Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec was born in Albi, France on November 24, 1864. He had a rare illness that caused him not to grow and because of this disease, his bones were weak. At age twelve Toulouse-Lautrec broke his left leg and at fourteen his right leg. The bones did not heal properly, and his legs stopped growing. As an adult he was slightly under five feet. His illness gave him a lot of free time, so by the time he was ten years old he had begun to draw and paint, recording all around him in his sketchbook.

Although he was the son and heir of Comte Alphonse-Charles de Toulouse, a very wealthy family, Henri’s father was not around much, but his mother was intensely proud of his achievements and encouraged him during his difficult times in life.

Henri continued to draw and when he was seventeen he took art classes where he met other artists, like Vincent Van Gogh, whom Henri later painted a portrait of in pastels.

Much of Toulouse-Lautrec’s work portrayed the dancers, performers and patrons of Paris nightlife that wanted to advertise their events. Henri liked painting pictures of theaters, dance halls, and circuses and was excellent at showing people's moods. Sometimes he would cut off people or things in surprising way to attract people to his artwork.

Henri made posters to advertise using a printing method called lithography. In his posters he didn’t put any shadows. He liked the Japanese art style and used the art principles in his posters. Sometimes he would even paint on cardboard because he liked the brown color for the background.

This artist was thought by many to be the greatest lithographer of all time, who’s posters were an over night sensation as wherever they appeared people would snatched them off the walls where they hung to take them home as art.

Unfortunately, Henri’s nightlife and drinking was too much for his health and at only age 37, on September 9, 1901 he passed away from a stroke at his parent’s state. He left behind more than 500 paintings, 350 lithographs and 5,000 drawings.

DIVAN JAPONAIS - This lithograph print was made in Paris in 1892 to advertise a special performance. 

The silhouette of a poised, well-dressed woman is situated in the center of the poster. Her black feathered hat crowns her orange-red hair, which contrast vividly with her ivory skin. The yellow color of her companion’s beard and hair is repeated in his cane, the chair, her small purse and the floodlights that brighten the woman on stage. Black diagonal streaks add a feeling of movement and action to the scene. 

Lautrec often incorporated the broad areas of contrasting colors that characterized Japanese prints. He developed a special spray technique that enabled him to produce an interesting range of textures that contrasted richly with the flat black and colored areas he often used. The silhouettes were usually yellow, orange and black and could be easily seen from quite a distance. 

The background was often left vague, or just suggested. Words and text were carefully designed to fit the general style of posters.



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