Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec was born in 1864 in the South of France. From an early age, he suffered from poor health and by the age of 14, he had broken both of his legs, causing them never to develop properly. Ultimately, he grew to be only 4 feet, eleven inches.
In 1882, he traveled to Paris, where studied at conventional painting studios alongside Emil Bernard and Vincent van Gogh. After a time, he became more interested in the Impressionist artists, such as Edgar Degas, and gave up his lessons at the studios.
Living in the Montmarte section of Paris, Lautrec soon became emerged in the world of cafés, cabarets, dance halls and brothels. He frequented these establishments, often sitting and sketching his observations. These sketches were to be transformed into paintings and lithographs. Lautrec first exhibited his works in Montmarte in the cafes and restaurants that he often visited. His work began to attract some recognition and after a few exhibitions in galleries, he was overrun with commissions.
Lautrec’s lithographs depict the famous personalities of the French “belle époque”. He was greatly impressed, as were many other Impressionist artists, by the Ukiyo-e art of Japan and Japanese printmaking had a profound influence on his style. Some of the singer and dancers in his works were people that he knew personally. Many of his lithographs were commissioned for posters, theater billboards and illustrations for magazines. Lautrec produced his first lithograph in 1891, but did not have much involvement in the actual printing process. He commonly prepared several drawings and sketches for his designs and it is assumed that the transformation to a lithograph plate was performed by a professional printer. Edition sizes and papers used vary from print to print.
Lautrec’s small editions were made in 50 or 100 copies, on Velin or Japanese paper and aside from the regular editions, hors de commerce copies can also be found. The small editions are usually numbered and some were signed personally, by Lautrec. For the better- known popular, large editions, poster paper was used and the edition sizes were not recorded, but are thought to be between 500 and 3,000 copies. Lautrec’s graphic oeuvre consists of 351 lithographs and 9 drypoint prints.
After about 1897, Lautrec’s output dwindled as he began spending more time in bars then in his studio. He suffered a nervous breakdown in 1899 and was, subsequently, confined to a clinic for three months. During visits to sea resorts in Normandy and on the Atlantic coast, he tried to recover his health, but he was consumed with alcoholism. Lautrec died in 1901 at the age of 36.