Henri de TOULOUSE-LAUTREC | Princeteau in his studio [Princeteau dans son atelier]

Henri de TOULOUSE-LAUTREC
France 1864 – 1901

Princeteau in his studio [Princeteau dans son atelier] c.1881 oil on canvas on canvas
54.0 (h) x 46.0 (w) cm
Reference: Dortu P.131 Simone and Alan Hartman, New York

Something of the exotic and idiosyncratic nature of his mentor and teacher is beautifully captured in Lautrec’s animated portrayal of René Princeteau and the details of the artist’s studio. Princeteau, a deaf mute and a family friend, was a painter of sports [peintre sportif]. He practised in this particular traditional genre, but had become aware of the Impressionists and had lightened his palette accordingly, while creating a more ‘sketchy’ look over carefully drawn forms.

As a teenager growing up on his family’s estates, Lautrec focused on animals and the countryside as his subject matter. Princeteau gave Lautrec his first lessons in drawing, encouraging him to pursue this skill as the basis for his training in art. After moving to Paris with his parents he regularly visited Princeteau’s studio in the mornings. The older artist recalled: ‘He copied my studies and painted a portrait of me, “something that would give me a shock”!'[1]

Lautrec’s adoption of Princeteau’s own nervous painting style and colour palette represents a suitable homage by the younger artist. The underlying influence of Honoré Daumier and his caricatural forms is also evident in Lautrec’s style at this time. The figure of Princeteau recalls Daumier’s depictions of Ratapoil, as a sculpture and as a lithographic series in the satirical journal Le Charivari in 1850–51. The gaunt, rangy Ratapoil, an agent-provocateur for Louis Napoléon Bonaparte, was Daumier’s invention and a means of criticising the Bonapartist regime – such as Ratapoil knighting a pathetic stooge of the state, ‘Lord Berryer’.[2]  In Princeteau in his studio [Princeteau dans son atelier] Lautrec has created a similar type in form (but not in political meaning), a figure of spindly, nervous energy – his characterisation perhaps a playful dig at his master.

Lautrec has carefully staged the muddle of the artist’s studio around the central figure of Princeteau holding his brush and palette and perched on the arm of a chair. He is surrounded by props that allude to his life and artistic practice – a horse painting, sculptures and a large trophy head of a wild boar with prominent tusks.[3] A further comic element is that Princeteau, dressed for his portrait in a top hat, appears to be engaged with the trophy head on the wall.

The painting follows the rather traditional style of Princeteau, with a slightly unfinished appearance and a colourful palette. At this stage it is likely the young Lautrec’s ambition was to pursue a role as a peintre sportif, in the manner admired by his parents.

Realising that the talented young man should proceed with his studies, Princeteau was instrumental in bringing Lautrec to Léon Bonnat’s studio in Paris. Writing to his uncle Charles on 22 March 1882, Lautrec happily informed him: ‘By unanimous opinion, I‘m going to visit Bonnat on Sunday or Monday. Princeteau is going to introduce me.’[4] Bonnat’s studio was to become Lautrec’s formal place of study before he enrolled at the Atelier Cormon late in 1882.

JK

[1]Letter from René Princeteau to Gustave Coquiot, quoted in Claire Frèches-Thory, Anne Roquebert and Richard Thomson, Toulouse-Lautrec, London, Paris: South Bank Centre, Réunion des musées nationaux and the Musée d’Orsay, 1991, p. 90.

[2]See also ‘Casmajou – Ratapoil’,
Le Charivari, 11 September, 1851.

[3]In correspondence with the author dated 12 September 2012, owner Simone Hartman has identified this trophy head as a boar. It was previously described as a fox by Anne Roquebert, in Frèches-Thory, Roquebert and Thomson, p. 90.

[4]Herbert D. Schimmel (ed.), Gale B. Murray introduction, The letters of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991, letter no. 71, p. 61.

Something of the exotic and idiosyncratic nature of his mentor and teacher is beautifully captured in Lautrec’s animated portrayal of René Princeteau and the details of the artist’s studio. Princeteau, a deaf mute and a family friend, was a painter of sports [peintre sportif]. He practised in this particular traditional genre, but had become aware of the Impressionists and had lightened his palette accordingly, while creating a more ‘sketchy’ look over carefully drawn forms.

As a teenager growing up on his family’s estates, Lautrec focused on animals and the countryside as his subject matter. Princeteau gave Lautrec his first lessons in drawing, encouraging him to pursue this skill as the basis for his training in art. After moving to Paris with his parents he regularly visited Princeteau’s studio in the mornings. The older artist recalled: ‘He copied my studies and painted a portrait of me, “something that would give me a shock”!'[1]

Lautrec’s adoption of Princeteau’s own nervous painting style and colour palette represents a suitable homage by the younger artist. The underlying influence of Honoré Daumier and his caricatural forms is also evident in Lautrec’s style at this time. The figure of Princeteau recalls Daumier’s depictions of Ratapoil, as a sculpture and as a lithographic series in the satirical journal Le Charivari in 1850–51. The gaunt, rangy Ratapoil, an agent-provocateur for Louis Napoléon Bonaparte, was Daumier’s invention and a means of criticising the Bonapartist regime – such as Ratapoil knighting a pathetic stooge of the state, ‘Lord Berryer’.[2]  In Princeteau in his studio [Princeteau dans son atelier] Lautrec has created a similar type in form (but not in political meaning), a figure of spindly, nervous energy – his characterisation perhaps a playful dig at his master.

Lautrec has carefully staged the muddle of the artist’s studio around the central figure of Princeteau holding his brush and palette and perched on the arm of a chair. He is surrounded by props that allude to his life and artistic practice – a horse painting, sculptures and a large trophy head of a wild boar with prominent tusks.[3] A further comic element is that Princeteau, dressed for his portrait in a top hat, appears to be engaged with the trophy head on the wall.

The painting follows the rather traditional style of Princeteau, with a slightly unfinished appearance and a colourful palette. At this stage it is likely the young Lautrec’s ambition was to pursue a role as a peintre sportif, in the manner admired by his parents.

Realising that the talented young man should proceed with his studies, Princeteau was instrumental in bringing Lautrec to Léon Bonnat’s studio in Paris. Writing to his uncle Charles on 22 March 1882, Lautrec happily informed him: ‘By unanimous opinion, I‘m going to visit Bonnat on Sunday or Monday. Princeteau is going to introduce me.’[4] Bonnat’s studio was to become Lautrec’s formal place of study before he enrolled at the Atelier Cormon late in 1882.

JK

[1]Letter from René Princeteau to Gustave Coquiot, quoted in Claire Frèches-Thory, Anne Roquebert and Richard Thomson, Toulouse-Lautrec, London, Paris: South Bank Centre, Réunion des musées nationaux and the Musée d’Orsay, 1991, p. 90.

[2]See also ‘Casmajou – Ratapoil’,
Le Charivari, 11 September, 1851.

[3]In correspondence with the author dated 12 September 2012, owner Simone Hartman has identified this trophy head as a boar. It was previously described as a fox by Anne Roquebert, in Frèches-Thory, Roquebert and Thomson, p. 90.

[4]Herbert D. Schimmel (ed.), Gale B. Murray introduction, The letters of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991, letter no. 71, p. 61.

Something of the exotic and idiosyncratic nature of his mentor and teacher is beautifully captured in Lautrec’s animated portrayal of René Princeteau and the details of the artist’s studio. Princeteau, a deaf mute and a family friend, was a painter of sports [peintre sportif]. He practised in this particular traditional genre, but had become aware of the Impressionists and had lightened his palette accordingly, while creating a more ‘sketchy’ look over carefully drawn forms.

As a teenager growing up on his family’s estates, Lautrec focused on animals and the countryside as his subject matter. Princeteau gave Lautrec his first lessons in drawing, encouraging him to pursue this skill as the basis for his training in art. After moving to Paris with his parents he regularly visited Princeteau’s studio in the mornings. The older artist recalled: ‘He copied my studies and painted a portrait of me, “something that would give me a shock”!'[1]

Lautrec’s adoption of Princeteau’s own nervous painting style and colour palette represents a suitable homage by the younger artist. The underlying influence of Honoré Daumier and his caricatural forms is also evident in Lautrec’s style at this time. The figure of Princeteau recalls Daumier’s depictions of Ratapoil, as a sculpture and as a lithographic series in the satirical journal Le Charivari in 1850–51. The gaunt, rangy Ratapoil, an agent-provocateur for Louis Napoléon Bonaparte, was Daumier’s invention and a means of criticising the Bonapartist regime – such as Ratapoil knighting a pathetic stooge of the state, ‘Lord Berryer’.[2]  In Princeteau in his studio [Princeteau dans son atelier] Lautrec has created a similar type in form (but not in political meaning), a figure of spindly, nervous energy – his characterisation perhaps a playful dig at his master.

Lautrec has carefully staged the muddle of the artist’s studio around the central figure of Princeteau holding his brush and palette and perched on the arm of a chair. He is surrounded by props that allude to his life and artistic practice – a horse painting, sculptures and a large trophy head of a wild boar with prominent tusks.[3] A further comic element is that Princeteau, dressed for his portrait in a top hat, appears to be engaged with the trophy head on the wall.

The painting follows the rather traditional style of Princeteau, with a slightly unfinished appearance and a colourful palette. At this stage it is likely the young Lautrec’s ambition was to pursue a role as a peintre sportif, in the manner admired by his parents.

Realising that the talented young man should proceed with his studies, Princeteau was instrumental in bringing Lautrec to Léon Bonnat’s studio in Paris. Writing to his uncle Charles on 22 March 1882, Lautrec happily informed him: ‘By unanimous opinion, I‘m going to visit Bonnat on Sunday or Monday. Princeteau is going to introduce me.’[4] Bonnat’s studio was to become Lautrec’s formal place of study before he enrolled at the Atelier Cormon late in 1882.

JK

[1]Letter from René Princeteau to Gustave Coquiot, quoted in Claire Frèches-Thory, Anne Roquebert and Richard Thomson, Toulouse-Lautrec, London, Paris: South Bank Centre, Réunion des musées nationaux and the Musée d’Orsay, 1991, p. 90.

[2]See also ‘Casmajou – Ratapoil’,
Le Charivari, 11 September, 1851.

[3]In correspondence with the author dated 12 September 2012, owner Simone Hartman has identified this trophy head as a boar. It was previously described as a fox by Anne Roquebert, in Frèches-Thory, Roquebert and Thomson, p. 90.

[4]Herbert D. Schimmel (ed.), Gale B. Murray introduction, The letters of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991, letter no. 71, p. 61.




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