Henri de Toulouse- Lautrec (1864-1901)

Henri de Toulouse- Lautrec is an especially eccentric individual. As an aristocratic, alcoholic dwarf with a louche, devil- may-care lifestyle, Toulouse- Lautrec found his art style in ways that were inseparable from his legendary lifestyle. In fact, Henri de Toulouse- Lautrec's famous lifestyle and career lasted just over a decade, and was lived side by side with two major developments to life in the late nineteenth- century Paris- printmaking and the explosion of the nightlife culture. Most of Lautrec's artwork featured the Montmarte entertainers he surrounded himself with, which helped him elevate the newly popular medium of advertisement through the lithograph to the realm of high artwork. Lautrec is well known for his dancehall performers and prostitutes- through their personality embodied in paint and their humanistic traits revealed in their sadness and humor- hidden through layers of rice powder and light tricks.

Lautrec died tragically young, because of complications due to alcoholism and syphilis at the age of thirty-six, but his influence was long-lasting, spurring artists like Andy Warhol, over a century later. Lautrec began drawing when he was young, as frequent illnesses kept him bedridden and at home in southern France. His early works portray a subjection to the horse, as seen in several sketches, which is attributed to his first teacher who painted sporting pictures. This fascination continued later in life as he drew several chalk drawings as he was recovering in a sanatorium, completely from memory as a way to prove to his doctors he was completely sane.

Lautrec's dwarfism was due to a genetic weakness that had resulted because of an incestuous relationship between his first-cousin parents. His legs stopped growing after both his femur bones had broken separately in very minor accidents during his adolescence. This means that as an adult, Lautrec had a normally proportioned torso, but had stubby dwarf legs, and he was barely over five feet tall, walking only with great difficulty using his cane. Luckily enough for Henri de Toulouse, he was able to compensate for his deformities with alcohol and self-depreciating wit, and his sympathy and fascination for marginalization as well as his eye for self- depreciation might have been partially explained by his own physical handicaps.

Henri de Toulouse's art style was expressed through dazzling technical effects that were made available through various innovations in lithography in the nineteenth century, giving him room to work with larger prints, more varied colors, and nuanced textures that weren't available years before- allowing him to portray the bright combined effects of dance, artificial lights and music in his paintings through various executions of sixty different versions of print in a variety of colored inks that included gold and silver. Other works portray the flesh and blood attraction to sex, while fleshing a more humanistic approach to joy and sadness through various directness and honesty to physicality, demonstrating his generosity and sympathy toward the female condition.

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