Biography

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901)

Born into a wealthy, aristocratic family in 1864, Toulouse-Lautrec's full name was Henri-Marie-Raymond de Toulouse-Lautrec Montfa. He was only 4ft 11ins (1.5 metres) tall because of a genetic disorder and to two accidents in which he broke both his legs. Artistically gifted, he lived in Paris from 1884 until his death from alcohol abuse in 1901.

After studying with two French Academy artists Toulouse-Lautrec developed his own unique style. He frequented a district called Montmartre famous for its bars, cafés and music-halls, drawing whatever he saw. In the process he created a celebrated record of the people who lived and worked there. Lautrec eagerly embraced the lifestyle of a young bohemian artist of the Belle Epoque. By day he would haunt the galleries and museums and by night he frequented the dancehalls, the Moulin Rouge being his favourite and which he immortalized countless times in his work.

Cultivating a wide network of publishers and printmakers, Toulouse-Lautrec held several exhibitions in Paris and London. His works, particularly his prints and posters, remain extremely popular. They seem to capture a specific moment in late nineteenth-century Paris, colourful, energetic and creative yet also anxious with an atmosphere of underlying danger and uncertainty as Europe looked nervously towards the next century.

Although Lautrec's last years were plagued by alcoholic excess, this remarkable artist has left behind a body of work full of insight, wit and above all astonishing technical and artistic virtuosity.