While Lautrec was admitted to the clinic for nervous disorders in Neuilly in 1899 he returned to the circus theme, which was one of the first sub-scenes of the entertainment world to attract his fascination. He created a number of carefully finished drawings, presumably drawn from memory. The drawings are among the most detailed and most tightly composed works within Lautrec’s oeuvre, and they stand as one of the last groups of works created by the artist before his death.
Circus held a special attraction
Circus held a special attraction in Lautrec’s day. It was the single most popular form of entertainment and attracted the common people in large crowds. The avant-garde, too, were tantalised by the impressive technical feats performed in the spectacular and dangerous acts, as well as by the main act of the ring: The cruel modern clown.
Ever since his arrival in Paris Lautrec had been keenly interested in the circus, and when he was admitted to a clinic for nervous disorders in 1899 he returned to the theme in a remarkable series of drawings.
Composed, detailed and controlled compositions
Unlike Lautrec’s other works these drawings are not fleeting moments that have been captured and frozen. Quite the contrary: They are thoroughly composed, detailed, and controlled compositions – in terms of both form and content. Perhaps this is why they have the feel of more general statements in which the artists act as absurd interpretations of human existence.