Toulouse Lautrec Impressionist Painting Young Girl & Eros – Adolphe c.1882
Attributed to Henri de Toulouse Lautrec (1864-1901) After William Bouguereau
Approx: Size 47" tall x 35.25" wide (without the frame) – 62.75" tall x 51" wide (with Frame)
William Bouguereau was France’s most popular painter of the late 1800s. A leader of the Academic School,
Bouguereau specialized in carefully detailed mythological and genre scenes, and was particularly noted for his tender
portrayals of children. "The Abduction of Psyche" (1895) is probably his best-known work. Today many critics dismiss
his style as kitsch and do not look kindly on his harmful opposition to new creative trends; but his exquisite craftsmanship
is undeniable. Bouguereau completed over 800 paintings, many of them life-sized. Adolphe William Bouguereau (he
never used his first name) was born in La Rochelle, France. He studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and won the Prix de
Rome in 1850. In 1868 he built a lavish studio in Montparnasse and helped make that area the foremost artists’ quarter
in Paris. Around this time he also began a liason with one of his students, American painter Elizabeth Gardner;
Bouguereau’s mother opposed the relationship and the couple did not marry until her death in 1896. As comparatively
obscure as he is these days, it’s difficult to imagine what a star Bouguereau was in the art world of his era. He worked
hard to fufil his many commissions and his paintings were so sought after, and fetched such high prices, that he once
boasted, "I lose five francs every time I pee". Engraved reproductions of his works sold in the millions. Along with wealth
and fame came many honors, including election to the Institute of France and being named a Grand Officer of the Legion
of Honor. Reactionary in visual tastes, Bouguereau believed art should idealize beauty and turned up his nose at
anything that even remotely deviated from this dictum. As President of the Society of French Artists from 1881, he
oversaw the selection of the thousands of paintings shown annually at the Paris Salon, the only real avenue to success
for aspiring Gallic painters and sculptors. For decades he used this position to hinder the press and public from
discovering the revolutionary changes that were taking place in French painting, including Impressionism, Realism,
Pointillism, and the singular efforts of Paul Gaugin, Henri Rousseau, and Toulouse-Lautrec. Paul Cezanne, who
submitted canvases to that venue every year only to have them rejected, finally gave up and declared, "I don’t stand a
chance in Monsieur Bouguereau’s Salon". Rival salons sprang up in Paris to combat Bouguereau’s conservatism, but he
remained powerful and influential until his death at 79. (bio by: Bobb Edwards)
In 1882, Lautrec moved from Albi to Paris, where he studied art in the ateliers of two academic painters, Léon Bonnat
(1833–1922) and Fernand Cormon (1845–1924), who also taught Émile Bernard (1868–1941) and Vincent van Gogh
(1853–1890). Lautrec soon began painting en plein air in the manner of the Impressionists, and often posed sitters in the
Montmartre garden of his neighbor, Père Forest, a retired photographer. One of his favorite models was a prostitute
nicknamed La Casque d’Or (Golden Helmet), seen in the painting The Streetwalker (2003.20.13). Lautrec used peinture
à l’essence, or oil thinned with turpentine, on cardboard, rendering visible his loose, sketchy brushwork. The
transposition of this creature of the night to the bright light of day—her pallid complexion and artificial hair color clash with
the naturalistic setting—signals Lautrec’s fascination with sordid and dissolute subjects. Later in his career, he would
devote an entire series of prints, called Elles, to life inside a brothel (1984.1203.166).
The most notable painting from the Harris collection was the early Toulouse-Lautrec painting "La blanchisseuse" (1886-
87), a young laundress with copper-colored hair and a pearly white blouse. Its optimistic presale estimate of $20 million
to $25 million turned out to be justified, as the painting sold for $22.4 million to a phone bidder. The price was a record
for a work by the artist sold at auction, $6 million more than the previous highest price.
Henri de Toulouse Lautrec (1864-1901) was a French artist of the late 19th Century, most closely associated with the
Symbolists, but with a unique, distinctive style of his own. His depictions of Parisian night life and society — vivid, candid,
energetic and unflattering — are instantly recognizable, and typify that place and period in the minds of many. The
painter’s own life has become a legend that has inspired many romanticized interpretations.
Henri-Marie Raymond de Toulouse-Lautrec-Montfa was born on November 24, 1864, in the town of Albi, in the south of
France. He was the first child and heir of Alphonse Charlers Jean Marie (1838-1913), Count of Toulouse, and his wife
Marie Marquette Zoe Adele Tapie de Celeyran (1841-1930). Count Alphonse de Toulouse-Lautrec was an avid
sportsman and hunter, with a penchant for flamboyant outfits. Marie de Celeyran, by contrast, was very reserved and shy,
and doted on her first child. Young Henri was probably first introduced to painting through his uncles, several of whom
were amateur artists. He received his first tutelage in art from Rene Princeteau, a well-known sports-painter and a friend
of his father’s.
Much of Henri’s early childhood was spent in the Chateau de Celeyran, his mother’s familial home, near the
Mediterranean town of Narbonne, where he spent much time drawing and painting the life and landscape of the estate. In
1868, his parents separated; Henri would live mostly with his mother. In 1872, he was enrolled in the prestigious Lycee
Fontanes in Paris, but he left the school only three short years later, in 1875, due to health reasons. Together with his
mother, he moved back to the south of France, and its gentler climate.
In 1878, Henri broke his left thigh as he was getting up out of a chair. Bed-ridden, he spent his time reading, drawing and
painting. A year later and just barely recovered from his first injury, he broke his other thigh whilst taking a walk with his
mother. The growth of his legs was stunted forever, and he never grew taller than 5 feet. There is much speculation about
the causes of the painter’s medical condition. From the evidence we have today, it is probable that he suffered from
brittle bone disease (osteogenesis imperfecta), a genetic disorder that prevents bones and connective tissues from
developing properly. Osteogenesis imperfecta was not uncommon among the European aristocracy, and this would
explain Henri’s physical frailty and other symptoms. Be that as it may, his illness was never identified during his lifetime,
and nothing his mother and his doctors undertook would help.
Meanwhile, Henri continued to pursue art. By 1880, he had produced as many as two and a half thousand works, in a
variety of techniques. Encouraged by his uncle Charles and by Princeteau, he eventually managed to convince his
mother to allow him to return to Paris to study art. In 1881, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec set up residence in Princeteau’s
In 1882, the young artist was accepted into the studio of the famous painter and art teacher Leon Bonnat. However,
Bonnat took an immediate dislike to Toulouse-Lautrec, who, already then, had something of a caustic personality. The
two did not get along well, and after Bonnat became a professor at the Paris Academy of Art, Lautrec quit his studio and
began to study, instead, under Fernand Cormon. Cormon was a talented artist in his own right, and an enthusiastic
teacher, and his workshop attracted many young painters who would later be among the shapers of the art world.
Under Cormon, Toulouse-Lautrec explored many styles and techniques. He received a firm grounding in academic
painting, but Cormon also encouraged his students to explore Impressionism and contemporary directions in art. Two of
the painter’s works from this period are the Artist’s Mother (1883) and the Young Routy at Celeyran (1883).
In 1883, Lautrec had his first romantic liaison with Marie Charlet, a 17-year-old model. The painter would have many
affairs over the course of his rather brief life. All of them would be with women far below his station, and none of them
were very long-lasting. Although the artist immersed himself in the life of the lower classes — the cabarets, the dance
halls and the brothels — he always retained an aristocratic aloofness and a sense of his own superiority. He was not
attempting to become part of that life: he was rather an unprejudiced observer; a doctor or a scientist, trying to dissect it
and give it life, in his art.
Lautrec moved into the Montmartre district in 1884. Here, he met Edgar Degas, whom he came to admire. He soon
began to frequent the district’s cabarets, including the Elysee-Montmartre, the Moulin de la Galette and the Mirliton, run
by Artistide Bruant, where he displayed his works. That year, he also had his first exhibition at the Pau.
In 1886, Lautrec met Vincent Van Gogh at Cormon’s studio, where the Dutch painter had come to study. They quickly
became friends, though Lautrec left the studio only a few months later, his education there concluded. This was also the
year when he met Suzanne Valadon, who modelled for him, and they began a relationship. It didn’t last long; two years
later, Valadon attempted suicide and the couple broke up. See The Laundress, which is one of the artist’s depiction of
By this point, Lautrec’s art was beginning to attract greater notice. In 1887, he participated in an exhibition in Toulouse,
where he assumed a false name, in order to distance himself from his father, the Count of Toulouse. In Paris, he
exhibited together with Van Gogh. He was invited to send some of his work to the les Vingt ("The Twenty") exhibition,
taking place early in 1888, in Brussels. At the same exhibition, two years later, Lautrec had a fierce argument with the
painter Henry de Groux over the inclusion of Van Gogh’s work, and challenged the Belgian to a duel. The duel never took
place, but it shows the friendship Lautrec and Van Gogh shared. Van Gogh stayed with Lautrec in Paris, not long before
his suicide in 1890. See Toulouse-Lautrec’s portrait of Vincent Van Gogh.
In 1889, Lautrec participated in the Salon des Independants for the first time. He would become a frequent contributor to
the Salon’s exhibitions. He spent the summer on France’s Atlantic coast, yachting. This year saw the opening of the
cabaret Moulin Rouge in the Montmartre; Lautrec immediately became a regular, and would often show his work at the
establishment. In modern popular culture, the name Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec is inseparably linked to the Moulin Rouge,
and it is true that some of his most iconic work was made there, including his notorious Moulin Rouge poster of 1891 (La
Goulue), Valentin "the Boneless" Training the New Girls (1890), and others.
Though Lautrec is most famous for his depictions of Parisian night-life, he was a man of constantly-evolving interests,
both artistically and otherwise. Around 1893, moved away from the cabarets and took an interest in literature and
theater. He made his first engraving in 1891, and his later works include many lithographs, such as Les Ambassadeurs:
Aristide Bruant (1892), May Milton (1895), The Jockey (1899), and others. In 1893, he took part in an exhibition devoted
to painters and engravers. That year was important as well, because he had his first solo exhibition at the gallery of
Maurice Joyant. In this, he was part of a modern trend for the celebration of individual artistic achievement. Prior to the
late 19th Century, exhibitions had always been collective, featuring numerous artists.
Lautrec spent a lot of the time between 1894 and 1897 travelling. He visited London, Madrid and Toledo in Spain,
Brussels, Haarlem and Amsterdam. In England, the painter became acquainted with Whistler and Oscar Wilde, both of
whom he saw as role models — the former for his art, the latter for his lifestyle. In Spain, he took inspiration from the old
masters: Velasquez, Goya and El Greco. In Holland, he studied Rembrandt, Bruegel and Hals. In Brussels, in 1895 and
again in 1897, he took part in exhibitions organized by the group La Libre Esthetique (The Free Aesthetic), the
successors to les Vingt, where his work was exhibited side-by-side with that of Cezanne, Signac, Gauguin and Van
His lifestyle, ever erratic, was becoming increasingly so as a result of his drinking, which was rapidly spiralling out of
control. In 1894, on a whim, he moved into one of the brothels he frequented and lived there for some time. Some works
painted from his experience there include Rue de Moulins (1894), Prostitutes Around a Dinner Table (1894), Two
Friends (1894-95), In 1896, at a private exhibition in the gallery of Joyant, he got into altercation with no less a
personage than the former King of Serbia, Milan Obrenovic, whom he called an ignorant "pig farmer". By this time, he
was descending into outright alcoholism. In 1897, he had an attack of delirium tremens, while on summer vacation at
Villeneuve-sur-Yonne. His artistic output decreased sharply, as most of his days were spent in various states of
intoxication. His health deteriorated sharply. In 1899, he was confined to a mental hospital, attracting jabs from the press.
He died on September 9th, 1901, at the age of 36, at one of his beloved mother’s homes in Malrome. His last two
paintings were "Admiral Viaud" and "An Examination at the Faculty of Medicine".
Biography by Yuri Mataev
Court Painter to the Wicked. The Life and Work of Toulouse-Lautrec by Jean Bouret. Harry N. Abrams, Inc. NY 1968
Toulouse_Lautrec. A Life. by Julia Frey Viking. 1994
Nightlife of Paris. The Art of Toulouse-Lautrec by Patrick O’Connor. Universe, NY.1991
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec by Herhard Gruitrooy. 1996.
Toulouse-Lautrec by Philippe Huisman and M.G. Dortu. Chartwell Books, Inc.1971
Toulouse-Lautrec His Complete Lithographs and Drypoints by Jean Adhemar. Harry N.Abrams, Inc. NY
Toulouse-Lautrec: The Complete Graphic Works by Gotz Adriani. Thames & Hudson, 1988.
H. de Toulouse-Lautrec: One Hundred Ten Unpublished Drawings by Arthur William Heintzelman, Edouard Julien, M.
Roland O. Heintzelman. French & European Pubns, 1955.
Posted by >Steven Applegate on 2014-09-13 17:31:36