This post is a small tribute to the French painter, printmaker, draughtsman and illustrator Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, born this day, November 24, 149 years ago. Lautrec’s “immersion in the colourful and theatrical life of Paris in the late 1800s yielded a collection of exciting, elegant and provocative images of the modern and sometimes decadent life of those times.” (Wikipedia)
I have tried to do what is true and not ideal.
His view of his subjects is uniquely sympathetic without being sentimental, which means he neither revels pruriently in degradation nor edits out ugliness. … there is perceptiveness, which entails empathy, but without flattery.
I paint things as they are. I don’t comment. I record.
Lautrec’s pictures of prostitutes and brothels draw on such fragile, ephemeral and unfinished effects to convey the impression of lives lived largely in a state of boredom, occasionally touched with glamour and often weighted with weariness and the apprehension of encroaching age.
A professional model is like a stuffed owl. These girls are alive.
(on women in the brothel)
I have always been a pencil.
There is always a dark and even desperate edge to the world that Toulouse-Lautrec depicts. Poverty, disease, abuse and alcoholism were the realities behind the illusion of pleasure and gaiety; but no one could capture the animation and excitement of that world as effectively as he did, without ever glossing over the perennial presence of death as its necessary and ineluctable shadow, hinted at in gaunt features and exhausted bodies.
In our time there are many artists who do something because it is new;
they see their value and their justification in this newness.
They are deceiving themselves…
And as a parting blessing:
The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.
Comments are from art critic Christopher Allen in Dancing with the Demimonde, a review of the National Gallery of Australia exhibition – Toulouse-Lautrec: Paris and the Moulin Rouge.