Henri de TOULOUSE-LAUTREC | Carmen Gaudin

Henri de TOULOUSE-LAUTREC
France 1864 – 1901

Carmen Gaudin 1884-85 oil on wood panel
23.8 (h) x 14.9 (w) cm
Reference: Dortu P.244 National Gallery of Art, Washington DC Ailsa Mellon Bruce Collection

Lautrec met Carmen Gaudin in 1884 when he spied her, and her brilliant red hair, while dining in Montmartre with Henri Rachou, his friend and fellow student at Cormon’s atelier. Until the late 1880s Carmen was to sit for Lautrec for at least 13 paintings, as well as some drawings. A group of four small bust-length portraits, three painted on wood, include this profile image. The others show her frontally with full face; her head lowered; and in three-quarter view – all dated around the same time.[1]

In this portrait Lautrec has created a Realist inspired composition, of the kind that portrayed working-class people in sombre tones. Carmen’s pallid features are highlighted from a light source she turns towards, and shadows behind fall across her face. Modestly dressed in dark, simple clothing, what is remarkable is Lautrec’s brilliant depiction of Carmen’s flaming coiffure, augmented by her deep ruby red lips.

Shortly after painting this portrait Lautrec had Carmen pose in the role of a laundress, La blanchisseuse (Carmen Gaudin) dated late 1885 to early 1886.[2] Shown in three-quarter length, in prof i1e with her brilliantly coloured hair falling about her face, this is one of the earliest depictions of Carmen acting out the role of a young, joyless female exhausted from her labours – as one would find in a genre painting inspired by the Naturalist novels, such as Emile Zola’s L’Assommoir (1877). Carmen also posed as a prostitute, before Lautrec began inhabiting the brothels and composing his works insitu. Study of a prostitute: Rosa La Rouge after Carmen 1885 shows her peeping out of a doorway, perhaps of a closed house.[3] In A Montrouge: Rosa La Rouge 1886–87,[4] Carmen again features as the hot-blooded prostitute Rosa, who enticed prospective clients into the shadows, only to be robbed by her pimp lover and then found dead on the streets – the subject of a popular song by Aristide Bruant, A Montrouge:

My old man saw the black side of everything

’E was like Zola’s undertaker in L’Assommoir,

That’s why they called ’im Bazouge

In Montrouge.

I know some people who see the white side of everything;

They’re not bovvered, they’ve got no blood!

I’ve got blood, but I see red in everything

In Montrouge

It’s me work, see, that’s me trouble;

I’d bleed a bloke like a rabbit.

Better watch out, on nights when
Yours Truly’s out

In Montrouge.

I’m easy to rile; my blood’s on the boil,

When I see red in the dark, I’ll do anyone in!

Watch out, punter, if you go with my bitch,

In Montrouge.

She’s Rosa, dunno where she’s from.

She’s got red fur and a nasty face.

When she passes by they say ‘There goes Red’

In Montrouge.

When she’s got a punter in a corner

I’m right there, not far away,

And the day after, the coppers find blood

In Montrouge.[5]

JK

[1]M.G. Dortu, Toulouse-Lautrec et son oeuvre, New York: Paul Brame et C.M. de Hauke, Collectors Editions, 1971, vol. 2, P.243, P.246, P.245.

[2] Gale B. Murray, Toulouse-Lautrec: The formative years 1878-–1891, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991, p. 243.

[3]Dortu, vol. 5, D.2.899.

[4]Dortu, vol. 2, P.305. Lautrec subsequently drew the same composition in Indian ink for an illustration published in Le Courrier français, no. 22, 2 June 1889, under the title Boulevard Extérior, Dortu, vol. 5, D.3.090.

[5]Translation by James Grieve, Visiting Fellow, School of Language Studies, Australian National University. Writing to the author on 7 September 2012, Grieve commented on the problem of translating Bruant’s songs: the ‘main difficulty is tone of voice, since the songs are mainly tone of voice. Shorn of voice, there’s little left. The choice is between two equally unsatisfactory versions, one literal, which would give the simple meaning (but none of the tone) and the other adapted to an approximate equivalent in Anglo culture, eg. Cockney (the disadvantage of which is
that it turns the song into non-French). My translation, if read aloud or sung in a genuine Cockney accent, might give an impression not too far from Parisian
at the so-called belle époque.’

Lautrec met Carmen Gaudin in 1884 when he spied her, and her brilliant red hair, while dining in Montmartre with Henri Rachou, his friend and fellow student at Cormon’s atelier. Until the late 1880s Carmen was to sit for Lautrec for at least 13 paintings, as well as some drawings. A group of four small bust-length portraits, three painted on wood, include this profile image. The others show her frontally with full face; her head lowered; and in three-quarter view – all dated around the same time.[1]

In this portrait Lautrec has created a Realist inspired composition, of the kind that portrayed working-class people in sombre tones. Carmen’s pallid features are highlighted from a light source she turns towards, and shadows behind fall across her face. Modestly dressed in dark, simple clothing, what is remarkable is Lautrec’s brilliant depiction of Carmen’s flaming coiffure, augmented by her deep ruby red lips.

Shortly after painting this portrait Lautrec had Carmen pose in the role of a laundress, La blanchisseuse (Carmen Gaudin) dated late 1885 to early 1886.[2] Shown in three-quarter length, in prof i1e with her brilliantly coloured hair falling about her face, this is one of the earliest depictions of Carmen acting out the role of a young, joyless female exhausted from her labours – as one would find in a genre painting inspired by the Naturalist novels, such as Emile Zola’s L’Assommoir (1877). Carmen also posed as a prostitute, before Lautrec began inhabiting the brothels and composing his works insitu. Study of a prostitute: Rosa La Rouge after Carmen 1885 shows her peeping out of a doorway, perhaps of a closed house.[3] In A Montrouge: Rosa La Rouge 1886–87,[4] Carmen again features as the hot-blooded prostitute Rosa, who enticed prospective clients into the shadows, only to be robbed by her pimp lover and then found dead on the streets – the subject of a popular song by Aristide Bruant, A Montrouge:

My old man saw the black side of everything

’E was like Zola’s undertaker in L’Assommoir,

That’s why they called ’im Bazouge

In Montrouge.

I know some people who see the white side of everything;

They’re not bovvered, they’ve got no blood!

I’ve got blood, but I see red in everything

In Montrouge

It’s me work, see, that’s me trouble;

I’d bleed a bloke like a rabbit.

Better watch out, on nights when
Yours Truly’s out

In Montrouge.

I’m easy to rile; my blood’s on the boil,

When I see red in the dark, I’ll do anyone in!

Watch out, punter, if you go with my bitch,

In Montrouge.

She’s Rosa, dunno where she’s from.

She’s got red fur and a nasty face.

When she passes by they say ‘There goes Red’

In Montrouge.

When she’s got a punter in a corner

I’m right there, not far away,

And the day after, the coppers find blood

In Montrouge.[5]

JK

[1]M.G. Dortu, Toulouse-Lautrec et son oeuvre, New York: Paul Brame et C.M. de Hauke, Collectors Editions, 1971, vol. 2, P.243, P.246, P.245.

[2] Gale B. Murray, Toulouse-Lautrec: The formative years 1878-–1891, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991, p. 243.

[3]Dortu, vol. 5, D.2.899.

[4]Dortu, vol. 2, P.305. Lautrec subsequently drew the same composition in Indian ink for an illustration published in Le Courrier français, no. 22, 2 June 1889, under the title Boulevard Extérior, Dortu, vol. 5, D.3.090.

[5]Translation by James Grieve, Visiting Fellow, School of Language Studies, Australian National University. Writing to the author on 7 September 2012, Grieve commented on the problem of translating Bruant’s songs: the ‘main difficulty is tone of voice, since the songs are mainly tone of voice. Shorn of voice, there’s little left. The choice is between two equally unsatisfactory versions, one literal, which would give the simple meaning (but none of the tone) and the other adapted to an approximate equivalent in Anglo culture, eg. Cockney (the disadvantage of which is
that it turns the song into non-French). My translation, if read aloud or sung in a genuine Cockney accent, might give an impression not too far from Parisian
at the so-called belle époque.’

Lautrec met Carmen Gaudin in 1884 when he spied her, and her brilliant red hair, while dining in Montmartre with Henri Rachou, his friend and fellow student at Cormon’s atelier. Until the late 1880s Carmen was to sit for Lautrec for at least 13 paintings, as well as some drawings. A group of four small bust-length portraits, three painted on wood, include this profile image. The others show her frontally with full face; her head lowered; and in three-quarter view – all dated around the same time.[1]

In this portrait Lautrec has created a Realist inspired composition, of the kind that portrayed working-class people in sombre tones. Carmen’s pallid features are highlighted from a light source she turns towards, and shadows behind fall across her face. Modestly dressed in dark, simple clothing, what is remarkable is Lautrec’s brilliant depiction of Carmen’s flaming coiffure, augmented by her deep ruby red lips.

Shortly after painting this portrait Lautrec had Carmen pose in the role of a laundress, La blanchisseuse (Carmen Gaudin) dated late 1885 to early 1886.[2] Shown in three-quarter length, in prof i1e with her brilliantly coloured hair falling about her face, this is one of the earliest depictions of Carmen acting out the role of a young, joyless female exhausted from her labours – as one would find in a genre painting inspired by the Naturalist novels, such as Emile Zola’s L’Assommoir (1877). Carmen also posed as a prostitute, before Lautrec began inhabiting the brothels and composing his works insitu. Study of a prostitute: Rosa La Rouge after Carmen 1885 shows her peeping out of a doorway, perhaps of a closed house.[3] In A Montrouge: Rosa La Rouge 1886–87,[4] Carmen again features as the hot-blooded prostitute Rosa, who enticed prospective clients into the shadows, only to be robbed by her pimp lover and then found dead on the streets – the subject of a popular song by Aristide Bruant, A Montrouge:

My old man saw the black side of everything

’E was like Zola’s undertaker in L’Assommoir,

That’s why they called ’im Bazouge

In Montrouge.

I know some people who see the white side of everything;

They’re not bovvered, they’ve got no blood!

I’ve got blood, but I see red in everything

In Montrouge

It’s me work, see, that’s me trouble;

I’d bleed a bloke like a rabbit.

Better watch out, on nights when
Yours Truly’s out

In Montrouge.

I’m easy to rile; my blood’s on the boil,

When I see red in the dark, I’ll do anyone in!

Watch out, punter, if you go with my bitch,

In Montrouge.

She’s Rosa, dunno where she’s from.

She’s got red fur and a nasty face.

When she passes by they say ‘There goes Red’

In Montrouge.

When she’s got a punter in a corner

I’m right there, not far away,

And the day after, the coppers find blood

In Montrouge.[5]

JK

[1]M.G. Dortu, Toulouse-Lautrec et son oeuvre, New York: Paul Brame et C.M. de Hauke, Collectors Editions, 1971, vol. 2, P.243, P.246, P.245.

[2] Gale B. Murray, Toulouse-Lautrec: The formative years 1878-–1891, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991, p. 243.

[3]Dortu, vol. 5, D.2.899.

[4]Dortu, vol. 2, P.305. Lautrec subsequently drew the same composition in Indian ink for an illustration published in Le Courrier français, no. 22, 2 June 1889, under the title Boulevard Extérior, Dortu, vol. 5, D.3.090.

[5]Translation by James Grieve, Visiting Fellow, School of Language Studies, Australian National University. Writing to the author on 7 September 2012, Grieve commented on the problem of translating Bruant’s songs: the ‘main difficulty is tone of voice, since the songs are mainly tone of voice. Shorn of voice, there’s little left. The choice is between two equally unsatisfactory versions, one literal, which would give the simple meaning (but none of the tone) and the other adapted to an approximate equivalent in Anglo culture, eg. Cockney (the disadvantage of which is
that it turns the song into non-French). My translation, if read aloud or sung in a genuine Cockney accent, might give an impression not too far from Parisian
at the so-called belle époque.’




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