Note to you all: my apologies for not being quite present in the blogging world. I'm on vacation this week but as fate would have it, the Icelandic volcano has wreaked havoc on our plans. WP was due home from Zurich yesterday but he now can't get a flight out. I'm trying to fill up the days in lieu of our vacation plans: lots of "to-dos" and a little fun thrown in, too.
Peace and love,
French painter, printmaker, draftsman and illustrator
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec was born into an aristocratic family in the south of France in 1864. His father, Count Alphonse, was a notorious eccentric known for all kinds of unpredictable behavior: from washing his socks in the river (unheard of for an aristocrat!) to galloping off to a hunt wearing outlandish costumes, to simply disappearing for long stretches of time. The young Henri never became very close to him.
Unknown at the time, Henri suffered from a genetic condition that prevented his bones from healing properly. Fatefully, at age twelve, he broke his left leg. And at age fourteen, he broke his right leg. Both legs ceased to grow, while the rest of his body continued to grow normally.
At maturity, Lautrec was 4 1/2 feet tall. But his great misfortune was a sort of blessing in disguise, at least from our perspective. After his accidents he was no longer able to follow his father in the typically aristocratic pastimes of riding and hunting. Instead, he focused on sketching and painting. Read the rest of this biography here.
His stunted physique earned him laughs and scorn, and kept him from experiencing many of the physical pleasures offered in Montmartre, a sorrow that he drowned in alcohol. At first it was beer and wine. Then brandy, whiskey, and the infamous absinthe found their ways into his life.
Art and alcohol were his only mistresses, and they were mistresses to which he devoted all of his time and energy. He was doing one or both almost every day of his life until he died.
"Of course one should not drink much, but often."
|THE singer Aristide Bruant (1851-1925) was the very embodiment of the Montmartre café-concert scene. Among the most combative of performers, he delighted his audiences with his insulting and domineering treatment of them.|
| Every woman who entered his club, Le Mirliton, was escorted in with an audience chorus, led by Bruant himself, of "O how pale she is." |
When the bourgeoisie came to spend money in his cabaret, he addressed them as "pigs" and worse. Bruant's songs celebrated the outlaw and the prostitute. He consciously sought out themes that would appeal to his audience, and support his carefully cultivated public image. Ever the self-promoter, the posters he commissioned and the songbooks he published helped establish his fame in his own time as well as posthumously.
Today we know Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec as the archetypical bohemian artist of the belle époque, the "beautiful era" in Paris in the last decade of the 19th Century. He helped usher in the new century, and died when the job was done.
Lautrec captured the spirit and emotion of the era in his posters and portraits. Although his handicap and his alcohol abuse kept him from enjoying some of life's pleasures, Lautrec clearly shared in the joie de vivre of the time.