Thursday, March 4, 2010

Artist Spotlight: Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

Artist Spotlight: Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

If you were to only know one thing about me, then you should know I am a closet art "freak". I absolutely can't get enough of the post impressionistic art period.

I always wish I could have lived during the late 19th century in Paris. What an inspirational time it must have been, but of course also emotional. To have walked the streets of Monmartre and had a drink with Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.

For some reason people seem to think Toulouse-Lautrec was born in Monmartre or that he was poor. But in fact it was the exact opposite. He was a Parisian aristocrat. I know what you're thinking - man, he had everything! To be at the top of the social world during Paris in the late 19th century - how lucky. But again, appearences aren't always what they seem.

Henri was born November 24, 1864 in Albi, France and was the son and heir of Comte Alphonse-Charles de Toulouse. He was also the last male heir to a family that dated back nearly 1,000 years. His father was very handsome and eccentric (aka a weirdo who was never there) and his mother was...overly protective of their only son (aka she has no life so he was always sick and weak as a child).

Henri broke his left leg when he was 12 and his right leg when he was 14 and neither healed properly so it stunted his growth. He continued to grow normally, except his legs.

Henri's one escape was his art. By the time he was 10 he began to develop his artistic skill, unfortunately a lot of it was due to the fact his mother always thought he was sick and he stayed inside a lot.

As he grew older he sought refuge from the torments of aristocratic society in Monmartre. He loved the bohemian lifestyle, the cabarets, the vibrant lights, action, and of course his ultimate undoing - alcohol.

Many of his paintings reflect his actual experience from hanging out in nightclubs. He would sit and drink and chat all night, while drawing little sketches of what was going on around him. The next day he would take the sketches and elaborate them on canvas.

But Henri's only happy days were numbered in Paris. In the late 1800s he was temporarily put into a sanatorium for his alcoholic (and some would say crazy) behavior that he started to exhibit. Before I go further, please keep in mind 2 things: 1)they did not have hospitals like today, sanatorium's were common and really the only place for drug addicts to go and 2) he wasn't drinking just beer, he was drinking hardcore Absinthe and other hallucinogenic drinks that if drank heavily enough could have the ability to make you go insane.

He eventually was allowed to return to his mother's care and home and died September 9, 1901.

One of the reason's Toulouse is one of my top 3 favorite artists is because he is the father of modern graphic art. All of those really trippy 1960s peace and love posters can find their roots in his paintings. Plus, I don't know... there is just something beautiful about his art. I always like to think it's because you can see his soul in his art. Here are some of his paintings:

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