While naturalism was the chosen form of representation in the Third Republic at that time, the loose brushstrokes and dramatic crop of Le joueur de flûte hint at the more dynamic methods Lautrec would embrace as a Post-Impressionist. Richard Thomson writes, 'Lautrec’s aesthetic had been rooted in the dominant naturalism. His teachers had taught him to study the model unflinchingly. The work of more radical artists, notably Edgar Degas, instructed him in subtle pictorial devices to give greater actuality to the fiction of the image: off-center compositions, the active use of empty space, the figure cut off by the edge of the frame as if it were on the periphery of our field of vision…[Lautrec] and others sought to extend the frontiers of naturalism into more expressive territory, to make it sharper and more dangerous' (Richard Thomson, 'Toulouse-Lautrec & Montmartre: Depicting Decadence in Fin-de-Siècle Paris,' in Toulouse-Lautrec and Montmartre (exhibition catalogue), The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago & National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., Princeton, 2005, p. 4). Le Joueur de flûte therefore captures a moment of transition between the academic aesthetic of the artist’s studies and his appreciation for avant-garde masters like Degas.
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