Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec – A Brief Biography
Henri Marie Raymond de Toulouse-Lautrec Monfi was born in Albi, France in 1864. He was the son of a wealthy nobleman, with a lineage that went back to the time of Charlemagne. He broke one leg at age 12 and the other leg at age 14. The bones failed to heal properly. His trunk grew normally, but his legs did not; as an adult, he was only 4-1/2 feet (1.5 meters) tall.
He started drawing and painting at age 10 and was attracted by sporting subjects, especially horses. In his teens he studied art in Paris first under Leon Bonnat, then under Fernand Cormon. He eventually set up his own studio in the Montmartre area when he was 21. As he came to love the bohemian lifestyle of Montmartre, he started detailing the cabarets, music halls, circuses, theatre life, and brothels of contemporary Paris.
In addition to producing oil paintings, he very early learned the graphic art of lithography. Though he greatly admired the work of Degas, and was somewhat influenced by him, Lautrec developed his own unique style. He sketched quickly when out on the town; then painted the images on canvas or cardboard when back at his studio the following day. He often used bright colors to capture the feeling of the daily (and nightly) life he represented. He often worked in oil, diluted with turpentine, as it dried quickly and thus allowed him to easily rework areas.
In his paintings and especially his posters, Lautrec used large flat expanses of color under influence of Japanese art. His posters are recognized the world over and always draw a large crowd when displayed in museums and galleries. Many of the actors and singers in his works are known chiefly because he immortalized them in his posters and lithographs.
Lautrec drank heavily, eventually suffering a mental and physical collapse in 1899. He was confined to a sanitorium for a period, but returned to drinking after his release. He eventually died in 1901 at the age of 37 at the family chateau, Chateau Malrome. Today the Musee Albi, in his ancestral home, contains a large collection of his paintings and graphic works. Edit Text