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Sunday, March 11, 2012

An Art History Weekend: Toulouse-Lautrec Revisited


I know that it is more fun to make art than to read about the art that was, but a budding portraiturist, I'm reviewing portraits that have stuck in my mind throughout the years this weekend.

Lautrec's draftsmanship was astonishing--more so than Degas' to this twelve year old girl. His choice of colors were curious and were as fascinating as the figures he chose to paint. His compositions were exceptional; no one area could be extracted or the whole thing would fall apart. I have no doubt that Lautrec taught me how to plan space. Of the Impressionists, this was the guy who really left an impression on me with his skills, the drama and romance of his life's story, his skill as a printmaker (silk screen artist) He made money with his art even though he didn't have to. He was my first art hero. I wanted to be him--except not male and not short.

Addendum: I just had to add this painting. It's so what everybody thinks Lautrec was about--the stage, the cafe life. But look at the color, squint your eyes and look at the composition--the motion--the sweep of pink, the play of dark and light. Phenomenal artist.


  1. How did you know that I just took a nice, long look at a few dozen hi res images by Toulouse? Yes, he is all that and more!

    I agree @ his compositional prowess, and his draftsmanship. Also his colors. He also was prone to use several styles with abandon. One of his realistic styles is impossible to tell apart from something done today - very contemporary.

    Another oddity is his paintings that mimic pastel strokes. He was certainly a genius.

  2. Absolutely Casey! He was the one that made "art" mean something special and "artist" mean someone I wanted to be. Lautrec was my first love at twelve--after falling, I saved my .50 a week allowance till I had enough for an easel. Then saved it till I had enough for paints--and a palette and two books" one on figure drawing, the other on drawing animals. I hardly cracked open the animal book. The figure drawing book eventually fell apart. I set my "studio" up in a corner of the fancy bedroom my mom decorated for me. After a swirl of suspicious looking dots showed up on the rose covered walls and bedspread, she made me
    move down to the basement. My father told me how artists parished in garrets. I kept drawing.

  3. Good post; I was at the Art Institute of Chicago last month; they had some excellent Lautrecs there. Every time I see his work I am still amazed how good of a draughtsman he was.

  4. Thanks Steve. Looking closely at the art of past masters is the best workshop. Every Monday the DIA (Detroit Institute of Arts) has drawing in the galleries, an excellent opportunity to build one's skill. Drawing doesn't stop with the initial drawing on canvas for a painting, but continues through the painting process.

    I took a graphics class once, where some guy turned in six smashed beer cans stapled to a board instead of the drawing he was asked to do. When I pointed that out, he said, "Well some of us can't draw." I said, "Isn't that what we're here for--to learn?" Snotty I know, but I did think his offering was poor and lazy and unacceptable. Good for him, I wasn't the instructor.

  5. Linda, I was just about to make a hopefully intelligent and witty comment about Lautrec [love his work, and am fascinated by his life] when something on the upper right caught my eye - your slideshow. That is a most impressive collection of work! Damn, you are GOOD!!

  6. Well thank you Kathryn. What a lovely comment to start the work week. You're pretty good yourself. Isn't it wonderful how appreciative we are of each other's work. There's a unique communication system between artists that has a language of its own made up of colors, lines, planes, compositions--even choice of medium. I believe we see more in artworks than those who aren't predominantly orientated on the right side of their brain.