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Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec


Early Life

One of Lautrec’s first drawings, pencil drawing of animals and farmers and country life.

Lautrec was born in 1864 in France to parents Adèle and Alphonse Toulouse-Lautrec. He had a lot of peculiar growth problems that affected his childhood. His parents were first cousins and Lautrec suffered a lot of health problems that are thought to have been caused by inbreeding. Both of his legs were fractured and his growth stopped permanently at the age of 15. As an adult he was only 4ft. 8in. tall with an adult sized torso but child-sized legs. Because of his confinement, he began sketching constantly, drawing everything from caricatures to boats in the harbor. He had an exceptional gift for capturing movement and human likeness. Both of which were subjects he was interested in throughout his lifetime. At the age of seventeen he began his first formal studies with the conservative academic painter Leon Bonnat, who found his drawings to be “downright atrocious.” He’s considered to be a major figure in the post-impressionist period. This period was a movement that took place in France between 1886 and 1905. They broke away from the traditional subject matter and defining form with short brush strokes


Bohemian Parisian Nightlife

At the Moulin Rouge 1890

Lautrec’s father never accepted his decision to become a professional artist. His family disapproved of his success because professional endeavors were considered undignified in their minds. Because of their dismissal of his career, Toulouse started to devote himself to discovering and portraying the essential character of Bohemian Parisian society. His subjects represented a sector of society whose values contradicted those cherished by his ancestors. He not only saw Parisian life but he immersed himself in its most unconventional aspects. He adored the life that he discovered outside of the confining context in which he grew up.


and g n i raw D d e rt a t s c e Lautr Painting People that frequent

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Top: The Medical Inspection 1894 Left: At the Circus 1887

Lautrec was fascinated and magnetized by the nocturnal world of Parisian bars and brothels. He represented those who inhabited this world with an exaggerated realism that expressed his sympathetic amusement, as well as his appreciation of the transient. Lautrec elevated seemingly boring subjects like dancers, actors, singers, bicyclists and jockeys to a status that had never been done before. He started to develop a passion for the circus and theatre. He did paintings and prints of various Parisian actors and actresses, as well as of bareback riders, clowns, trained animals, and gymnasts, expressing both the magical and the melancholic in his renderings of these subjects. Lautrec had a passion to experience everything possible, from the casual bar to grand opera, from horse and bicycle races to the law courts.


In 1882, he moved to the studio of Fernand Cormon and worked with him for five years. During these years of study he learned anatomy, draftsmanship, and classical painting techniques. Here he met famous painters like Émile Bernard and Vincent Van Gogh. During this time he developed an interest in painting prostitutes and their lifestyle.

La Toilette 1889

In Bed, The Kiss 1892


His 1886 painting The Laundress depicting a young laundress at work is regarded as one of his finest works. The painting was sold for $22.4 million in a 2005 auction at Christie’s auction house.


In 1887, he exhibited in Paris with Vincent van Gogh. In 1889, he started to show his work in an independent Artists’ salon with other well known artists like CÊzanne, Gauguin and Pissarro. He played an important role in founding the independent salon which aimed to allow artists to present their works to public judgement with complete freedom. A drawing Lautrec made of Van Gogh in 1887

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The Hangover 1888

He worked to capture the inner soul instead of the surface detail of his subjects which set him apart from a lot of artists at that time. Study of a Nude 1882


In 1891, Lautrec’s first poster made its appearance, and he instantaneously made popular acclaim. By the time he was 26 years old his illustrations were showing up in newspapers, books and in sheet music throughout paris.


While his frenzied pursuit of the breathtaking life that surrounded him inspired Lautrec to create brilliant works of art and enabled him to enjoy widespread popularity, it did nothing to enhance his frail physical health. By 1899, his addiction to alcohol and his anguished emotional condition became so acute that he was committed to a private hospital. He had a brief time where he recovered and then in 1901 he suffered a major relapse and died at his family home at the very early age of thirty-six.

During his career which was less than 20 years, he made more than: 700 canvas paintings 350 prints and posters 5,000 drawings

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec  

A look into the life of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec  

A look into the life of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

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