Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901)

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec was born in the south of France to an old and eccentric aristocratic family. His parents were first cousins, and two falls as a teenager aggravated a resulting genetic disorder, leaving him stunted at five foot tall (1. 52m).

In 1882, he moved to Paris, with his mother, to study art. Here he became friendly with several young artists, including Van Gogh and, later, Bonnard and Vuillard. In 1884, he set up a studio in the bohemian quarter of Montmartre where he lived for the rest of his short life, sketching in the many theatres, brothels, and cabarets of the area. His work sold well, and he often worked to commission on portraits, book illustrations and many posters. He produced a series of thirty posters (1891-1901), which had a great impact on the development of poster art.

He was a remarkably fluent draughtsman with an astonishing sense of decorative design. He developed distinctive techniques in each of the media that he tackled: painting with thinned paint on cardboard, and printing lithographs with bold, flat planes of colour. He produced a prodigious amount of work, but his dissolute lifestyle, together with the effects of alcoholism and syphilis, wore him down. He suffered a stroke and died at the age of thirty-six.

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