Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec was one of the great French painters of the Post-Impressionist period. Henri was born to an aristocratic family, but fate destined him for another life. His life was full of revels and joy, hard work and lack of understanding, pain and suffering; he knew Czanne, Van Gogh, Gauguin, and Oscar Wilde, and his varied experiences made him one of the greatest painters of all time. When you look at his paintings it seems as if you can see the stories and emotions of the painted figures, so much that sometimes it seems that they will begin to speak in a minute.
At the age of 13 he broke one of his legs, and at 14 the other one. After these accidents his legs were no longer able to grow, probably because of genetic difficulties, since his parents were relatives. However the impact this had on him was by no means entirely negative – on one occasion, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec said – Just think, I would never have started to paint if my legs were a little bit longer!”
In 1882 he moved to Paris and settled in the city’s most bohemian area, Montmartre. He attended art schools, but without success, because Lautrec wanted to paint the real forms he saw, not the ideal. His teacher, French painter Lon Bonnat, said “Your painting isn’t bad, it is ‘chic,’ but even so it isn’t bad, but your drawing is absolutely atrocious.”
He was a frequent visitor to night bars and cabarets, and of course he visited the “Moulin Rouge”. He drew portraits of the girls who worked there, their real essence with no beautification. His painting can be divided into two groups: in the first group are portraits where the main subject is the person and in the second group the artist gave his main consideration to the situation.
Henri took part in the “Independent Artists’ Salon” on a regular basis and some his works were noted by critics. However he got real success after a series of posters he completed for the Moulin Rouge. The stormy energy, and graceful and at the same time overfree movements of the dancers on his posters introduced the Moulin Rouge to the wider public; even Paris’ lite wanted to see the show and came into the Moulin Rouge for the purpose.
His posters show us Lautrec’s facetious temper, his sense of mockery and impudence, yet they also give an idea of his real personality: shy, gentle, kind and attentive.
In 1899 Lautrec was placed in a hospital for the mentally ill. After this his paintings became gloomy, with a foreboding of pain. In 1901, at the age of 36, Lautrec died in his patrimonial castle. His mother promoted his art and gave money for a museum to be built in his birthplace.
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec wasn’t the first painter to show the world the nightlife in Paris. But he was a part of the life he was presenting, always going to the shows with pencil and paper in hand, and remaining there long after the show had finished to chat to the girls who worked there, and whom he had come to know. His works show his own vision of this life, and much of their absorbing nature comes from the fact that his was not a surface glance, but rather a dive into the life of joy, dance and melancholy that he had found and experienced in the world he painted.

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