art dealer, Maurice Joyant, continued promoting his artwork. His mother contributed funds for a museum to be created in Albi, his birthplace, to show his works. This Musée Toulouse-Lautrec owns the most extensive collection of his works.


At the Moulin Rouge, 1892, Art Institute of Chicago. Self-portrait in the crowd (background center-left).
Moulin Rouge: La Goulue, poster (1891)

In a career of less than 20 years, Toulouse-Lautrec created:

  • 737 paintings on canvas
  • 275 watercolours
  • 363 prints and posters
  • 5,084 drawings
  • some ceramic and stained-glass work
  • an unknown number of lost works[13]

Toulouse-Lautrec's debt to the Impressionists, particularly the more figurative painters like Manet and Degas, is apparent, that within his works, one can draw parallels to the detached barmaid at A Bar at the Folies-Bergère by Manet and the behind-the-scenes ballet dancers of Degas. Toulouse-Lautrec's style was also influenced by the Ukiyo-e genre of Japanese woodblock prints, which became popular in the Parisian art world.[44]

Toulouse-Lautrec excelled at depicting people in their working environments, with the colour and movement of the gaudy nightlife present but the glamour stripped away. He was a master at painting crowd scenes where each figure was highly individualised. At the time they were painted, the individual figures in his larger paintings could be identified by silhouette alone, and the names of many of these characters have been recorded.[citation needed] His treatment of his subject matter, whether as portraits, in scenes of Parisian nightlife, or as intimate studies, has been described as alternately "sympathetic" and "dispassionate".[citation needed]

Toulouse-Lautrec's skilled depiction of people relied on his highly linear approach emphasising contours. He often applied paint in long, thin brushstrokes leaving much of the board visible. Many of his works may be best described as "drawings in coloured paint."[45]

On 20 August 2018, Toulouse-Lautrec was the featured artist on the BBC television programme Fake or Fortune?. Researchers attempted to discover whether he had created two newly discovered sketchbooks.[46]






  • Sacré Bleu: A Comedy d'Art, by Christopher Moore, in which the bon vivant artist plays the role of co-detective with the fictional lead, Lucien Lessard, in trying to unravel the death of mutual friend Vincent van Gogh.
  • Moulin Rouge (novel), by Pierre La Mure (1950), historical novel based on the life of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.
  • The historical fiction novel, The Dream Collector, “Sabrine & Vincent van Gogh” (Historium Press 2024) by R.w. Meek explores Toulouse Lautrec’s relationship with Vincent van Gogh and their mutual problems with alcohol. [48]

Selected works

See also Category:Paintings by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.







Photos of Toulouse-Lautrec


See also



  1. ^ Berwick, Carly (2 November 2005). "Toulouse-Lautrec Drives Big Night at Christie's". Nysun.com. Retrieved 12 August 2013.
  2. ^ "Toulouse-Lautrec: The art of bacchanalia". The Independent. 22 September 2011. Retrieved 26 December 2020.
  3. ^ "Count Alphonse Charles de Toulouse Lautrec Monfa 1838–1913 Father of Henri de Toulouse Lautrec". gettyimages.co.uk. 4 May 2011.
  4. ^ "Histoire et généalogie de la famille de Toulouse-Lautrec Montfa et de ses alliances". genealogie87.fr. Retrieved 17 February 2015.
  5. ^ C., Ives (1996). Toulouse-Lautrec in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1996. ISBN 9780870998041. Retrieved 17 September 2019. Comte Henri-Marie-Raymond de Toulouse-Lautrec 1864-1901
  6. ^ Bellet, H. (24 April 2012). "Toulouse-Lautrec gallery at the Palais de Berbie - review". UK Guardian. Retrieved 17 September 2019. From his father he would have inherited the title of Count of Toulouse-Lautrec.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Author Unknown, "Toulouse-Lautrec" – published Grange Books. ISBN 1-84013-658-8 Bookfinder – Toulouse Lautrec Archived 2 February 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ ArT Blog: Toulouse-Lautrec at the Circus: The "Horse and Performer" Drawings blogs.princeton.edu Archived 28 July 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ Morrison, David (25 November 2013). "The Genealogical World of Phylogenetic Networks: Toulouse-Lautrec: family trees and networks". The Genealogical World of Phylogenetic Networks. Retrieved 28 September 2023.
  10. ^ Toulouse-Lautrec, H., Natanson, T., & Frankfurter, A. M. (1950). Toulouse-Lautrec: The Man. N.p. p. 120. OCLC 38609256
  11. ^ "Why Lautrec was a giant". The Times. UK. 10 December 2006. Retrieved 8 December 2007.
  12. ^ Valdes-Socin, H. (9 January 2021). "The syndrome of Toulouse-Lautrec". Journal of Endocrinological Investigation. 44 (9). Springer Science and Business Media LLC: 2013–2014. doi:10.1007/s40618-020-01490-4. ISSN 1720-8386. OCLC 8875586623. PMID 33423220. S2CID 231576363.
  13. ^ a b Angier, Natalie (6 June 1995). "What Ailed Toulouse-Lautrec? Scientists Zero in on a Key Gene". The New York Times. Retrieved 8 December 2007.
  14. ^ "Noble figure". The Guardian. UK. 20 November 2004. Retrieved 8 December 2007.
  15. ^ Harris, Nathaniel (1989). The Art of Toulouse-Lautrec. New York: Gallery Books. p. 27. OCLC 1193360125.
  16. ^ ""Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec". AMEA – World Museum of Erotic Art". Ameanet.org. 22 February 1999. Archived from the original on 24 October 2019. Retrieved 12 August 2013.
  17. ^ "The Marble Polisher (1992-16)". Princeton University Art Museum. Princeton University.
  18. ^ "Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864–1901)". www.metmuseum.org. Retrieved 2 November 2019.
  19. ^ a b "Paris Art Studies - Toulouse Lautrec Posters 1864–1901". www.parisartstudies.com. Retrieved 2 November 2019.
  20. ^ Neret, Gilles (1999). Toulouse Lautrec. Taschen. p. 196.
  21. ^ Gimferrer, Pere (1990). Toulouse Lautrec. Rizzoli. ISBN 0-8478-1276-6.
  22. ^ Bailey, Martin (12 September 2019). "New discoveries: Paul Signac painted watercolours of Van Gogh's asylum". The Art Newspaper. Retrieved 23 September 2021.
  23. ^ "Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec > Lithographies > Le Rire". www.toulouselautrec.free.fr.
  24. ^ a b Wittels, Betina; Hermesch, Robert (2008). Breaux, T. A. (ed.). Absinthe, Sip of Seduction: A Contemporary Guide. Fulcrum Publishing. p. 35. ISBN 978-1-933-10821-6.
  25. ^ Powell, John; Blakeley, Derek W.; Powell, Tessa, eds. (2001). Biographical Dictionary of Literary Influences: The Nineteenth Century, 1800-1914. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 417. ISBN 978-0-313-30422-4.
  26. ^ (Toulouse-Lautrec, Donson 1982, p. XIV)
  27. ^ a b c Neret, Gilles (1999). Toulouse Lautrec. Germany: Taschen. pp. 134–135. ISBN 3-8228-6524-9.
  28. ^ a b c d e f "Toulouse Lautrec: The Full Story". UK: Channel 4. Retrieved 1 October 2010.
  29. ^ "Blake Linton Wilfong Hooker Heroes". Wondersmith.com. Retrieved 12 August 2013.
  30. ^ Smith, Joan (10 July 1994). "Book Review/ Short and not sweet: Toulouse-Lautrec: A Life - Julia Frey: Weidenfeld, pounds 25". independent.co.uk. Retrieved 24 November 2014.
  31. ^ Toulouse-Lautrec, Henri de; Donson, Theodore B. (1982). Great Lithographs by Toulouse-Lautrec. Griepp, Marvel M. Courier Corporation. p. XII. ISBN 978-0-486-24359-7.
  32. ^ "Toulouse-Lautrec - TL. 14 - Confetti". www.yaneff.com. Retrieved 3 July 2019.
  33. ^ Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1896). "La Chaîne Simpson". San Diego Museum of Art. Archived from the original on 11 March 2016. Retrieved 28 March 2013.
  34. ^ "'Oscar Wilde' 1895 by Toulouse-Lautrec". Mystudios.com. Retrieved 12 August 2013.
  35. ^ "Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec Biography". lautrec.info. Archived from the original on 21 June 2010.
  36. ^ "Absinthe Service and Historic Cocktails". AbsintheOnline.com. Archived from the original on 23 October 2007. Retrieved 8 December 2007.
  37. ^ Gately, Iain (2008). Drink, A Cultural History of Alcohol. Gotham books. p. 338. ISBN 978-1-592-40303-5.
  38. ^ "Toulouse-Lautrec: The art of bacchanalia". The Independent. 12 November 2006.
  39. ^ Grigson, J. Jane Grigson's Vegetable Book (1984), p. 422.
  40. ^ Clair, Jean, ed. (2004). The Great Parade: Portrait of the Artist as Clown. Galeries nationales du Grand Palais (France), National Gallery of Canada. Yale University Press. p. 170. ISBN 978-0-300-10375-5.
  41. ^ (Toulouse-Lautrec, Donson 1982, p. V)
  42. ^ a b "Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec Biography". toulouse-lautrec-foundation.org. Retrieved 24 March 2015.
  43. ^ Bennett, Lennie (16 November 2003). "More than art's poster boy". St. Petersburg, Florida: sptimes.com. Retrieved 24 March 2015.
  44. ^ Berger, Klaus. (1992) Japonisme in Western Painting from Whistler to Matisse. Translated by David Britt. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 199. ISBN 9780521373210.
  45. ^ "Henri Toulouse-Lautrec". Lefevre Fine Art. Retrieved 10 May 2019.
  46. ^ "Fake or Fortune?, Series 7, Toulouse-Lautrec". BBC. 19 August 2018. Retrieved 10 February 2021.
  47. ^ Variety; Cowie, Peter (1999). Variety (ed.). The Variety Insider. Penguin Group USA. p. 173. ISBN 978-0-399-52524-7.
  48. ^ Meek, R.w. (2024). The Dream Collector, Sabrine and Vincent van Gogh. Historium Press. pp. 202–209. ISBN 978-1-962465-34-2.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: date and year (link)
  49. ^ "Miss Ida Heath, danseuse anglaise".
  50. ^ "Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec | The Box with the Gilded Mask". The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Retrieved 10 February 2021.

Further reading