Born in 1864, the French painter and printmaker Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec is one of the most famous and influential painters of the fin-de-siecle era. Not only is he known for his wonderful Post-Impressionist paintings, he is also celebrated for his iconic posters – the most famous of which advertised the newly established Moulin Rouge dance hall.
Inspired by the talents of this man, the easyFrame team decided to take a look back at his life – and, along the way, pull together a list of some of his works that would look right at home in a picture frame on your bedroom wall…
The Early Days
Descended from countryside aristocracy, Toulouse-Lautrec went to live with his mother in Paris at the age of eight after the separation of his parents. Once there, he quickly established an interest in, and talent for, painting and drawing. But from the beginning, things were difficult for young Henri, who suffered from congenital health conditions that can be traced back to family “inbreeding” (his grandparents were first cousins).
When he was a young teenager, Henri was sent to some thermal baths (known for their healing properties) by his mother, who was concerned about his health and development. Not long after that, his mother’s worst fears were confirmed when he suffered fractures in both his femurs which never properly healed.
Today, doctors suspect that Henri suffered from pycnodysostosis, which causes severe problems with the bones. The condition is also known as Toulouse-Lautrec Syndrome. Henri’s torso developed normally, but his legs remained child-sized; it is also believed that his genitals were affected, which undoubtedly had an impact upon his sex life.
The ill health suffered by Toulouse-Lautrec is significant because it is one of the reasons he pursued art so passionately; unable to engage in many of the activities enjoyed by young men at the time, Henri focused on what he actually could achieve.
Toulouse-Lautrec in Montmartre
Having lived in the countryside for a period, Toulouse-Lautrec eventually returned to Paris to study under the painter Leon Bonnat. He lived in the bohemian district of Montmartre, and became famous for his paintings of the prostitutes who lived there, as well as his landscapes depicting the region.
Toulouse-Lautrec began to submit to the Salon in 1889, but with the opening of the Moulin Rouge came the opportunity for a new kind of steady, paying work: poster advertisements. Though looked down upon by other artists, Toulouse-Lautrec’s posters for the Moulin Rouge – amongst other places – opened up a new, independent period in his life. He became fascinated by the lives of Parisian prostitutes, frequently painting them and sleeping with them.
The Famous Posters
One of the most famous posters produced by Toulouse-Lautrec was “Moulin Rouge: La Goulue”, which he created as a lithograph print in 1891. Having opened in 1889, the Moulin Rouge dance hall needed to advertise its raucous services. Toulouse-Lautrec’s print depicts Louise Weber, a dancer better known as La Goulue who pioneered the cancan. The bold, vibrant print successfully captured the wild atmosphere of the Moulin Rouge, and quickly spread around Paris – leading the artist to become permanently associated with the venue.
Two other posters produced by Toulouse-Lautrec depict Aristide Bruant, a cabaret singer, comedian and nightclub owner who opened Le Mirliton in Montmartre in 1885. In his posters “Aristide Bruant in his Cabaret” and “Ambassadeurs – Aristide Bruant”, Toulouse-Lautrec depicts the man in a distinctive black hat, black cape and large, vivid red scarf.
Though not appreciated by many in the art community at the time, Toulouse-Lautrec’s posters are today
celebrated for the way they helped to change attitudes towards advertising – namely, by toying with the idea that an advert could be an artwork in its own right.
The Famous Paintings
Of course, Toulouse-Lautrec was not simply a poster designer. Despite dying young at the age of 36, it is estimated that he created over one thousand paintings, prints and posters in his career, along with thousands of drawings.
One of his most beloved paintings is his “Portrait of Vincent van Gogh”, which offers a rare glimpse of the troubled artist through the eyes of another. Toulouse-Lautrec’s most significant works, though, are the ones that he painted at the nightlife venues of Montmartre. Though clearly influenced by other Post-Impressionists like Manet, Toulouse-Lautrec’s signature style was allowed to blossom and develop in his paintings of the region’s theatres, brothels, and dance halls.
The Final Years
Toulouse-Lautrec died in 1901, living just long enough to see in the new century. He had been taken to a sanatorium in 1899 for his alcoholism and during this time stayed true to his nature by feverishly producing art. After his release he travelled through France, his health worsening steadily as a result of alcoholism and syphilis.
After his death, Toulouse-Lautrec’s artwork continued to be promoted by his mother and his art dealer. His mother also worked to open a museum in his memory. Today, the Musee Toulouse-Lautrec still stands, and houses the largest collection of his works on the planet. If you’re keen to visit, the easiest way to reach the gallery is to fly into Castres-Mazamet airport and drive north to Albi.
Toulouse-Lautrec Artworks in your Home
The fantastic thing about many of Toulouse-Lautrec’s artworks is that they were designed to be reproduced, framed, and hung on your wall. Plenty of good quality prints of his famous posters are available from online art shops, meaning you can channel the life and vibrancy of the Moulin Rouge in your own home – without having to learn the cancan.
Once you’ve picked out your perfect Toulouse-Lautrec print, head over to easyFrame’s Picture Frames & Mounts page. Here, you can enter the dimensions of your image, select the perfect mount and your chosen material and frame finish, and let us worry about the rest. Best of all, we guarantee 1-3 day dispatch on all orders, meaning you can start transforming your home with these Parisian masterpieces in no time.