Henri de TOULOUSE-LAUTREC | Portrait of Dr Henri Bourges

Henri de TOULOUSE-LAUTREC
France 1864 – 1901

Portrait of Dr Henri Bourges 1891 oil on cardboard mounted on wood panel on cardboard; mounted on wood panel
79.0 (h) x 50.0 (w) cm
Reference: Dortu P.376 Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh Acquired through the generosity of the Sarah Mellon Scaife Family

In an effort to prove to his parents that he was not just a dilettante dabbling in art, since his student days Lautrec had ambitions to have his work exhibited. As early as January 1883 he showed one work in Pau, at the Musée de la ville, for the Société des amis des arts de Pau. After a failed attempt to show at the official Salon of the Académie des beaux-arts, Paris, when he submitted in jest a still life of a camembert in a sombre style, Lautrec sought out less academic locations. Some were informal, such as the café-concert Mirliton and the Moulin Rouge, others were societies of more radical artists, such as Les XX in Brussels, and the Société des artistes indépendants, where he exhibited at their fifth and sixth exhibitions in 1889 and 1890. It was at the seventh exhibition of this society that the Portrait of Dr Henri Bourges was shown, at the Pavillon de la Ville de Paris, opening on 20 March 1891 – one of three elegant portraits that Lautrec began painting in January of that year to show with the Société.[1]

For these three portraits, perhaps Lautrec had been inspired by the work of James McNeill Whistler, such as his formally dressed figure Arrangement in flesh colour and black: portrait of Théodore Duret 1883, which was shown in Paris at the Salon of 1885,[2] and which continued a tradition of Whistler’s full-length portraits, such as Arrangement in black: portrait of F.R. Leyland 1870–73.[3] Later, in 1892, Lautrec gave the title Nocturne to a work he exhibited with Les XX – adopting this favourite terminology of Whistler’s reveals his admiration for the artist.

Dr Henri Bourges, a longstanding friend of Lautrec’s, originally from Toulouse, is shown as a debonair figure in a full-length pose, dressed formally as if he had just arrived from the boulevards of Paris, in top hat and formal frockcoat with black velvet collar, and with a cane under his arm as he removes his gloves. The Japanese scroll landscape painting laid on silk, kakemono, hanging on a wall painted in muted blues in Lautrec’s studio, is evidence of the artist’s great love of Japonisme.[4] The narrow format of his composition recalls the oban type of ukiyo-e, Japanese woodblock prints, a format adopted earlier by Edgar Degas for some of his prints. Paintings stacked on the floor are cursorily painted on the cardboard support to create the streaky effect favoured by Lautrec. The paleness of the background contrasts with the darker silhouette of the figure.

From March 1887, and for the next six years until the physician married, Lautrec shared an apartment with Bourges, in a building where René Grenier and Degas were neighbours. Lautrec enjoyed his company and felt his absence when he
was hospitalised suffering from tuberculosis. Lautrec wrote to his mother in the summer of 1889:

Bourges is being unfaithful to me. He has to stay at the hospital, all the others being off in the country. Though for that matter his hospital is quite cheerful, little gardens everywhere. Perhaps I’ll go there and do some studies of old women wearing white bonnets that make them look like little milkmaids.[5]

In Portrait of Dr Henri Bourges Lautrec captures the modest demeanor and dependable nature of the steadfast doctor his long-time housemate.

JK

[1] See also pp. 98–99; 102–103. According to Gale Murray, Lautrec’s painting of M. Paul Sescau, photographe, Dortu P.383, was shown but not listed in the catalogue, probably as it was a late arrival: Gale B. Murray, Toulouse-Lautrec: The formative years 1878–1891, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991, p. 267.

[2] Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. The work, numbered 2460, was listed as Portrait de M. Théodore Duret.

[3] Freer Gallery, Washington, DC.

[4] Two years later, in the shared household accounts
of Bourges and the artist, Lautrec lists the purchase of another Japanese hanging scroll, for 37.50 francs: Lucien Goldschmidt and Herbert D. Schimmel (eds), Unpublished correspondence of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, London: Phaidon, 1969, illustration no. 34. Elsewhere the scroll has been described as ‘Chinese’: Charles F. Stuckey, Toulouse-Lautrec: Paintings, Chicago: The Art institute of Chicago, 1979, p. 170.

[5] Letter to his mother, [Paris, early September 1889], 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. 170, p. 130.

In an effort to prove to his parents that he was not just a dilettante dabbling in art, since his student days Lautrec had ambitions to have his work exhibited. As early as January 1883 he showed one work in Pau, at the Musée de la ville, for the Société des amis des arts de Pau. After a failed attempt to show at the official Salon of the Académie des beaux-arts, Paris, when he submitted in jest a still life of a camembert in a sombre style, Lautrec sought out less academic locations. Some were informal, such as the café-concert Mirliton and the Moulin Rouge, others were societies of more radical artists, such as Les XX in Brussels, and the Société des artistes indépendants, where he exhibited at their fifth and sixth exhibitions in 1889 and 1890. It was at the seventh exhibition of this society that the Portrait of Dr Henri Bourges was shown, at the Pavillon de la Ville de Paris, opening on 20 March 1891 – one of three elegant portraits that Lautrec began painting in January of that year to show with the Société.[1]

For these three portraits, perhaps Lautrec had been inspired by the work of James McNeill Whistler, such as his formally dressed figure Arrangement in flesh colour and black: portrait of Théodore Duret 1883, which was shown in Paris at the Salon of 1885,[2] and which continued a tradition of Whistler’s full-length portraits, such as Arrangement in black: portrait of F.R. Leyland 1870–73.[3] Later, in 1892, Lautrec gave the title Nocturne to a work he exhibited with Les XX – adopting this favourite terminology of Whistler’s reveals his admiration for the artist.

Dr Henri Bourges, a longstanding friend of Lautrec’s, originally from Toulouse, is shown as a debonair figure in a full-length pose, dressed formally as if he had just arrived from the boulevards of Paris, in top hat and formal frockcoat with black velvet collar, and with a cane under his arm as he removes his gloves. The Japanese scroll landscape painting laid on silk, kakemono, hanging on a wall painted in muted blues in Lautrec’s studio, is evidence of the artist’s great love of Japonisme.[4] The narrow format of his composition recalls the oban type of ukiyo-e, Japanese woodblock prints, a format adopted earlier by Edgar Degas for some of his prints. Paintings stacked on the floor are cursorily painted on the cardboard support to create the streaky effect favoured by Lautrec. The paleness of the background contrasts with the darker silhouette of the figure.

From March 1887, and for the next six years until the physician married, Lautrec shared an apartment with Bourges, in a building where René Grenier and Degas were neighbours. Lautrec enjoyed his company and felt his absence when he
was hospitalised suffering from tuberculosis. Lautrec wrote to his mother in the summer of 1889:

Bourges is being unfaithful to me. He has to stay at the hospital, all the others being off in the country. Though for that matter his hospital is quite cheerful, little gardens everywhere. Perhaps I’ll go there and do some studies of old women wearing white bonnets that make them look like little milkmaids.[5]

In Portrait of Dr Henri Bourges Lautrec captures the modest demeanor and dependable nature of the steadfast doctor his long-time housemate.

JK

[1] See also pp. 98–99; 102–103. According to Gale Murray, Lautrec’s painting of M. Paul Sescau, photographe, Dortu P.383, was shown but not listed in the catalogue, probably as it was a late arrival: Gale B. Murray, Toulouse-Lautrec: The formative years 1878–1891, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991, p. 267.

[2] Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. The work, numbered 2460, was listed as Portrait de M. Théodore Duret.

[3] Freer Gallery, Washington, DC.

[4] Two years later, in the shared household accounts
of Bourges and the artist, Lautrec lists the purchase of another Japanese hanging scroll, for 37.50 francs: Lucien Goldschmidt and Herbert D. Schimmel (eds), Unpublished correspondence of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, London: Phaidon, 1969, illustration no. 34. Elsewhere the scroll has been described as ‘Chinese’: Charles F. Stuckey, Toulouse-Lautrec: Paintings, Chicago: The Art institute of Chicago, 1979, p. 170.

[5] Letter to his mother, [Paris, early September 1889], 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. 170, p. 130.

In an effort to prove to his parents that he was not just a dilettante dabbling in art, since his student days Lautrec had ambitions to have his work exhibited. As early as January 1883 he showed one work in Pau, at the Musée de la ville, for the Société des amis des arts de Pau. After a failed attempt to show at the official Salon of the Académie des beaux-arts, Paris, when he submitted in jest a still life of a camembert in a sombre style, Lautrec sought out less academic locations. Some were informal, such as the café-concert Mirliton and the Moulin Rouge, others were societies of more radical artists, such as Les XX in Brussels, and the Société des artistes indépendants, where he exhibited at their fifth and sixth exhibitions in 1889 and 1890. It was at the seventh exhibition of this society that the Portrait of Dr Henri Bourges was shown, at the Pavillon de la Ville de Paris, opening on 20 March 1891 – one of three elegant portraits that Lautrec began painting in January of that year to show with the Société.[1]

For these three portraits, perhaps Lautrec had been inspired by the work of James McNeill Whistler, such as his formally dressed figure Arrangement in flesh colour and black: portrait of Théodore Duret 1883, which was shown in Paris at the Salon of 1885,[2] and which continued a tradition of Whistler’s full-length portraits, such as Arrangement in black: portrait of F.R. Leyland 1870–73.[3] Later, in 1892, Lautrec gave the title Nocturne to a work he exhibited with Les XX – adopting this favourite terminology of Whistler’s reveals his admiration for the artist.

Dr Henri Bourges, a longstanding friend of Lautrec’s, originally from Toulouse, is shown as a debonair figure in a full-length pose, dressed formally as if he had just arrived from the boulevards of Paris, in top hat and formal frockcoat with black velvet collar, and with a cane under his arm as he removes his gloves. The Japanese scroll landscape painting laid on silk, kakemono, hanging on a wall painted in muted blues in Lautrec’s studio, is evidence of the artist’s great love of Japonisme.[4] The narrow format of his composition recalls the oban type of ukiyo-e, Japanese woodblock prints, a format adopted earlier by Edgar Degas for some of his prints. Paintings stacked on the floor are cursorily painted on the cardboard support to create the streaky effect favoured by Lautrec. The paleness of the background contrasts with the darker silhouette of the figure.

From March 1887, and for the next six years until the physician married, Lautrec shared an apartment with Bourges, in a building where René Grenier and Degas were neighbours. Lautrec enjoyed his company and felt his absence when he
was hospitalised suffering from tuberculosis. Lautrec wrote to his mother in the summer of 1889:

Bourges is being unfaithful to me. He has to stay at the hospital, all the others being off in the country. Though for that matter his hospital is quite cheerful, little gardens everywhere. Perhaps I’ll go there and do some studies of old women wearing white bonnets that make them look like little milkmaids.[5]

In Portrait of Dr Henri Bourges Lautrec captures the modest demeanor and dependable nature of the steadfast doctor his long-time housemate.

JK

[1] See also pp. 98–99; 102–103. According to Gale Murray, Lautrec’s painting of M. Paul Sescau, photographe, Dortu P.383, was shown but not listed in the catalogue, probably as it was a late arrival: Gale B. Murray, Toulouse-Lautrec: The formative years 1878–1891, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991, p. 267.

[2] Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. The work, numbered 2460, was listed as Portrait de M. Théodore Duret.

[3] Freer Gallery, Washington, DC.

[4] Two years later, in the shared household accounts
of Bourges and the artist, Lautrec lists the purchase of another Japanese hanging scroll, for 37.50 francs: Lucien Goldschmidt and Herbert D. Schimmel (eds), Unpublished correspondence of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, London: Phaidon, 1969, illustration no. 34. Elsewhere the scroll has been described as ‘Chinese’: Charles F. Stuckey, Toulouse-Lautrec: Paintings, Chicago: The Art institute of Chicago, 1979, p. 170.

[5] Letter to his mother, [Paris, early September 1889], 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. 170, p. 130.




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