Henri de TOULOUSE-LAUTREC | Jane Avril

Henri de TOULOUSE-LAUTREC
artist France 1864 – 1901

Jane Avril 1899 planographic , brush lithograph, printed in four colours from three stones on cream, wove paper
54.6 (h) x 36.2 (w) cm , edition of 25
signed lower left, in pencil, 'HTLautrec' signed land dated, lower right, printed from the stone in black ink, 'HTL' monogram /1899'
Reference: Wittrock P 29 National Gallery of Australia, Canberra NGA 2012.64 The Poynton Bequest 2011

On 4 January 1899 Lautrec’s mother suddenly left Paris, and this precipitated a nervous breakdown on his part. His mother had been more or less a constant presence in his life, unlike the absent father, and her departure unnerved him. He noted the effect when he wrote to his family:

My cousin Gabriel having cared for me day and night during the nervous breakdown caused by mother’s unexpected departure, I ask my family to give him a magnificent commemorative gift.[1]

In the absence of the countess, her housemaid Berthe Sarrazin wrote a daily bulletin through the first weeks of her leaving, chronicling Lautrec’s anger, misery, fear, loss of memory and drinking.[2]

By 17 March, and now at the sanatorium of Dr Sémelaigne at 16 avenue de Madrid, Lautrec felt sufficiently recovered to write to Maurice Joyant asking for material for printing: ‘Send me some grained stones and a box of watercolours with sepia brushes, litho crayons, and good-quality India ink and paper.’[3] A month later he was given permission to leave the hospital and, during the year, Jane Avril, a steadfast supporter, commissioned Lautrec to create what was to be the last poster he made for her.[4]

In this, his final homage to the dancer, Lautrec has distilled the very essence of Avril, where the serpentine nature of her dancing is emphasised by her swaying body, her elaborate headdress, which disappears out of the composition, and the wrap-around snake motif in yellows and blues that encircles her black dress.[5] As he had done previously, Lautrec worked from a photograph as an aide-mémoire, as well as preparing a sketchily drawn study in black.[6]

When Arthur Symons, the English poet, writer and observer of the demi-monde, was in Paris in 1892 he became captivated by Jane Avril, writing the poem La Mélinté: Moulin Rouge about the extraordinary dancer, which included the following lines:

Alone, apart one dancer watches

Her mirrored, morbid grace;

Before the mirror, face to face,

alone she watches

her morbid, vague, ambiguous grace.

Before the mirror’s dance of shadows

She dances in a dream,

And she and they together seem

A dance of shadows;

Alike the shadows of the dream.[7]

Sadly, this last poster of Jane Avril was also the second last poster Lautrec was ever to create – ill health precluded him from again embarking on this major field of endeavour in which he had become the most significant French postermaker of the turn of the century.

JK

 

[1]Letter to his family, [Paris] 16 January 1899, in Herbert D. Schimmel (ed.), with an introduction by Gale B. Murray, The letters of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991, letter no. 558,
p. 346.

[2]After this the letters were more intermittent, see Schimmel (ed.), Appendix IV, pp. 387–410.

[3]Letter to Maurice Joyant, [Paris] 17 March 1899, in Schimmel (ed.), letter no. 564, p. 349.

[4]Given his increasing poor health and the sudden absence of his mother, it is unlikely that this poster was made within the first three days of January 1899, as has been suggested in Nancy Ireson (ed.), Toulouse Lautrec and Jane Avril: Beyond the Moulin Rouge, London: The Courtauld Gallery, 2011, cat. 14, p. 93.

[5]The date of the photograph given as c.1892, http://www.flickr.com/photos/gonzalez-alba/6503959331/would appear to be too early.

[6]Götz Adriani, Toulouse-Lautrec: The complete graphic works: A catalogue raisonné, London: Thames and Hudson, 1988, pp. 411–412.

[7]Extract from Arthur Symons, La Mélinité: Moulin Rouge, 22 May 1892, in London nights, London: Smithers, 1895, republished in Ireson (ed.), p. 134.

On 4 January 1899 Lautrec’s mother suddenly left Paris, and this precipitated a nervous breakdown on his part. His mother had been more or less a constant presence in his life, unlike the absent father, and her departure unnerved him. He noted the effect when he wrote to his family:

My cousin Gabriel having cared for me day and night during the nervous breakdown caused by mother’s unexpected departure, I ask my family to give him a magnificent commemorative gift.[1]

In the absence of the countess, her housemaid Berthe Sarrazin wrote a daily bulletin through the first weeks of her leaving, chronicling Lautrec’s anger, misery, fear, loss of memory and drinking.[2]

By 17 March, and now at the sanatorium of Dr Sémelaigne at 16 avenue de Madrid, Lautrec felt sufficiently recovered to write to Maurice Joyant asking for material for printing: ‘Send me some grained stones and a box of watercolours with sepia brushes, litho crayons, and good-quality India ink and paper.’[3] A month later he was given permission to leave the hospital and, during the year, Jane Avril, a steadfast supporter, commissioned Lautrec to create what was to be the last poster he made for her.[4]

In this, his final homage to the dancer, Lautrec has distilled the very essence of Avril, where the serpentine nature of her dancing is emphasised by her swaying body, her elaborate headdress, which disappears out of the composition, and the wrap-around snake motif in yellows and blues that encircles her black dress.[5] As he had done previously, Lautrec worked from a photograph as an aide-mémoire, as well as preparing a sketchily drawn study in black.[6]

When Arthur Symons, the English poet, writer and observer of the demi-monde, was in Paris in 1892 he became captivated by Jane Avril, writing the poem La Mélinté: Moulin Rouge about the extraordinary dancer, which included the following lines:

Alone, apart one dancer watches

Her mirrored, morbid grace;

Before the mirror, face to face,

alone she watches

her morbid, vague, ambiguous grace.

Before the mirror’s dance of shadows

She dances in a dream,

And she and they together seem

A dance of shadows;

Alike the shadows of the dream.[7]

Sadly, this last poster of Jane Avril was also the second last poster Lautrec was ever to create – ill health precluded him from again embarking on this major field of endeavour in which he had become the most significant French postermaker of the turn of the century.

JK

 

[1]Letter to his family, [Paris] 16 January 1899, in Herbert D. Schimmel (ed.), with an introduction by Gale B. Murray, The letters of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991, letter no. 558,
p. 346.

[2]After this the letters were more intermittent, see Schimmel (ed.), Appendix IV, pp. 387–410.

[3]Letter to Maurice Joyant, [Paris] 17 March 1899, in Schimmel (ed.), letter no. 564, p. 349.

[4]Given his increasing poor health and the sudden absence of his mother, it is unlikely that this poster was made within the first three days of January 1899, as has been suggested in Nancy Ireson (ed.), Toulouse Lautrec and Jane Avril: Beyond the Moulin Rouge, London: The Courtauld Gallery, 2011, cat. 14, p. 93.

[5]The date of the photograph given as c.1892, http://www.flickr.com/photos/gonzalez-alba/6503959331/would appear to be too early.

[6]Götz Adriani, Toulouse-Lautrec: The complete graphic works: A catalogue raisonné, London: Thames and Hudson, 1988, pp. 411–412.

[7]Extract from Arthur Symons, La Mélinité: Moulin Rouge, 22 May 1892, in London nights, London: Smithers, 1895, republished in Ireson (ed.), p. 134.

On 4 January 1899 Lautrec’s mother suddenly left Paris, and this precipitated a nervous breakdown on his part. His mother had been more or less a constant presence in his life, unlike the absent father, and her departure unnerved him. He noted the effect when he wrote to his family:

My cousin Gabriel having cared for me day and night during the nervous breakdown caused by mother’s unexpected departure, I ask my family to give him a magnificent commemorative gift.[1]

In the absence of the countess, her housemaid Berthe Sarrazin wrote a daily bulletin through the first weeks of her leaving, chronicling Lautrec’s anger, misery, fear, loss of memory and drinking.[2]

By 17 March, and now at the sanatorium of Dr Sémelaigne at 16 avenue de Madrid, Lautrec felt sufficiently recovered to write to Maurice Joyant asking for material for printing: ‘Send me some grained stones and a box of watercolours with sepia brushes, litho crayons, and good-quality India ink and paper.’[3] A month later he was given permission to leave the hospital and, during the year, Jane Avril, a steadfast supporter, commissioned Lautrec to create what was to be the last poster he made for her.[4]

In this, his final homage to the dancer, Lautrec has distilled the very essence of Avril, where the serpentine nature of her dancing is emphasised by her swaying body, her elaborate headdress, which disappears out of the composition, and the wrap-around snake motif in yellows and blues that encircles her black dress.[5] As he had done previously, Lautrec worked from a photograph as an aide-mémoire, as well as preparing a sketchily drawn study in black.[6]

When Arthur Symons, the English poet, writer and observer of the demi-monde, was in Paris in 1892 he became captivated by Jane Avril, writing the poem La Mélinté: Moulin Rouge about the extraordinary dancer, which included the following lines:

Alone, apart one dancer watches

Her mirrored, morbid grace;

Before the mirror, face to face,

alone she watches

her morbid, vague, ambiguous grace.

Before the mirror’s dance of shadows

She dances in a dream,

And she and they together seem

A dance of shadows;

Alike the shadows of the dream.[7]

Sadly, this last poster of Jane Avril was also the second last poster Lautrec was ever to create – ill health precluded him from again embarking on this major field of endeavour in which he had become the most significant French postermaker of the turn of the century.

JK

 

[1]Letter to his family, [Paris] 16 January 1899, in Herbert D. Schimmel (ed.), with an introduction by Gale B. Murray, The letters of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991, letter no. 558,
p. 346.

[2]After this the letters were more intermittent, see Schimmel (ed.), Appendix IV, pp. 387–410.

[3]Letter to Maurice Joyant, [Paris] 17 March 1899, in Schimmel (ed.), letter no. 564, p. 349.

[4]Given his increasing poor health and the sudden absence of his mother, it is unlikely that this poster was made within the first three days of January 1899, as has been suggested in Nancy Ireson (ed.), Toulouse Lautrec and Jane Avril: Beyond the Moulin Rouge, London: The Courtauld Gallery, 2011, cat. 14, p. 93.

[5]The date of the photograph given as c.1892, http://www.flickr.com/photos/gonzalez-alba/6503959331/would appear to be too early.

[6]Götz Adriani, Toulouse-Lautrec: The complete graphic works: A catalogue raisonné, London: Thames and Hudson, 1988, pp. 411–412.

[7]Extract from Arthur Symons, La Mélinité: Moulin Rouge, 22 May 1892, in London nights, London: Smithers, 1895, republished in Ireson (ed.), p. 134.




Image detail: Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec La Goulue entering the Moulin Rouge [La Goulue entrant au Moulin Rouge] 1892
The Museum of Modern Art, New York Gift of Mrs David M. Levy