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  • Russ Ramsey

Getting to know Henri Toulouse-Lautrec

For this Art Wednesday we’ll look at the life and work of the French Post-Impressionist painter, printmaker, and caricaturist Comte Henri Marie Raymond de Toulouse-Lautrec-Monfa, or, if you prefer, Toulouse-Lautrec. Or just Henri.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, 1894


Toulouse-Lautrec broke both of his legs as a teenager and due to a resulting growth problem, was a very short adult. He was known as a drinker with an affinity for prostitutes.

Toulouse-Lautrec, Portrait de Suzanne Valadon, 1885


Toulouse-Lautrec was born into aristocracy, but he suffered in life. He was one of the first artists to recognize Van Gogh’s genius and contend for him among his peers. Perhaps he related to Vincent’s pain.

Toulouse-Lautrec, Portrait of Vincent van Gogh, 1887


As a child, Toulouse-Lautrec drew caricatures of people he saw in Paris. His family recognized his talent and helped him get lessons. His earliest paintings are of horses and prostitutes.

Toulouse-Lautrec, La toilette, 1889


The Moulin Rouge cabaret hired Toulouse-Lautrec to paint a series of grand opening posters in 1889. Poster-making became a reliable source of income, allowing him to make a home in Paris.

Toulouse-Lautrec, At the Moulin Rouge, 1890


One of the “benefits” of his Moulin Rouge posters was the cabaret reserved a seat for him. This access to the night life fueled his drinking problem which went from wine to absinthe. He developed his own cocktail which he called “The Earthquake”—equal parts cognac and absinthe in a wine goblet.

Toulouse-Lautrec, At the Moulin Rouge, 1892


Tolouse-Lautrec died at 36 from complications related to alcoholism and syphilis. After he died, his mother and his art dealer continued promoting his work. He produced over 1,000 paintings and nearly 400 posters, in addition to over 5,000 drawings.

Tolouse-Lautrec, In Bed, 1893


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