Biography of French Painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec Part 1

About the famous French painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, history and biography of the artist.

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HENRI DE TOULOUSE-LAUTREC

(1864-1901)

Descended from a line of crusader-warriors and French and English aristocrats, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec was the firstborn child of Countess Adele, an intelligent and fastidious woman who had married her first cousin, Count Alphonse, a wildly eccentric man totally unconcerned with what others thought of him. Although Henri shared his father's love for horses and hunting, his body was frail and his growth slow. After two simple falls broke his brittle thighbones, he became crippled at the age of 14, unable to walk except with the aid of a cane. His legs atrophied into foreshortened stumps while his head, torso, and sexual organs appeared abnormally large. Never self-pitying, he was the first to laugh at his deformities--before others had a chance to.

Realizing he could never pursue the sportsman's life he so ardently desired. Toulouse-Lautrec turned to his second love--art. He studied under a number of French Academy teachers, who made him realize the importance of discipline but did nothing to curb his highly unconventional use of vigorous color and sparse line. His drawings were full of energy, as if providing an outlet for his entrapped spirit.

In 1886 he rented a studio in the heart of Montmartre, a section of Paris given over to bohemian artists, prostitutes, and other social outcasts. Here he felt at home, and through his art he was able to capture the essential humanity of these scorned members of society. Both the sublime and the ridiculous were revealed to his keen eye. During the evenings, he would frequent the dance halls, especially the Moulin Rouge, and spend hours drinking and feverishly drawing with burned matches on napkins the scenes that revolved around him. Often his only sleep would consist of a nap caught in the back seat of a cab taking him from a dance hall to his studio in the early morning hours.

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