Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

The story of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec can very easily simply become the oft-told tale of this quirky artist who, for better or worse, became as one with his own art and circle of motifs. Read the biography and watch the film to get the full picture.


Director: Henric Wallmark & Merete Sanderhoff
Voice over: Pelle Kann
Producer: Henric Wallmark
Script: Merete Sanderhoff, Statens Museum for Kunst
Art Historical Research: Birgitte Anderberg, Vibeke Knudsen & Mette Houlberg, Statens Museum for Kunst
English subtitles: Scandinavian Text Service

Compliments of the New Year, 1897


1864 Henri Marie Raymond de Toulouse-Lautrec-Monfa is born into a French aristocratic family in Albi in the south of France.

1872 Spends time in Paris with his mother and meets the painter René Princeteau, who becomes Lautrec’s first teacher. The two artists form a friendship and stay in touch over the years.

1875-80 Lautrec suffers from poor health and also breaks both his thigh bones within the space of a few years. The breaks are presumably caused by a hereditary bone disease and further stunt his already slow rate of growth, meaning that he never grows taller than 152cm. He draws throughout the entire period – especially hunting scenes and animals, a circle of motifs inspired by his visits to his family’s castles and country estates.

1881 Graduates and begins earnestly planning a career as an artist. In Paris he frequents the studio of René Princeteau.

1882 Enrols at Léon Bonnat’s school of painting. Later that same year he changes to the studio of Fernand Cormon instead, remaining there until 1887.

1883 Sets up his own studio in Montmartre. Lives at the Hôtel Pérey, where his mother also stays when in Paris.

1884 Moves to Montmartre, where he frequents the entertainment scene with growing intensity.

1886 Exhibits works at the cabaret Le Mirliton, where he is a regular and a friend of the owner, the singer Aristide Bruant.

1887-89 Exhibits his work at several venues, e.g. at the Les Beaux–Arts in Toulouse, the Les XX exhibition in Brussels, and the Salon des Indépendants in Paris. Théo van Gogh, brother of Vincent van Gogh, buys several of his works for the Galerie Boussod et Valadon, and his drawings are published in a range of magazines and journals. From 1889 onwards Lautrec’s motifs hail mainly from the Parisian entertainment scene.

1891 Lautrec begins to do lithographic prints and is commissioned by Charles Zidler, manager of the Le Moulin Rouge dance hall, to create his first poster: Moulin Rouge, La Goulue. The poster makes Lautrec famous in all of Paris. After this point prints become an important vehicle for Lautrec, and his lithographs and paintings are frequently exhibited in France and abroad.
1892-94 Lautrec is very productive.  He creates drawings, lithographic series, and paintings depicting many of the famous stars of the time, among these Bruant, Jane Avril, and Marcelle Lender. Publishes the lithographic album Yvette Guilbert. Travels to London where he meets the writer Oscar Wilde and many others.

1895 Decorates a stand used to present the dancer La Goulue at the Le Trône market. Begins to be affected by his growing alcoholism.

1896 Lautrec creates the lithographic series Elles, an album of 11 prints depicting everyday life in a brothel.

1899 Alcoholism and syphilis breaks down Lautrec’s health and cause him to experience hallucinations. Is committed to a private clinic for nervous disorders for a while. During his time there he produces a number of drawings of circus motifs.

1901 Lautrec dies at his mother’s castle, Château de Malromé, at the age of 36.

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Updated: 26.apr.2018
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