Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
November 24, 1864 - August 25, 1901

Toulouse-Lautrec was born in Albi, France. He was the son of Comte Alphonse and Comtesse Adèle de Toulouse-Lautrec. Having been born to an aristocratic and affluent family his fate was forever changed by a tragic accident that left him crippled at an early age. Henri suffered from a genetic disorder which prevented his bones from healing properly, and his legs ceased to grow. He reached maturity with a body trunk of normal size but with abnormally short legs. He was only 4 1/2 feet (1.5 meters) tall.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec PortraitLautrec showed an early talent for painting and drawing and this became the focus of his life. In 1888 Lautrec had his first important exhibition at Les XX. Here he chose to draw portraits of women from his own family La Comtesse Alphonse de Toulouse-Lautrec and Mme. Juliette as well as women of the lower class. Lautrec was working in contrasts not only within the class structure of his life but also within the conflict of his birthright and the artistic life that he chose.

Lautrec’s passion was the night life in Montmartre where he frequented the cabarets, in particular, The Moulin Rouge. He spent his time drawing the dancers and singers such as Yvette Guilbert, La Goulue, Valentin le Desosse, Aristide Bruant, May Belfort, May Milton and Jane Avril. He did numerous lithographs and posters depicting these entertainers, the most famous being the Moulin Rouge poster executed in 1891.

Lautrec often visited the brothels of Paris and was a welcome visitor staying nights on end drinking hoping to obliterate the pain and anguish that he suffered in his life. He used the brothel setting for a series of works, private moments between the prostitutes and the patrons, the women kissing each other, sleeping together or enjoying the closeness of each others’ bodies. In the late 1890’s his health deteriorates and in 1899 his mental and physical health declines and he enters a clinic in Neuilly for detoxification. This does not last long and he begins to drink compulsively again and shortly thereafter he suffers a stroke that leaves him partially paralyzed. In 1901 he is moved to his mother’s estate at Malrome where he dies on August 25.