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Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864 - 1901)

Related: French art - prostitution in art

Prostitute: the Sphinx (1898) Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec


Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (November 24, 1864 - September 9, 1901) was a French painter.

Toulouse-Lautrec was born in Albi, Tarn in the Midi-Pyrénées Region of France. From an old aristocratic family that had lost much of its prestige, he was the son of Comte Alphonse and Comtesse Adèle de Toulouse-Lautrec. At age twelve Henri broke his left leg, and at fourteen his right leg. The bones did not heal properly, and his legs ceased to grow. He reached maturity with a body trunk of normal size but with abnormally short legs. He was only 4 1/2 feet (1.5 meters) tall.

Deprived of the physical life that a normal body would have permitted, Toulouse-Lautrec lived completely for his art. He would become an important post-impressionist painter, art nouveau illustrator, and lithographer, recording the Bohemian lifestyle of Paris at the end of the 19th century. For his work, he has been called the soul of Montmartre, where he made his home. His paintings portray life at the Moulin Rouge and other Montmartre and Parisian cabarets and theaters, and in the brothels that he frequented regularly. Two famous people occurring in his paintings was Louise Weber, known as the outrageous La Goulue, the dancer who created the "French Can-Can" and the singer, Yvette Guilbert.

He taught painting to Suzanne Valadon, one of his models, and encouraged her efforts. He was a severe alcoholic for practically his whole life and shortly before his death he was institutionalized for it.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec contracted syphilis, possibly from a prostitute whom he painted many times, Rosa La Rouge, and it eventually killed him. He died at his estate in Malromé and is buried in Verdelais, Gironde, a few miles from his birthplace.

Today, a painting by him can sell for as much as US$ 14.5 million. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toulouse_Lautrec [Aug 2004]

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