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Henri de Toulouse Lautrec, The Court Painter of the Moulin Rouge

By Bea Aaronson

Born into an aristocratic and wealthy family, Toulouse Lautrec became one of the greatest post-impressionist painters. He was a powerful source of inspiration for future artists such as Picasso and Modigliani, as well as a forceful influence on art movements such as Fauvism and Expressionism.

Henri de Toulouse Lautrec, The Court Painter of the Moulin Rouge
Mon, Dec 12, 4pm
The Jewish Cultural Center of San Miguel
Calle de las Moras 47 (Corner of Cinco de Mayo)
150 pesos per person

Lautrec was born a weak child with congenital health conditions due to the “inbreeding tradition” within aristocratic families. He possessed the upper torso of a grown man and the legs of a child. It was not easy to live with this corporeal distortion. His biographers described him as ugly, with a thick nose, fleshy lips, and a beard that did not grow straight down but straight out. However, he was a giant of an artist and a wonderful human being who was compassionate and generous to a fault. What Lautrec yearned for was to be loved and to feel tenderness. He traded his privileged but stuffy aristocratic country estate life for the exciting and dangerous bohemian life of Montmartre in Paris.  It was here, in the company of artists, dancers, and the demi-monde of Parisian society that he found the unconditional love and tenderness he craved.

His odd appearance contrasted with his incredible ability to draw. His powerful caricaturist’s eye might be explained by his status as an outsider with a noticeable physical handicap. His nervous, febrile, and vibrating draftsmanship captured everything and anything: from horses and dogs, to dancers, acrobats, and cabaret singers. He gave life to all sorts of facial expressions and gesticulating energies!

His career lasted just over a decade and coincided with the two major developments in late nineteenth-century Paris that fueled Lautrec’s success: the birth of modern printmaking and the explosion of Parisian night life. The cabarets, dance halls, and brothels were his playground where he felt most at home. His artwork captured the characters and times of Montmartre in this La Belle Époque. He captured the essence of the Parisian demi-monde nightlife with its sultry, seedy air, rice powder, and gas lights! When the Moulin Rouge opened, Lautrec was commissioned to do an advertisement poster. Inspired by Japanese prints, he revolutionized and transcended graphic design from advertisement to the realm of art.

Remaining sensitive to his deformed looks and possible misadventures of amour, Lautrec drowned his sorrows in alcohol. His drinking escalated to absinthe, the highly alcoholic, anise-flavored spirit derived from botanicals. His alcoholism was combined with syphilis and his health deteriorated quickly. He suffered a stroke and at the age of 36 and returned as the prodigal son to the family estate to die. His paintings, lithographs, posters, and drawings inspired a rising generation of painters and continue to excite and challenge art lovers today.

Come and meet this eccentric, aristocratic, alcoholic man known as the “Samouraï of Montmartre” because of his infatuation with Japanese art. Taste and smell the legendary louche lifestyle in demi-monde Paris. But mainly come to gaze at his acidic color juxtapositions and iconic work. You are in for a treat! For reservations call (415) 185 9191 or e-mail at


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