Moved in 1884 Toulouse-Lautrec to a studio Montmartre who are home base ……….
forms the next thirteen years. He visits Le Chat Noir, the cabaret that was founded at the end of 1881 by the painter Rodolphe Salis on the site of his studio and was named after the story The Black Cat, by Edgar Allan Poe. Salis, instead of a bad painter, becomes a renowned comedian. Among his guests are Victor Hugo (1802-1885), Émile Zola (1840-1902), Alphonse Daudet (1840-1897) and others. His eponymous paper rises in importance above his cabaret, because it describes the life and striving of Montmartre, his landscapes, his criminals and his prostitutes. ‘Le Chat Noir’ is the result of the Paris of the last twenty years of the 19th century. A city that is buzzing with sounding names, a giant magnet to which the forces of all Europe are focused. Paris is the cradle of all possible spiritual movements.
In the nightlife of this city, Toulouse-Lautrec finds the freedom to paint what fascinates him: life itself, the people who interest him in an environment he knows. He paints in environments that only bloom in artificial light. This is completely in contrast to the principles of Impressionism at the time, in which the effects of light in the landscape are sought. Before that time his work is unusual and daring and the destruction is not small.
Especially in ‘Le Chat Noir’ and also in the ‘Boule Noir’ he finds the types of people who fascinate him. He observes the well-to-do gentlemen with the flower in the buttonhole, patent leather shoes with gaiters, light gloves and a walking stick with gold button, the skirt in the skirt, the inflated officers, the nobility of Western and Eastern Europe who live the frivolous life in the City of Light above their own capital prefer, the chalky ladies of light manners, the mistresses with their heavily applied eyes and lips, the prostitutes with their faded faces, showing off in tasteless, striking clothes, and the artists and artists with their elegant black ties and wide-brimmed black hats. Art and daily life seem to flow into each other effortlessly.
Through his introduction to Louis Anquetin (1861-1932) Toulouse-Lautrec is introduced to the circle of brilliant guests of ‘Le Mirliton’, the café-cabaret that the composer and singer Aristide Bruant opened in Montmartre in the old ‘Le Chat’ Noir ‘.
Vincent van Gogh came to Paris in the spring of 1886 and became friends with Toulouse-Lautrec. Both shared their intense love for life and their frustrations. Toulouse-Lautrec managed to stand up for his fate with his biting humor and ironic contempt, while Van Gogh brooding heavily on the tragedy of life. In 1887, Toulouse-Lautrec invented Vincent’s portrait: an expressive pastel of a man who sought death three years later.
Toulouse-Lautrec draws and paints the colorful world of artists and their audience. He feels at home in ‘Le Cirque Fernando’, also the beloved residence of Edgar Degas, Auguste Renoir and Georges Seurat (1859-1891). Other favorite places of residence of the painter are: the circus and later dance hall ‘Folies-Bergères’, the ballroom ‘Moulin de la Galette’ and the music hall ‘Moulin-Rouge’. He gets to know the ugly but fascinating ex-saleswoman Yvette Guilbert, the female clown ‘Cha-U-Kao’, the Spanish dancer ‘La Macarona’, the dancer ‘Môme Fromage’, the blonde girl of pleasure ‘La Goulue’ and the contortionist ‘Valentin le Désossé’ who leads the dances.
Artist – painter – poster designer
The first painting style of Toulouse-Lautrec is derived from the Impressionists. He used the decorative surface effect of Pissarro, created by his brushwork of parallel lines and keys. This method of painting, customary in the years 1885 to 1890, was later replaced by a freer, more open technique with smooth, graphically defined uniform areas of color. Toulouse-Lautrec frequently changes his brushstroke: dots, short lines and zigzag stripes, this to create a decorative equivalent for various surface structures, as Van Gogh did in his pen drawings, but less naturalistic.
Toulouse-Lautrec was also influenced by the techniques, styles and subjects of Degas, a nearby neighbor from 1887 to 1891. The painter Degas, who first encouraged Toulouse-Lautrec but later reviled him, painted his dancers around the form. Toulouse-Lautrec, on the other hand, added the characteristic of such a dancer to the form and introduced people’s knowledge. When he put down the dancer, he also saw her little joys, her fatigue and the meager wages. Thus the art of Toulouse-Lautrec is more immediately accessible than the intellectual style of Degas. Like Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec experiments with turpentine painting, also called ‘peinture à l’essence’. Degas’s method consists of drawing oil out of the paint on blotter paper. The lime-like paint is then diluted with turpentine and applied to the surface of the paintings, such as a watercolor. Because the turpentine evaporates quickly, the paint dries quickly so that the painted surface can be quickly reprocessed and built up without much delay. In contrast to the paint applied in thin layers and glassy, this technique leads to matt colors with a calcareous surface that is only thin and little colored. Like Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec prefers dark, dull ground colors instead of pure clear tones. These colors are suitable for the nighttime interior lighting which, like Degas, is so often portrayed. Toulouse-Lautrec also experiments with the dulling effect of non-primed canvas and with the use of unusual surfaces such as brown cardboard.
Even more than a neo-impressionist, Toulouse-Lautrec is a foretaste of expressionism and Art Nouveau, art nouveau of the 20th century. The mostly vertical, thin paint strips draw dramatic figures – tragic or tragicomic – against the wearer. Toulouse-Lautrec draws more than he wipes with his brush, rather than the key brings the line of vibration and life in his paintings. As he begins to live more intensely, including in Montmartre, the importance of the expression increases and the impression is subordinated to it. The brown, rough and speckled of a carrier such as cardboard he uses efficiently in his composition.
With a minimum of stripes he achieves a maximum dramatic effect, as in ‘Seule’, a woman who has fallen down on a bed dressed. The modernity of this work and technology hardly belong to the 19th century.
In ‘La femme au boa noir’ there is the foreshadowing of Egon Schiele who becomes active decades later. Partly due to Toulouse-Lautrecs stature, he often looks down from below to his subjects, making the light and focus very personal, as can be noticed at the accentuated nostrils and the angle of view on the face of the woman. Color and light use and composition show a certainty that can only be found much later in Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Edvard Munch and Léon Spilliaert, among others. This oeuvre moves between Manet and future expressionism.
Toulouse-Lautrec’s drawings summarize the essential characteristics of his subjects and add as many details as necessary to capture the important elements of the personality or the environment. Clothing and physiognomy are only indicated with specific traits and strokes. This ability to caricature is an important element of his style and was also necessary for his lithographic work.
The Parisian bourgeoisie had already been ruthlessly put down by the spotter Honoré Daumier (1808-1879). Toulouse-Lautrec paints and lithographs the same bourgeoisie but without Daumier’s bitter scorn. His grips from the daily life of the Parisians were journalistic-objective. Toulouse-Lautrec, nobleman of the blood, despised the advantages of the aristocratic caste. For him, the aristocracy was not a matter of birth or money but a matter of personality. The caricaturist in him never slept. He threw himself on the monstrous, the ridiculous.
In the posters that he began to make in 1890, visual simplicity and direct impact were necessary, both for the technique and for the commercial function of the image. His experiments with color lithography made this one of the most important art forms of the 19th century. Toulouse-Lautrec has refined the lithography as an art form and has technically improved it. Up to five stones were needed to print his color lithographs. These were not merely posters, but rather independent works of art in which not only the red light district but also other subjects were discussed such as cycling, motor sport, theater, books and magazines.
With his poster ‘La Goulue’ for the ‘Moulin-Rouge’ in 1891 he garnered such a great success that his name as a poster designer was made. Toulouse-Lautrec had a different approach, technically, intellectually and emotionally, than other artists of his time. The sensitivity, obtained by precision in color use and line formation, retains the capacity to move aesthetically and to generate social agility.