Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec was a French poster artist and lithographer whose Japanese influenced works depicted women in a realistic and favorable light. He was born in Paris in 1864 to an aristocratic family whose inner-related marriages gave him poor genetic makeup. Lautrec was born with a genetic disease that caused his legs to stop growing after a minor accident in his adolescence. Following a crippling accident, paired with toothaches and facial deformities, his misfortunes in life created a bitter, self-deprecating wit in Lautrec that was only exasperated with his excessive alcohol consumption. As an adult, Lautrec reached just over four and a half feet tall, with shortened legs but the full-length torso of an adult man. He began sketching as a young child, favoring horse sketches. His education started under the tutelage of René Princetau after attending Lycée Fontanes in Paris for a short while in the 1870s. He continued on to received further training under Léon Bonnat (1833–1922) and Fernand Cormon (1845–1924) once he moved to Paris in 1882. In Paris’ Montmartre area, he began painting posters for the town’s entertainers, depicting them as celebrities and furthering his own popularity. He began painting en plein air, like the Impressionists, posing people, namely prostitutes, to paint.

His painting style was largely influence by the Japanese style of flat colors, cropped borders and oblique angles like in his The Streetwalker (cir 1890). Lautrec dabbled in the art of erachis, a splattered ink technique, as well as enjoying the Japanese style of block painting known as ukiyo-e. He was known to create his art not only on canvases, but also on posters, bringing uniqueness to the mundane. Lautrec’s paintings instilled a sense of humanity to all subjects of his art, showing, for example, the vulnerability and common emotions belonging to one of his prostitutes beyond the perpetual depiction of eroticism. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec passed away in Paris in 1901, at the age of 36, due to alcohol abuse and syphilis. He is accredited with being one of the preeminent creators of pop art.