Henri de Toulouse Lautrec


Toulouse Lautrec

Henri Marie Raymond de Toulouse-Lautrec-Monfa was a French painter, engraver, draftsman, caricaturist and illustrator, coming from an aristocratic family. He was born on November 24, 1864, in the town of Albi, in the south of France. During his youth he suffered from an undetermined medical condition that caused him to fracture the femurs of both legs, preventing his full development and leaving him with a height of close to 1.5 meters. This fact would be decisive in his personality and brought him closer to the excesses of the night and a bohemian life.

His physical limitations made him take complete refuge in art, thus becoming a prominent painter of the post-impressionist style, an illustrator of the Art Nouveau style and a draftsman and lithographer who dedicatedly captured the nightlife and bohemian lifestyle of Paris in the 19th century. XIX century.

In 1882, he moved to the Montmartre area of Paris, known for its bohemian life and for being the home of numerous writers, artists and intellectuals, where he would live for the next twenty years. Years later she would establish a group of friends that she would keep throughout her life, among whom could be named Émile Bernard and Vincent van Gogh. It is in this period that Toulouse-Lautrec became involved with prostitutes, whom he used as models, whose works he began to exhibit in 1885.


Since 1888 he enjoyed popularity thanks to exhibitions in various parts of Europe to which he was invited, including the renowned "Salon des independants." He is also recognized as the illustrator of the Belle Époque, an artistic-cultural period between 1870 and 1914, mainly in Paris. He is known for his fierce defense of Van Gogh's work against some of the Dutch artist's detractors such as Henry de Groux, whom he even challenged to a duel, but it never took place.

Bohemian life

Toulouse-Lautrec suffered from alcoholism and became a frequent visitor to brothels. He was fascinated by the dark lifestyle of sex workers so he always incorporated them into his pictorial work. A close colleague once expressed: "He found an affinity between his (physical) condition and the moral hardships of a prostitute," as part of an aristocratic caste but with a physically bizarre appearance. He created nearly one hundred drawings and fifty paintings inspired by the lifestyle of these women. He always felt welcomed by them and even went so far as to say that he found women of his caliber, making him feel at home.

In London, he met Oscar Wilde, who became a defender and ally of the Frenchman's work. In this city he accepted and fulfilled some assignments related to the design of advertising advertisements. It is believed that his limited physical condition was a reason for him to develop alcoholism which led him to modify the cane he used to support himself when walking, to fill it with alcohol and thus ensure that he never ran out of supply.

Decline and death

Towards February 1889, alcohol began to take its toll on the artist's health, leading him to episodes of madness, causing him to collapse more than once. Added to that, he contracted syphilis, which severely affected his mental health.

On November 9, 1901, Toulouse-Lautrec died at the age of 36, as a result of problems derived from his alcoholism and syphilis. He was buried in the Verdelais Gironde cemetery. After his death, his mother and his agent promoted his work, going so far as to found the Toulouse-Lautrec Museum in Albi, his birthplace.


In his less than twenty years of career, Toulouse-Lautrec left numerous works, including more than seven hundred paintings on canvas, almost three hundred watercolors, more than two hundred and fifty prints and posters, more than five thousand drawings, ceramics and other works considered losses. His mastery is recognized in painting crowd scenes, portraits of him and scenes of Parisian life, with a great predominance of line and contour.

Films and documentaries inspired by his life

Moulin Rouge trailer – (1952)
Lautrec (1998) excerpt
Midnight in Paris (2011) excerpt
Toulouse Lautrec (2001) documentary

"To think I would never have painted if my legs had been a little longer."

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