(born Nov. 24, 1864, Albi, France—died Sept. 9, 1901, Malromé) French painter and graphic artist. Born to an old aristocratic family, he developed his interest in art during lengthy convalescence after both his legs were fractured in separate accidents (1878, 1879) that left them permanently stunted and made walking difficult. In 1881 he resolved to become an artist; after taking instruction, he established a studio in the Montmartre district of Paris in 1884 and began his lifelong association with the area's cafés, cabarets, entertainers, and artists. He captured the effect of the movement of dancers, circus performers, and other entertainers by simplifying outlines and juxtaposing intense colours; the result was an art throbbing with life and energy. His lithographs were among his most powerful works, and his memorable posters helped define the possibilities of the genre. His pieces are often sharply satirical, but he was also capable of great sympathy, seen most poignantly in his studies of prostitutes (e.g., At the Salon, 1896). His extraordinary style helped set the course of avant-garde art for decades to come. A heavy drinker, he died at 36.
Learn more about Toulouse-Lautrec (-Monfa), Henri (-Marie-Raymond) de with a free trial on Britannica.com.
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (24 November 1864 – 9 September 1901) was a French painter, printmaker, draftsman, and illustrator, whose immersion in the decadent and theatrical life of fin de siècle Paris yielded an oeuvre of provocative images of modern life.
Physically unable to participate in most of the activities typically enjoyed by men of his age, Toulouse-Lautrec immersed himself in his art. He became an important Post-Impressionist painter, art nouveau illustrator, and lithographer; and recorded in his works many details of the late-19th-century bohemian lifestyle in Paris. Toulouse-Lautrec also contributed a number of illustrations to the magazine Le Rire during the mid-1890s.
Toulouse-Lautrec spent much time in brothels, where he was accepted by the prostitutes and madams to such an extent that he often moved in, and lived in a brothel for weeks at a time. He shared the lives of the women who made him their confidant, painting and drawing them at work and at leisure. Lautrec recorded their intimate relationships, which were often lesbian. A favourite model was a red-haired prostitute called Rosa la Rouge from whom he allegedly contracted syphilis.
Toulouse-Lautrec gave painting lessons to Suzanne Valadon, one of his models (and possibly his mistress as well).
An alcoholic for most of his adult life, Toulouse-Lautrec was placed in a sanatorium shortly before his death. He died from complications due to alcoholism and syphilis at the family estate in Malromé at the age of 36. He is buried in Verdelais, Gironde, a few kilometers from the Château of Malromé, where he died.
Toulouse-Lautrec's last words reportedly were: "Le vieux con!" ("Old fool!")
Throughout his career, which spanned less than 20 years, Toulouse-Lautrec created 737 canvases, 275 watercolors, 363 prints and posters, 5,084 drawings, some ceramic and stained glass work, and an unknown number of lost works. Toulouse-Lautrec is known along with Cézanne, Van Gogh, and Gauguin as one of the greatest painters of the Post-Impressionist period. His debt to the Impressionists, in particular the more figurative painters Manet and Degas, is apparent. In the works of Toulouse-Lautrec can be seen many parallels to Manet's bored barmaid at A Bar at the Folies-Bergère and the behind-the-scenes ballet dancers of Degas. He excelled at capturing people in their working environment, with the colour and the movement of the gaudy night-life present, but the glamour stripped away. He was masterly at capturing crowd scenes in which the figures are highly individualised. At the time that they were painted, the individual figures in his larger paintings could be identified by silhouette alone, and the names of many of these characters have been recorded. His treatment of his subject matter, whether as portraits, scenes of Parisian night-life, or intimate studies, has been described as both sympathetic and dispassionate.
Toulous-Lautrec's skilled depiction of people relied on his painterly style which is highly linear and gives great emphasis to contour. He often applied the paint in long, thin brushstrokes which often leave much of the board on which they are painted showing through. Many of his works may best be described as drawings in coloured paint.
After Toulouse-Lautrec's death, his mother, the Comtesse Adèle Toulouse-Lautrec, and Maurice Joyant, his art dealer, promoted his art. His mother contributed funds for a museum to be built in Albi, his birthplace, to house his works. In a 2005 auction at Christie's auction house a new record was set when "La blanchisseuse", an early painting of a young laundress, sold for $22.4 million U.S.