French Post-Impressionist Painter and Printmaker, 1864-1901
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, a direct descendant of the counts of Toulouse, was born on Nov. 24, 1864, at Albi. His eccentric father lived in provincial luxury, hunting with falcons and collecting exotic weapons. Henri began to draw at an early age. He suffered a fall in 1878 and broke one femur; in 1879 he fell again and broke the other one. His legs did not heal properly; his torso developed normally, but his legs were permanently deformed.
Encouraged by his first teachers, the animal painters Rene Princeteau and John Lewis Brown, Toulouse-Lautrec decided in 1882 to devote himself to painting, and that year he left for Paris. Enrolling at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, he entered the studio of Fernand Cormon. In 1884 Toulouse-Lautrec settled in Montmartre, where he stayed from then on, except for short visits to Spain, where he admired the works of El Greco and Diego Velazquez; Belgium; and England, where he visited Oscar Wilde and James McNeill Whistler. At one point Toulouse-Lautrec lived near Edgar Degas, whom he valued above all other contemporary artists and by whom he was influenced. From 1887 his studio was on the Rue Caulaincourt next to the Goupil printshop, where he could see examples of the Japanese prints of which he was so fond.
Toulouse-Lautrec habitually stayed out most of the night, frequenting the many entertainment spots about Montmartre, especially the Moulin Rouge cabaret, and he drank a great deal. His loose living caught up with him: he suffered a breakdown in 1899, and his mother had him committed to an asylum at Neuilly. He recovered and set to work again. He died on Sept. 9, 1901, at the family estate at Malrome.