Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
- Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
- Signed on the cover, each with the publisher's stamp (Lugt 1190) and inscribed Series 38
Nine lithographs from the Elles portfolio printed in color, plus the lithographic cover and the lithographic frontispiece
Collection of Mr. & Mrs. John Hay Whitney (acquired in 1960 from the above, through Antoine Grandmaison and sold: Sotheby's, New York, Impressionist and Modern Art from the Collection of Mr. & Mrs. John Hay Whitney, May 10, 1999, lot 14)
Acquired at the above sale
Loys Delteil, Le Peintre-Graveur Illustré (XIXe et XXe Siècles), H. de Toulouse-Lautrec, vol. 11, Paris, nos. 179-189, illustrations of other examples
Jean Adhémar, Toulouse-Lautrec: His Complete Lithographs and Drypoints, New York, 1975, nos. 200-210, illustrations of other examples pp. 200-210
Wolfgang Wittrock, Toulouse-Lautrec: The Complete Prints, London, 1985, nos. 155-165, illustrations of other examples pp. 376-399
Götz Adriani, Toulouse-Lautrec, The Complete Graphic Works, A Catalogue Raisonné, Cologne, 1986, nos. 171-181, illustrations of other examples pp. 222-243
Richard Thomson, Philip Dennis Cate, Mary Weaver Chapin & Florence E. Coman, Toulouse-Lautrec and Montmartre (exhibition catalogue), National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. & The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, 2005, illustrations of other examples pp. 229-235
As a chronicler of the café culture and the night life in turn-of-the-century Paris, Toulouse-Lautrec had no rivals. Born into an aristocratic French family in 1864, Lautrec spent much of his life among the Parisian demi-monde, revealing his genius in sharp, analytical portrayals of the twilight world of the fin-de-siècle Paris. A brilliant interpreter of this lively and debauched world, Lautrec did not limit himself – as so many of his contemporaries had done – to social critique. Whether it was the quick sketch of a face, the curving lines of a group of dancers, a scene in a café, at the Théâtre des Variétés or in a maison close, he succeeded in capturing the timeless humanity that lay beneath the illusory façades of his subjects.
Between the years of 1892 and 1895, Lautrec was a regular visitor to the maisons closes (brothels) of the rue des Moulins, the rue d'Ambroise and the rue Joubert, observing, sketching, and often living with the prostitutes for weeks at a time. Lautrec devoted Elles, an entire suite of prints to his experience at the brothels, seeking to portray them without the morality or overt eroticism common in other artists' depictions of similar subjects. Rather, he showed his subjects engaged in the everyday activities of grooming, bathing, dressing and sleeping. The one print that is an exception of the general, anonymous tone of the portfolio, and the only image which does not depict a prostitute, is the portrait of Cha-u-ka-o, a dancer (La Clownesse assise). Known for her acrobatic versions of erotic dances, Cha-u-ka-o is linked to the other subjects of the portfoilo as a practitioner of a form of popular entertainment frowned upon, but often patronized by the upper classes.
Executed in 1896 and published in an edition of 100 the same year, this portfolio is widely regarded as the artist's definitive work from this period, and one of the pinnacles of color lithography. Among the most prolific lithographers of the nineteenth century, Lautrec regarded this medium as a primary means of artisitc expression in that it afforded him a greater flexibility and control than other graphic media. In these superb examples, Lautrec has combined the evocative and powerful primacy of line, the use of broad planes of color (derived from the immensely popular and influential Japanese woodblock prints) with original compositional designs and his extraordinary command of the technique. Often, bright colors are defused by splatterwork which promotes a more painterly approach to lithography. To achieve these textural effects, Lautrec used a toothbrush for the splatterwork, as well as the conventional lithographic crayons and fine brushes for the lines and detail work. The Elles suite highlights not only Lautrec's mastery of color lithography, but also his exploration of color, line, texture and paper. Please note that Femme qui se lave – La Toilette (Delteil 184) is lacking from the current portfolio.