Henri de Toulouse Lautrec: Artist Portrait

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

Born 1864. Died 1901.
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Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec Biography

French artist Henri de Toulouse Lautrec’s distinctive oeuvre is viewed as both the bridge between Post Impressionism and Art Nouveau aesthetics as well as painting and the graphic arts during the late 19th century. His lithographs, posters and advertisements, which promoted the bohemian entertainers of Montmartre, elevated popular print culture to the realm of fine art. The details of his biography have captured the cultural memory: his physical handicap, his addictions and ribald participation in the bohemian lifestyle of the 1880s and 90s. More significant than these, Toulouse Lautrec depicted the melancholy, humor and humanity beneath the glamor, grit and pageantry of the dance halls he frequented. His flattened forms, severe angles, snipped compositions and acidic colors that bordered on abstraction contributed to the evolution of the Parisian avant-garde.

Toulouse Lautrec was born in 1864 to an aristocratic family; his parents were first cousins, and historians have often linked his congenital health conditions to inbreeding. His disease is unknown, though he likely suffered from a combination of disorders linked to osteopetrosis, achondroplasia or an unknown genetic disorder, which left him with the legs of a child and the torso of an adult man. He studied under Léon Bonnat, and was influenced by Émile Bernard and Vincent van Gogh whom he met in Montmartre, where he spent the majority of his life. He famously sought comfort with prostitutes – and alcohol – as a result of feelings of alienation from the social class into which he was born. He painted and drew the women and scenes of Montmartre and the Parisian underworld that fascinated and welcomed him. Although he died at the age of thirty-six, his short career was impressively prolific; he completed over 1,000 known paintings or watercolors, nearly 400 posters and prints, and over 5,000 drawings. Despite the breadth of his oeuvre, Toulouse Lautrec remains among the most expensive artists. Au Lit: Le Baiser sold for $14.1 million at Sotheby’s. His works are found at the major artistic institutions of the world including the Metropolitan Museum, New York; the Musée d’Orsay, Paris; the Art Institute of Chicago, and many others.

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