Toulouse-Lautrec, Henri de (1864–1901) By Blakley, Kara
Few names are as synonymous with the freethinking associated with the French avant-garde as Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Born into an aristocratic family, Toulouse-Lautrec chose to spend much of his working life in bohemian Montmartre, which would influence his modernist artistic tendencies. Toulouse-Lautrec chose to reject the academic-style in which he was trained; favoring scenes of nightclubs and theaters to grand histories and mythology, he helped to expand the purview of painting beyond the limits of what was considered acceptable subject matter. Furthermore, Toulouse-Lautrec employed prominent lines, flattened surfaces and ghoulish colors, which would become the hallmarks of later modernist painters. Toulouse-Lautrec frequently worked in oils, watercolor, charcoal, pastel, ink and colored pencils, but was open to using any technique that allowed him to achieve his artistic goals. This openness allowed him to create not only paintings, but lithographs, posters and commercial prints, thus further expanding the media and methods available to avant-garde artists. Perhaps owing to the fact that he was ostracized from elite society because of his physical disabilities, extravagant self-characterizatio, and underclass acquaintances, Toulouse-Lautrec became masterful at depicting psychological authenticity and revealing innate social hypocrisies in bourgeois social practices. Although his career was cut short due to his untimely death, Toulouse-Lautrec helped provide the blueprints for later modernist painting.