The aristocrat of Parisian cabarets
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec considered one of the most important painters of France and one of the pioneers of the poster. In his short life he created 737 paintings, 275 watercolors, 366 posters and 5,084 drawings.
He was born in 1864 in Albi, France. He was a scion of an aristocratic family, of great prestige. But the fact that his parents were related – first cousins who married to keep the property in the family – led to a genetic anomaly. At the age of 12 and later at 14, he suffered a rupture in his legs, causing them to stop growing normally. His upper body developed normally and eventually reached a height of 1.5 meters.
Of course, for the time, such a difference in appearance led him to the margins and social exclusion. Thus, he resorted to painting, developing talents in many genres and with a strong need for experimentation – he dabbled in many techniques, from lithography to Japanese art.
He spent most of his life in Montmartre, frequenting the famous Moulin Rouge cabaret. He faced a chronic problem of alcoholism and combined with the syphilis from which he suffered, he soon passed away, at only 37 years old, on a day like today in 1901.
It is classified as post-impressionism having been strongly influenced by Edouard Manet, Edgar Degas and Vincent Van Gogh. His teachers were two great painters of the time of the most traditional style, Leon Bonat and Fernand Cormont. Later, Lautrec also decided to take up the Japanese art of Ukiyo-e, the technique of which involved wooden molds for imprinting images – a method directly linked to book printing at the same time in Asia.
The poster, of course, is a large part of Lautrec’s artistic work. Living in Montmartre and living on the sidelines due to his genetic problem led him to the Moulin Rouge. He was not a simple patron, of course, as he himself designed the posters for the shows. Marginalized artists such as circus performers, cabaret dancers and sex workers embraced the lonely painter and gave him a place in their world. As a silent observer, he included in many of his paintings – in addition to posters – the people of the margins.
With his involvement in the intense nightlife of the city that flourished at the time and has come to be known as the Belle Epoque, he is considered the official illustrator of the night life through the cabarets of Paris. His association with the poster gave another breath to its use until then. It put the artists at the center of attention on the posters for the Moulin Rouge, which of course had not been done before.
Let’s look at some of his most famous works:
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