Henri de TOULOUSE-LAUTREC | Woman curling her hair [Femme se frisant]

Henri de TOULOUSE-LAUTREC
France 1864 – 1901

Woman curling her hair [Femme se frisant] 1891 oil on cardboard
56.0 (h) x 39.0 (w) cm
Reference: Dortu P.374 Musée des Augustins, Toulouse

A masterful application of colour is displayed in this painting, with Lautrec’s often repeated combination of an intense red placed directly against a brilliant emerald green and a stark white. Rising from the wisps of the sketched marks that form the underlying structure, Lautrec builds the intensity of his composition with bold linear strokes that amalgamate in a crescendo of colour. This particular combination of oil paint against the dull brown of the cardboard support results in a striking composition within which colour is paramount.

Woman curling her hair [Femme se frisant]can be seen as a precursor to the imagery found in the Elles lithographic suite published five years later in 1896. This printed group of images was the result of Lautrec taking up periodic residence at 6 rue des Moulins between 1892 and 1895. In this brothel he recorded the daily life of the prostitutes in a unique behind-the-scenes artistic project. He prepared numerous oil and cardboard compositions for many of the Elles suite prints, thus it is of no surprise to find distinct similarities between Woman curling her hair and the Elles suite frontispiece, where we view a prostitute standing in a long negligee with an extravagantly frilly collar.[1] Furthermore, a favourite practice of Lautrec’s was to show the figure from behind, a visual device that masterfully obscures the woman’s identity and allows the viewer singular focus on what is being acted out. In the Elles suite, Woman combing her hair – the coiffure [Femme qui se peigne – la coiffure]and Woman with mirror in hand [Femme à glace – la glace à main]both repeat the subject of Woman curling her hairin their depiction ofobsessive grooming as a frequent and repetitive task of the prostitute, both pre and post sexual liaison.[2]

During la belle époque a woman’s hairstyle was a central and important aspect of her appearance. The dominant style of the 1890s was the pompadour, named after Jeanne Antoinette Poisson, Marquise de Pompadour, an exquisite beauty who was established at the French court as the mistress of Louis XV. The pompadour featured an upwards sweep of hair away from the face and piled high to puff out and sit forward over the forehead. Lautrec’s Woman curling her hair features such a hairstyle in an intimate moment of personal preparation as the prostitute curls her hair in front of a mirror. Just the outline of the curling iron, invented by the French hairdresser Marcel Grateau in 1872, can be seen in her hand. Adding curls around the forehead in order to frame the face was a popular additional styling technique to the pompadour. Lautrec’s composition affords a unique social insight into the everyday routine of the Parisian prostitute.

JB

 

[1] See p. 144.

[2]See p. 147.

A masterful application of colour is displayed in this painting, with Lautrec’s often repeated combination of an intense red placed directly against a brilliant emerald green and a stark white. Rising from the wisps of the sketched marks that form the underlying structure, Lautrec builds the intensity of his composition with bold linear strokes that amalgamate in a crescendo of colour. This particular combination of oil paint against the dull brown of the cardboard support results in a striking composition within which colour is paramount.

Woman curling her hair [Femme se frisant]can be seen as a precursor to the imagery found in the Elles lithographic suite published five years later in 1896. This printed group of images was the result of Lautrec taking up periodic residence at 6 rue des Moulins between 1892 and 1895. In this brothel he recorded the daily life of the prostitutes in a unique behind-the-scenes artistic project. He prepared numerous oil and cardboard compositions for many of the Elles suite prints, thus it is of no surprise to find distinct similarities between Woman curling her hair and the Elles suite frontispiece, where we view a prostitute standing in a long negligee with an extravagantly frilly collar.[1] Furthermore, a favourite practice of Lautrec’s was to show the figure from behind, a visual device that masterfully obscures the woman’s identity and allows the viewer singular focus on what is being acted out. In the Elles suite, Woman combing her hair – the coiffure [Femme qui se peigne – la coiffure]and Woman with mirror in hand [Femme à glace – la glace à main]both repeat the subject of Woman curling her hairin their depiction ofobsessive grooming as a frequent and repetitive task of the prostitute, both pre and post sexual liaison.[2]

During la belle époque a woman’s hairstyle was a central and important aspect of her appearance. The dominant style of the 1890s was the pompadour, named after Jeanne Antoinette Poisson, Marquise de Pompadour, an exquisite beauty who was established at the French court as the mistress of Louis XV. The pompadour featured an upwards sweep of hair away from the face and piled high to puff out and sit forward over the forehead. Lautrec’s Woman curling her hair features such a hairstyle in an intimate moment of personal preparation as the prostitute curls her hair in front of a mirror. Just the outline of the curling iron, invented by the French hairdresser Marcel Grateau in 1872, can be seen in her hand. Adding curls around the forehead in order to frame the face was a popular additional styling technique to the pompadour. Lautrec’s composition affords a unique social insight into the everyday routine of the Parisian prostitute.

JB

 

[1] See p. 144.

[2]See p. 147.

A masterful application of colour is displayed in this painting, with Lautrec’s often repeated combination of an intense red placed directly against a brilliant emerald green and a stark white. Rising from the wisps of the sketched marks that form the underlying structure, Lautrec builds the intensity of his composition with bold linear strokes that amalgamate in a crescendo of colour. This particular combination of oil paint against the dull brown of the cardboard support results in a striking composition within which colour is paramount.

Woman curling her hair [Femme se frisant]can be seen as a precursor to the imagery found in the Elles lithographic suite published five years later in 1896. This printed group of images was the result of Lautrec taking up periodic residence at 6 rue des Moulins between 1892 and 1895. In this brothel he recorded the daily life of the prostitutes in a unique behind-the-scenes artistic project. He prepared numerous oil and cardboard compositions for many of the Elles suite prints, thus it is of no surprise to find distinct similarities between Woman curling her hair and the Elles suite frontispiece, where we view a prostitute standing in a long negligee with an extravagantly frilly collar.[1] Furthermore, a favourite practice of Lautrec’s was to show the figure from behind, a visual device that masterfully obscures the woman’s identity and allows the viewer singular focus on what is being acted out. In the Elles suite, Woman combing her hair – the coiffure [Femme qui se peigne – la coiffure]and Woman with mirror in hand [Femme à glace – la glace à main]both repeat the subject of Woman curling her hairin their depiction ofobsessive grooming as a frequent and repetitive task of the prostitute, both pre and post sexual liaison.[2]

During la belle époque a woman’s hairstyle was a central and important aspect of her appearance. The dominant style of the 1890s was the pompadour, named after Jeanne Antoinette Poisson, Marquise de Pompadour, an exquisite beauty who was established at the French court as the mistress of Louis XV. The pompadour featured an upwards sweep of hair away from the face and piled high to puff out and sit forward over the forehead. Lautrec’s Woman curling her hair features such a hairstyle in an intimate moment of personal preparation as the prostitute curls her hair in front of a mirror. Just the outline of the curling iron, invented by the French hairdresser Marcel Grateau in 1872, can be seen in her hand. Adding curls around the forehead in order to frame the face was a popular additional styling technique to the pompadour. Lautrec’s composition affords a unique social insight into the everyday routine of the Parisian prostitute.

JB

 

[1] See p. 144.

[2]See p. 147.




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