Posted by Art Of Legend India [dot] Com On 12:55 AM
Toulouse-Lautrec immortalized the night-life of Paris in the 'naughty nineties'. During the first part of the decade, he was at his peak both as poster artist and painter. Towards the end, his superb technical ability declined along with his health.
At the Circus Fernando was Lautrec's first important painting. He painted the circus and his favourite clown Cha-u-kao many times, but his most constant source of inspiration was the Montmartre dance-hall The Moulin Rouge.
The poster of the dancer Jane Avril is probably the artist's best-known image. She and the other Moulin Rouge performers particularly the lascivious La Goulue appear over and over again in his paintings.
Even when he was not painting the Moulin Rouge characters, Lautrec always depicted the people he knew. The poster of Aristide Bruant advertises his friend's appearance at the Ambassadeurs club. And The Salon at the Rue Des Moulins depicts the prostitutes in his favourite brothel.
An early example of Lautrec's forceful caricature and strong graphic style shows the ringmaster and a bare-back rider at a famous Montmartre circus. The ringmaster, with his exaggerated features and silhouetted suit tails, looks almost as if he has been cut out and stuck on to the flattened circus ring. The painting was hung in the Moulin Rouge from the club's opening night.
One of Lautrec's most famous posters shows Lautrec's favourite dancer Jane Avril doing her particular version of the 'quadrille Naturaliste' a form of cancan at the Jardin de Paris, the club where she worked after the Moulin Rouge. In the bottom right corner, the convoluted silhouette of a double-bass forms part of the 'frame'.
The satirical cabaret singer Aristide Bruant, with his distinctive hat, scarf and stick, scowls threateningly, while the silhouette of a man leaning in the doorway evokes a sleazy club atmosphere. The manager of the Ambassadeurs club was outraged, and refused to use the poster until Bruant threatened to cancel his appearance.
This is one of Lautrec's earliest paintings of his favourite night-spot. The club's owner bought it immediately reportedly before the paint was dry and hung it behind the bar. In the painting, resident entertainers La Goulue and Boneless Valentin are dancing on the bare floor-boards amid the top-hatted gents and dressed-up. Lautrec's white-bearded father appears in the background on the right, while Jane Avril looks out between the dancers.
With her dress slashed to the waist and her disdainful features distorted by the artificial light, Louise Weber La Goulue makes her entrance on the arm of her sister Wine Frontage ('cheese tart') and another woman. The twist of Moine Frontage's face is cut off violently by the edge of the picture.
A scene in the night-club bar is framed by the diagonal brown balustrade and a dramatically cropped close-up of a woman her face bright green in the night-club's spotlights. Lautrec himself appears in the background, dwarfed by his tall cousin, while La Goulue and Mime Frontage stand in front of the mirror.
In the foyer of a high-class brothel, a heavily decorated interior with plush red seats, prostitutes and their madame (sitting prim and stiff on the right) wait for customers. The artist often stayed in this brothel and he gives his models an air of dignity, despite the hint of comedy in the caricatures.
Cha-u-kao became one of Lautrec's favourite performers in the mid-1890s. In this painting, she is shown removing her bright yellow ruff, apparently alone. But in fact as the artist cleverly indicates by the reflection in the corner of the mirror, and the glass and plate she is in a supper-room with an elderly gentleman.
Writer – Marshall Cavendish