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Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (French, 1864-1901)
Also known as: Henri Marie Raymond de Toulouse-Lautrec; Lautrec, Henri de ToulouseBirth Place: Albi (Tarn, Midi-Pyrénées, France)
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec was the firstborn child and son of an aristocratic family in the Midi-Pyrénées region of southern France. While destined for a life privilege, he was also the offspring of inbreeding—his parents being biological first cousins—making him predisposed to congenital health conditions.
At age thirteen, young Lautrec fractured his right thigh bone and, just a year later, his left. His bones never healed properly and ceased to grow, dramatically stunting his growth and leaving him physically unable to participate in activities typically enjoyed by young men his age. His unfortunate disability is what ultimately lured him to the bohemian lifestyle and haunts of writers, artists and avant-gardists that thrived in Paris, particularly the margin of society for whom he felt empathy as well as great fascination.
Lautrec’s career as an artist coincidentally overlapped with two major movements in Paris—the birth of modern printmaking and the explosion of nightlife culture—making the city a conducive environment for his creative development, as well as his growing alcoholism, self-deprecating wit and keen caricature’s eye. In fact, Lautrec’s personal circumstances, as well as the cultural and social happenings of his era, manifest so palpably in his work it’s almost as if he was destined to draw the sordid and dissolute out from the shadows and force the rest of society to acknowledge their beauty through his art. He did not exploit nor disguise the imperfections of his subjects but rather humanized their “flaws” by depicting them in such a way that revealed the sadness, as well as humor hidden beneath the rubbish and squalor of their louche lifestyle.
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