Friday, August 26, 2011

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

Paris during the La Belle Epoque is a place and time evoking many bawdy, even decadent connotations. Bohemian Montmartre, Moulin Rouge, Can-can dancers, legalized prostitution and widespread debauchery were all
relevant activities and themes. At the center of it all, sharing in the esprit du temps and chronicling the unique spectacle was a very talented artist with an especially acute eye for the provocative named Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Born to a moderately aristocratic family in Albi in 1864, life was not easy for the youth whose parents, first cousins whose mothers had been sisters, separated early on in his childhood. Owing to an obvious but largely undiagnosed genetic disorder (now speculated to be pycnodysostosis, or Toulouse-Lautrec Syndrome), Henri suffered from numerous illnesses and painfully disabling features his entire life. When both his legs fractured around the age of 13, they never healed properly leaving the lower half of his body undeveloped and prone to Rickets. Nevertheless his talent for drawing the painting was evident early on and his caretakers, specifically his mother, did everything to aid the youth with a proper education and tutelage. By 1880, Lautrec had settled semi-permanently in the Montmartre, home to the city's Red Light district as well as many other artists, namely Gauguin, Van Gogh, Bernard and Gen Paul, painters already emerging onto the exciting Post-Impressionist scene. Accepted within this circle and well-admired for his gifts with watercolor portraits and lithographs, the young Lautrec soon rose to prominence, his skill and exposure boosted by his steady stream of dry-point posters and snapshot image postcards of the city scenes. His well-endorsed paintings soon drew worldwide fame and Lautrec was able to travel extensively and live luxuriously. Tragically, the pain he suffered due to his condition as well as a general propensity for spirits plunged the young artist into severe alcoholism by his late twenties and even though family and friends tried to help him overcome his struggles, he died in 1901 at the age of 36. Several items showcase his unforgettable work such as The Life and Works of Lautrec (759.4 HARRIS), Toulouse-Lautrec and Montmartre (DVD 760.092 TOULOUSE), Toulouse-Lautrec: The Complete Graphic Works: A Catalogue Raisson: The Gerstenburg Collection (769.92 ADRIANI), and Toulouse-Lautrec: His Complete Lithographs and Dry-Points (769.924 A). There's also a foundation dedicated to his life which displays an entire collection of his work.

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