Artist - Toulouse-Lautrec
( Originally Published 1925 )
I once attended at Paris an exhibition devoted to the work of the late Count Toulouse-Lautrec. There the perverse genius of an unhappy man who owes allegiance to no one but Degas and the Japanese was seen at its best. His astonishing qualities of invention, draughtsmanship, and a diabolic ingenuity in sounding the sinister music of decayed souls have never been before assembled under one roof. Power there is and a saturnine hatred of his wretched sitters. Toulouse-Lautrec had not the impersonal vision of Zola nor the repressed and disenchanting irony of Degas. He loathed the crew of repulsive night birds that he pencilled and painted in old Mont-martre before the foreign invasion destroyed its native and spontaneous wickedness. Now a resort for easily bamboozled English and Americans, the earlier Montmartre was a rich mine for painter-explorers. Raffaelli went there and so did Renoir; but the former was impartially impressionistic,; the latter, ever ravished by a stray shaft of sunshine flecking the faces of the dancers, set it all down in charming tints. Not so Toulouse-Lautrec. Combined with a chronic pessimism, he exhibited a divination of character that, if he had lived and worked hard, might have placed him not far below Degas. He is savant. He has a line that proclaims the master. And unlike Aubrey Beardsley, his affinity to the Japanese never seduced him into the exercise of the decorative abnormal which sometimes distinguished the efforts of the Englishman. We see the Moulin Rouge with its hosts of deadly parasites, La Goulue and her vile retainers. The brutality here is one of contempt, as a blow struck full in the face. Vice has never before been so harshly arraigned. This art makes of Hogarth a pleasing preacher, so drastic is it, so deliberately searching in its insults. And never the faintest exaggeration or burlesque. These brigands and cut-throats, pimps and pickpurses are set before us without bravado, without the genteel glaze of the timid painter, without an attempt to call a prostitute a cocotte. Indeed, persons are called by their true names in these hasty sketches of Lautrec's, and so clearly sounded are the names that some-times you are compelled to close your ears and eyes. His models, with their cavernous glance, their emaciated figures, and vicious expression, are a commentary on atelier life in those days and regions. Toulouse-Lautrec is like a page from Ecclesiastes.
Painter/Artist: Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901)
Toulouse-Lautrec, Henri de @ WebMuseum