From the Industrial Revolution to World War I, C. 1850–1914


Who was Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec?

Artists such as Cézanne, Gauguin, and van Gogh sacrificed three-dimensional realism in an attempt to express a new kind of authenticity, or truth, in their work. The result was pictures that often looked flat, and emphasized boldness of color over depth and space. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864–1901) made paintings and posters that shared many of these qualities. Toulouse-Lautrec was fascinated by the bohemian Montmartre, an entertainment district in Paris where many Impressionist artists lived and worked, including Edgar Degas, who was a major influence on Toulouse-Lautrec. He was physically impaired due to a combination of illness and childhood accidents, which resulted in stunted growth in his legs and difficulty with mobility. Perhaps because of this, he was enamored with the dance halls and nightclubs of Montmartre, and many of his elegant paintings and posters illustrate lively dancers and café patrons chatting, moving, and having a great time. His painting, At the Moulin Rouge (1892–1895) depicts a scene at one of the most popular clubs in Paris at the time, the Moulin Rouge. To the far right, a green-faced dancer, May Milton, is reminiscent of Degas’ dancers under the sharp artificial lights of the theater. At some point in history, someone cut her out of the picture, possibly due to her strange appearance and scandalous personality in real life, though the cut piece has since been reattached. Toulouse-Lautrec’s posters, such as Moulin Rouge: La Goulue (1891) feature outlined forms and flat color similar to Japanese woodblock prints.


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