Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

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Toulouse-Lautrec, Henri de

(äNrē` də to͞olo͞oz` lōtrĕk`), 1864–1901, French painter and lithographer, b. Albi. Son of a wealthy nobleman, Lautrec fell and broke both legs when he was a child. His permanently stunted growth has traditionally been seen as the result of this accident, but more recently doctors have theorized that it may have been the result of a rare genetic abnormality. Showing an early gift for drawing, he studied with BonnatBonnat, Léon Joseph Florentin
, 1833–c.1922, French portrait and historical painter. He is best known for his portraits of famous men, including Thiers, Victor Hugo, and Dumas fils. Bonnat is represented in the Metropolitan Museum.
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 and Cormon and set up a studio of his own when he was 21. As a youth he was attracted by sporting subjects and admired and was influenced by the work of DegasDegas, Edgar
(Hilaire Germain Edgar Degas) , 1834–1917, French painter and sculptor, b. Paris; son of a banker. Although prepared for the law, he abandoned it for painting, studying at the École des Beaux-Arts with L.
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His own work is, above all, graphic in nature, the paint never obscuring the strong, original draftsmanship. He detailed the music halls, circuses, brothels, and cabaret life of Paris with a remarkable objectivity born, perhaps, of his own isolation. His garish and artificial colors, the orange hair and electric green light of his striking posters, caught the atmosphere of the life they advertised. Lautrec's technical innovations in color lithography created a greater freedom and a new immediacy in poster design. His posters of the dancers and personalities at the Moulin Rouge cabaret are world renowned and have inspired countless imitations.

After a life of enormous productivity (more than 1,000 paintings, 5,000 drawings, and 350 prints and posters), debauchery, and alcoholism, Lautrec suffered a mental and physical collapse and died at the age of 37. His life has inspired numerous biographies, of varying accuracy. Although exhibitions of his work were not well received in his lifetime, he is now one of the world's most popular artists and is represented in most of the major museums of France and the United States. Many of his sketches and some paintings are in the Musée Lautrec of his native Albi. His painting At the Moulin de la Galette (1892) is in the Art Institute, Chicago; the lithograph Seated Female Clown (1896) is at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.


See his correspondence, ed. by L. Goldschmidt and H. Schimmel (1969); complete lithographs and drypoints, ed. by J. Adémar (1965) and posters, intr. by E. Julien (1966); biographies by H. Perruchot (1960), P. Huisman (1964, repr. 1968), and J. B. Frey (1994); studies by D. Cooper (1969), F. Novotny (1969), J.-B. Naudin, G. Diego-Dortignac, and A. Daguin (1993), and D. Sweetman (2000).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Toulouse-Lautrec, Henri de


(Henri Marie Raymond de Toulouse-Lautrec-Monfa). Born Nov. 24, 1864, in Albi; died Sept. 9, 1901, at Château de Malromé, near Bordeaux. French painter and graphic artist.

Toulouse-Lautrec was descended from an ancient aristocratic family. Beginning in 1881 he lived mostly in Paris, where he studied with L. Bonnat in 1883 and with F. Cormon from 1884. He was influenced by the works of the Impressionists, especially those of E. Degas, as well as by Japanese prints. In his first important paintings, however, he strove for an extreme individualization of images. An example is the portrait of E. Bernard (1885, Täte Gallery, London).

In the second half of the 1880’s, Toulouse-Lautrec turned to the subjects that were to constitute the central theme of his mature works: the daily life and amusements of Paris’ Bohemian world. Estranged from his own world, he sought release from its stifling bourgeois conventions in the ephemeral gaiety of the cafés, dance halls, and other haunts of Montmartre. There, without moralizing, he depicted the Parisian demimonde, recording with keen observation and irony but also with great sensitivity the social and moral deformity of the life around him.

In his paintings of the late 1880’s, Toulouse-Lautrec already evinced the characteristic elements of his style: an expressive and varied drawing, ranging from the sharp and almost grotesque to the elegantly supple; a restless, fragmented composition; long, rhythmic contours; quick, disjointed brushstrokes; and striking contrasts between a cold, almost metallic, overall tonal palette and local spots of vivid color. By means of these techniques he sought to delineate the nightlife of Montmartre and its denizens —the cabaret singers and dancers and their dissolute, pleasure-loving admirers, among whom the artist often painted himself. By capturing the essence of the mise-en-scene, the telling poses and gestures of his figures, and the harsh, almost symbolic effects of artificial lighting, Toulouse-Lautrec succeeded in conveying with originality the moral depravity of fin-de-siècle Paris. Moreover, he brought to his task an unusual psychological insight that enabled him to apprehend his subjects’ desperate lives and the contemporary mores by which they were affected.

These qualities of Toulouse-Lautrec’s art are evident in Gueule de bois (1888, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, Mass.); Au bal du Moulin de la Galette (1889, Art Institute of Chicago); At the Moulin Rouge: The Dance (1890, private collection, Philadelphia); A la mie, a gouache (1891, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston); At the Moulin Rouge (1892, Art Institute of Chicago); La Goulue Entering the Moulin Rouge (1892, D. Levy Collection, New York); Jane Avril (1893, Niarchos Collection, Paris); Jane Avril at the Jardín de Paris (1893); Yvette Guilbert (1894, Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow); Gabriel Tapié de Céleyran (1894, Musée Toulouse-Lautrec, Albi); Au Salon de la Rue des Moulins (1894–95, Musée Toulouse-Lautrec, Albi); Marcelle Lender Dancing in “Chilpéric” (1895–96, John Hay Whitney Collection, New York); and The Modiste (1900, Musée Toulouse-Lautrec, Albi).

One of the outstanding masters of Postimpressionism, Toulouse-Lautrec in the 1890’s displayed in his stylistic experimentations an affinity with the exponents of art nouveau. The similarities are most evident in Toulouse-Lautrec’s graphic art, particularly the lithographic posters, with their spare style, fancifully convoluted drawing, and clear contours surrounding areas of intense color. Examples are Moulin Rouge: La Goulue (1891), Le Divan japonais (1892), Aristide Bruant dans son cabaret (1892), and Aristide Bruant at the Ambassadeurs (1892).

Toulouse-Lautrec’s series of lithographs and numerous drawings are distinguished by their vitality and imaginative, often grotesque caricature. Among the artist’s other works are Artilleryman Saddling His Horse (1879, Musée Toulouse-Lautrec, Albi), In the Circus Fernando: The Equestrienne (1888, Art Institute of Chicago), La Toilette (1896, Louvre, Paris), and the portrait Paul Leclerq (1897, Louvre, Paris).


Perruchot, H. Tuluz-Lotrek. [Afterword by O. V. Mamontova.] Moscow, 1969. (Translated from French.)
Vorkunova, N. Toluz-Lotrek. Moscow, 1972.
Joyant, M. Toulouse-Lautrec. Paris, 1927.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Toulouse-Lautrec, Henri de

(1864–1901) crippled and stunted; became great artist. [Fr. Hist.: Wallechinsky, 13]
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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