Introduction

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec was born on his family’s estate in Albi, France in 1864, and returned to die in the south of France two months before his thirty-seventh birthday. Most of his life was spent in Paris where, as he matured, he adopted thepalette and rapid brushwork of the Impressionists and Post-Impressionistsbut never aligned himself with one particular style. Lautrec’s obsession withthe underbelly of Parisian society set him apart from his predecessors. The divesand haunts of the demi-monde (underworld), the café-concerts, the masked balls and the dance halls of late nineteenth century Paris enthralled him.

A driving force behind Lautrec’s art was his desire to portray character.He possessed extraordinary powers of examination and scrutinised his subjects’ expressions, their gait, and their body language.He never aspired to simply paint portraits, his ambition and skill was far more complex and provided him with an uncanny insight into the personality of his sitters.



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