His own work is, above all, graphic in nature, the paint never obscuring the strong, original draftsmanship. He detailed the music halls, circuses, brothels, and cabaret life of Paris with a remarkable objectivity born, perhaps, of his own isolation. His garish and artificial colors, the orange hair and electric green light of his striking posters, caught the atmosphere of the life they advertised. Lautrec's technical innovations in color lithography created a greater freedom and a new immediacy in poster design. His posters of the dancers and personalities at the Moulin Rouge cabaret are world renowned and have inspired countless imitations.
After a life of enormous productivity (more than 1,000 paintings, 5,000 drawings, and 350 prints and posters), debauchery, and alcoholism, Lautrec suffered a mental and physical collapse and died at the age of 37. His life has inspired numerous biographies, of varying accuracy. Although exhibitions of his work were not well received in his lifetime, he is now one of the world's most popular artists and is represented in most of the major museums of France and the United States. Many of his sketches and some paintings are in the Musée Lautrec of his native Albi. His painting At the Moulin de la Galette (1892) is in the Art Institute, Chicago; the lithograph Seated Female Clown (1896) is at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
See his correspondence, ed. by L. Goldschmidt and H. Schimmel (1969); complete lithographs and drypoints, ed. by J. Adémar (1965) and posters, intr. by E. Julien (1966); biographies by H. Perruchot (1960), P. Huisman (1964, repr. 1968), and J. B. Frey (1994); studies by D. Cooper (1969), F. Novotny (1969), J.-B. Naudin, G. Diego-Dortignac, and A. Daguin (1993), and D. Sweetman (2000).
(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.
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