Henri de Toulouse Lautrec
© 2004/5/6 Stuart A Nicholls
"Of all the music hall performers who inspired Lautrec, Yvette Guilbert exerted by far the greatest hold over him. He was completely fascinated by the style and atmosphere of her act. Lautrec first saw her in about 1892, she had revolutionized the whole atmosphere of the cafe concert by a totally new approach to the performance of a song. Standing almost still except for gestures of her long thin arms in black gloves, which she almost invariably wore, her face almost expressionless except for the twist of her lips, she sang songs with highly scandalous words and themes. The Paris audience was captivating and none more than Lautrec. He found the whole atmosphere of her act and personality magnetic. Over the years they became well known to each other and she inspired some of his finest lithographs, drawings and paintings"
Les Grands Concerts de l'Opera
"Seated on the right, Ambroise Thomas at a performance of his opera 'Françoise de Rimini'. In the foreground is Misia's hat (Misia Natanson, the wife of one of the famous Natanson brothers. This drawing was executed in 1896, with the title Les Grands Concerts, for the review Le Rire, which was directed by a friend of Lautrec's, the art critic Arsene Alexandre. Lautrec often used topical subjects for illustration, but only when they interested him in themselves "
Les Petits Levers
In this exquisite comical piece, entitled "Early Morning" Lautrec takes us into a bedroom, perhaps in one of his own well-frequented brothels, or to the apartment of some puritanical bureaucrat, he so loved to debase. We find a gentleman in bed, showing the effects of the previous nights frivolity, looking up at a woman, his mistress or a prostitute. Smiling she presents her bared breasts to him and asks, "What would you like for breakfast?" The implication is clear and the scene is Lautrec at his mischievous best.
Dans les Coulisses des Folies-Bergere
We see Mrs Lona Barrison with her manager and husband in the corridors of the Folies Bergere, executed for Le Rire. Mrs Barrison was an English equestrienne of considerable fame. Lautrec loved to focus his attention on horsemen or horsewomen as he considered them to be fellow artists.
The Folies Begere was not remembered for its horse riding acts. As Laura Gold explains, "When the most famous of Paris cabarets (The Folies Bergere) opened its doors in 1869, it presented variety programs including animal and circus acts, similar to American vaudevilles. It was not until later that its policy changed to concentrate on a line of showgirls presenting various dances in revealing costumes. This proved to be a far bigger attraction"
Chocolat dansant dans un bar
"The Irish and American Bar was described as an English bar where truly hardened drinkers would silently sit lost in contemplation of the bottles. The barman (seen standing to the left) Randolphe, was known as Ralph. A half-breed Chinese and American Indian born in San Francisco, he displayed Asiatic dexterity in mixing special cocktails. In the smoke and hubbub jockeys, trainers, grooms and horse dealers jostled with pompous coachmen whose employers would be dining at one of the smart restaurants nearby. The famous Negro clown called Chocolat (seen here dancing) was a devotee of this unpretentious smoky establishment. After his performance at the Nouveau Cirque, he would go there to quench his thirst with his partner (Footit). Occasionally Chocolat would dance… Lautrec was frequently the last client to leave the bar when closing-time came"
In this work by Lautrec simply titled "Skating" he gives us a look at the social, as well as the skating itself. From the gallery, a very distinguished monocled, gentleman in top hat, prepares his drink, as he surveys the scene. A blonde skater, with a striking profile and hat to match, holds the rail quite near to him. She seems to be looking past him. In the background we see a waiter move by with a full tray of drinks, as well a decked out lady skater clings to the rail while a man skates effortlessly by them all. A full array of elegant ladies and gentleman round out the gallery. Lautrec has effectively captured the movement, the atmosphere and romance of indoor ice-skating, a very popular pastime in Paris at the turn of the century
Aux Folies-Bergere, Brothers Marco
At the Folies Bergere, we have the Brothers Marco. A large incredible double-jointed clown stares down his little partner. An exceptional example of Lautrec's skill in rendering the human form in simple strong line. He adds only a slight hint of colour. He captures quite simply, the very essence of the performers during their act. One of his most striking submissions to "Le Rire."
"When the most famous of Paris cabarets (The Folies Bergere) opened its doors in 1869, it presented variety programs including animal and circus acts, similar to American vaudevilles. It was not until later that its policy changed to concentrate on a line of showgirls presenting various dances in revealing costumes. This proved to be a far bigger attraction"
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