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The story of the artist Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, whom loved ones considered a shame for the family, Van Gogh was a friend, and connoisseurs were a genius
The story of the artist Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, whom loved ones considered a shame for the family, Van Gogh was a friend, and connoisseurs were a genius
The tragedy of life, creativity and love of a little genius

Born into a family of noble aristocrats, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, by the will of fate was thrown overboard of normal life, to its very bottom. This was both the salvation of the little genius and his death, his success and shame. Read more about the dramatic fate of the genius French artist of the 19th century, about his extraordinary talent as a painter, who raised advertising to the rank of high art, about a little man who conquered the world with his strong character and love of life further - in the review.

The tragedy of the life of a little genius

Henri at the easel

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, French painter, draftsman, lithographer. He was born in 1864 in one of the oldest aristocratic families in France, whose parents were cousins ​​to each other, which genetically led to the birth of defective offspring in their family. The boy grew up weak, fragile, and sick from the very beginning.

At the age of 13, Anri, falling from a horse, broke his left leg, and a year later, under the same circumstances, his right. The bones have grown together, however, they stopped growing and Lautrec, as it were, froze in development at around 150 centimeters. This health problem incredibly upset his father, who hoped that when his son grew up and matured, they would go hunting together, be in the company of nobles, and have fun with women. Failing to justify the Count's hopes, the son felt like an outcast in his family.

Portrait of Henri Toulouse-Lautrec. Author: Giovanni Boldini

Lautrec's head and hands were disproportionately large, and his legs were very short with small feet. Henri hid the overly large skull under a black bowler hat, unchanged in almost all photographs, and hid his weighty jaw behind a thick beard. Lautrec's wardrobe consisted of the same baggy trousers and a long coat. And also an invariable attribute in his hands was a curved bamboo cane.

Henri Toulouse-Lautrec. Photo

Fate prepared an unenviable fate for Henri, day after day he had to prove that he was the same as others: nothing worse, and in many ways even better. And that he also has a right to happiness. But, as it turned out, no one needed it. And Henri had no choice but to indulge in all seriousness: addicted to alcohol, he sank to the very bottom of the Parisian bohemian life, where having money, you could buy anything, including love. And this life he liked quite well.


At the age of 19, Lautrec became a permanent resident of Montmartre and brothels and devoted his life entirely to painting and observing the nightlife of Paris, where "almost every dog" knew him. The whole nature of Toulouse-Lautrec was looking for fun, joy and celebration, in a word, what he lacked in his family, he found a world free from prejudices and sparkling with fun, in a world that captivated and sheltered a bent-legged dwarf. Anri will live in it almost until the end of his days.

Anri's love and suffering

To all the shortcomings and advantages of Lautrec, although he was small in stature, he had an unusually large penis. He called himself "a coffee pot with a very long nose." He led a promiscuous sex life with his models, in particular, with Marie Charlet, a young adventurer who spread rumors about Henri's unusual sexual merits.Among the inhabitants of Montmartre, he enjoyed considerable success, as he was courteous, gentle and caring with them. He did not hesitate to invite girls from brothels to theaters, walk through the Parisian night streets, give gifts. He even fell passionately in love with dancers, prostitutes and laundresses. For his insane love for women, Henri even received the nickname "hunchbacked Don Juan". However, Henri dreamed not of such love…. All his life he hoped that someone would really love him the way he is.

Painting by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

And once, it seemed, fate smiled at Henri. He met a girl of his circle, with a pure soul and the heart of an angel named Alina. Lautrec gave up drinking and carousing, even proposed to her. But the miracle, alas, did not happen. The shocked parents of the girl returned her to the monastery, where she was brought up until recently … Tuzluk realized that fate had not given him quiet family happiness.

Pastel by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

And Henri continued to enjoy the lightness, youth, strength and beauty of the people around him in Montmartre. Unbridled merriment, simple vulgar amusements were to the liking of Lautrec. With all the effort of his will, Lautrec pretended to be indifferent to sidelong glances, compassion, and contempt of others.

Woman in a corset

Salvation in art

Henri Toulouse-Lautrec. Photo

Having lost the opportunity to live the ordinary life of an aristocrat, Henri devoted himself entirely to drawing and painting, she became his salvation. Since childhood, he surprised his family with his drawings, and the fate of the artist was predicted for him. He received the first basics in the studio of the animal painter Rene Prensto, an acquaintance of his father.

In 1885, Henri finally moved to Montmart, where, in the quiet of a small studio, he painted like a man possessed. Lautrec was impressed by the bold, expressive angularity of Degas's works and the style of Japanese prints, from which he drew his inspiration. And over time, he created his own original and unique handwriting.

Montmartre in those years was practically the center of Parisian artistic life. Therefore, Henri here found subjects for his work: the life of the Parisian bohemia, cabaret and dance halls, dancers, actresses and prostitutes.

La Gulyu with two girlfriends at the Moulin Rouge. (1892) Pastel by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

Somehow fate brought him together with Van Gogh, they became friends. Two outcast people with a difficult fate, two great post-impressionists met in Cormon's atelier. Both had a violent temperament and a huge supply of creative energy. However, they looked at this world differently: Vincent strove to love and empathize, and Henri was cold and detached, only watching what was happening. Before the death of Van Gogh, Lautrec will paint his portrait in pastel, where Vincent is captured in profile, sitting alone in a cafe, alone with his thoughts.

Portrait of Van Gogh

Living among the outcasts of society, Lautrec loved to observe the faces of women who radiated either sadness, then delight, or even sadness or indifference. With great interest, the artist painted very young and already withered women with crumpled faces, swollen eyelids, and tired mouths. Henri never embellished his models, even sometimes portrayed them in a very rude manner, distorting them beyond recognition. And when asked why he disfigures women, he answered: "because they are ugly."

He could not forgive either nature or people for his ugliness. He took revenge on everyone with his creativity, depicting his models in a grotesque form, often with caustic irony. Although Henri was always in the center of attention of any gatherings, but it was so offensive for him … Not about such glory he dreamed of.

Henri Toulouse-Lautrec

Among his works is a famous series of paintings on themes related to Parisian brothels and the life of their inhabitants, one of which "rewarded" a loving dwarf with syphilis.

Pastel by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec Jeanne Avril. (1893) Kiss Seated dancer in pink leotards Pastel by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

Takeoff of an advertising career

Toulouse-Lautrec was one of the first high-profile artists to take seriously the creation of posters, he managed to raise the genre of advertising poster to the level of high art.

Moulin Rouge poster

Once the owner of the Moulin Rouge, being on the verge of ruin, fell for Henri's agreement that he would advertise his establishment. And when the owner, after a while, saw the creation of Henri, he was completely horrified.However, the poster worked like a bomb; it did not leave anyone indifferent. The popularity of the Moulin Rouge skyrocketed to unprecedented heights. The artists called it "The Creation of the Devil, designed to destroy painting." Overnight, popularity and fame came to Lautrec, stars and celebrities began to line up for him for such advertising.

Posters of Toulouse-Lautrec

The artist has become extremely famous and in demand in many areas. Orders were sent for illustrations for bindings, he drew comics, and created stained glass windows. He was invited to exhibitions in London and Brussels.

Another blow of fate

Finally, Lautrec received a small gift from fate - a sincere confession, but the happiness of the little genius was short-lived. Inspired by his success, Henri opened his first solo exhibition of his paintings in Paris in 1893. Alas, the public's verdict was harsh: "The dirty work of a lustful dwarf that has nothing to do with art." For Henri, it was a blow below the belt. He was already accustomed to the admiration that his posters evoked. And the world, as it turned out, did not forgive his desire to be free from prejudices and rules. "My paintings are not dirty," he said, "they are true, and the truth is sometimes ugly."

Henri Toulouse-Lautrec. Photo

But the worst thing for Henri was that his parents and relatives believed that he disgraced their family. When his mother was once asked what her favorite artist was: “Not my son,” the countess replied. She, like many others, did not consider him an artist at all. Well what can you say when even the closest person could not understand Henri. Yes, and his own uncle, who, in front of witnesses, burned 8 paintings of his nephew with the words: "This unworthy rubbish will not disgrace our house" … And this was the man who supported Lautrec in painting since childhood. It was he who gave him the first box of paints, it was with him that they discussed plans for the future. And what can we say about the rest …

"I am a parody of a man whose natural reaction is laughter." Lautrec no longer had illusions, and he sank lower and lower. He did not ask for help - it was tantamount to admitting defeat. He stopped painting …

Portrait of the artist's mother

The fate of many brilliant people was destined for the little genius - a life path of 37 years. He died in the arms of his mother in 1901 from alcoholism and syphilis, which had depleted his body.

Parents, in order to hide the shame of the family, collected and hid all of Henri's drawings and paintings in the ancestral castle. However, some time passed and the world realized that Henri had brought despicable advertising to the highest level of art. And his paintings are selling for millions of dollars these days.


Thus, the painting "The Washerwoman", painted by Toulouse-Lautrec in 1886-1887, was sold at Christie's New York auction for $ 22.4 million. This is a record for the artist's paintings.

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