Toulouse-Lautrec, Henri de
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec was the most important fin-de-siècle printmaker.
This was acknowledged as early as 1898 by the writer André Mellerio, who surveyed the leading contemporary printmakers in his publication La Lithographie originale en couleurs.
Mellerio praised Lautrec’s unique representation of modern life, his incredibly strong visual language, and his brilliant mastery of the technique of colour lithography.
Prints as high art
Lautrec was able to raise the colour print and the lithographic poster to the level of ‘high art.’
His very first poster, Moulin rouge, was praised by Mellerio as the epitome of the modern fine-art print, with its large expanses of colour, expressive lines, and risqué subject matter.
Mellerio considered Lautrec’s prints to be even more important than his paintings. Lautrec evidently shared this view, as many of his paintings were done as studies for his graphic work.
Lautrec was the ultimate bohemian and the chronicler of night-life in cosmopolitan Paris.
He captured the atmosphere and entertainment offered in bars and dance-halls like Le Chat Noir and Le Moulin Rouge, and immortalised illustrious artists like Yvette Guilbert and Jane Avril in a powerful, caricatural style.
Lautrec threw himself into the wild night-life of Montmartre, with the inevitable consequences: he died at the age of 36 from the effects of alcoholism and syphilis.
André Mellerio, La Lithographie originale en couleurs, Paris 1898
Wolfgang Wittrock, Toulouse-Lautrec. The Complete Prints, London 1985
Richard Thomson et al., Toulouse-Lautrec, London 1991