This is part 3 of a 4-part post on the life and works of Henri Toulouse-Lautrec. For biographical notes and paintings see parts 1 and 2 also.
Toulouse-Lautrec’s artistic reputation was secured in the 1890s with the wide dissemination of more than 350 lithographic prints in the form of advertising posters and illustrations for books, newspapers and reviews. The technique assumed an importance in his oeuvre equal to painting, and he relished its spontaneity. Experimenting widely with tones and textures, and developing a distinctive yet subtle handling of colour, Lautrec revolutionised the process of lithography, becoming one of the greatest exponents of the art.
Lithographs, literally, ‘stone drawings,’ are based on the principle that water and oil repel one another. To create a lithographic print, the artist draws on a hard, flat surface – usually limestone – with an oil-based material such as lithographic crayon, which is then chemically ‘fixed.’ Next, the stone is washed with water, which covers the blank areas but is repelled from the image. The greasy printing ink is rolled over the stone, adhering only to the image, while the ink is repelled by the blank wet areas. Finally, paper is laid on the surface and pressure is applied to create the lithographic print, which is a mirror image of the original drawing. Colour lithographs simply repeat this process with multiple stones, each dedicated to a different colour.
|1891 Moulin Rouge - La Goulue
Lautrec’s first lithograph, Moulin Rouge: La Goulue, used four separate stones and inks: black, yellow, red, and blue. Additional colours were created by the layering of these colours, as may be seen in the purplish tones of the foreground figure, and the greenish hues seen on the floorboards. Lautrec also used the technique known as crachis (spatter), which creates mists of color, similar to the effects of airbrushing. This effect may be achieved by either shaking a brush over a sieve, or by running a knife along the edge of a brush to cause the paint to spray. Lautrec’s poster uses three separate sheets of paper to create an image that is almost two meters high and over a meter wide, dwarfing the size of traditional posters of the period and adding to the advertisement’s bold tones and graphic style.
|1895 The Irish American Bar, Rue Royale, Paris
The Irish American bar in the Rue Royale in Paris was a favourite haunt for the English and Irish jockeys and trainers, and the coachmen, who lived in Paris at this time. It was also frequented by music-hall artistes like Footit and Chocolat. Perhaps one of its most famous, or infamous, clients was Tom the florid coachman to the Rothschilds. Tom was a favourite subject for Lautrec, not least because he always managed to appear even more aristocratic and supercilious than his employers.
|1899 Le Jockey
This was one of Toulouse-Lautrec's last lithographs. The publisher Pierrefort intended to issue a portfolio with a racing theme, but Toulouse-Lautrec was suffering acute alcoholic collapse at this time and this was the only print of the set that was completed. Three further works from the proposed series survive, but only one of these approaches a finished state. The Jockey was issued in two editions, first as a monochrome lithograph, and secondly in a colour version with the addition of five new colour stones.
|1892 At the Moulin Rouge, La Goulue and her Sister
|1892 The Englishman at the Moulin Rouge
|1893 A la Gaieté Rochechouart, Nicolle
|1893 Antoine et Gemier, Danse une Faillite
|1893 Ducarre aux Ambassadeurs
|1893 Un Redoute Au Moulin Rouge
|1894 Brandés et Leloir, Dans Cabotins
|1894 La Tige - Moulin Rouge
|1895 Cecy Loftus
|1895 Mademoiselle Marcelle Lender en buste
|1895 Lender et Auguez, dans la Chanson de Fortunio
|1895 Yahne dans sa loge
|1895 Zimmerman et sa Machine
|1896 Femme en Corset, Conquête de Passage
|1897 La Charrette Anglaise
|1897 Elsa La Viennoise
|1898 Yvette Guilbert - Menilmontant