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Toulouse-Lautrec e la pittura “à l’interieure”

Toulouse-Lautrec and painting "à l’interieure"

 

Blue blood

Count Henri-Marie-Raymond de Toulouse-Lautrec-Montfa he chose to be born in one of the numerous family palaces on November 24, 1864.

Henri's parents were Count Alphonse-Charles-Marie de Toulouse-Lautrec-Montfa and Countess Adèle-Zoë-Marie-Marquette Tapié de Céleyran; both belonged to a lineage that reigned in that region since 1100 and were first cousins between them.

Blue blood families, in fact, used to marry among blood relatives to maintain the purity of the "race". However, as we know, this can cause illness and little Henri, as we will see, will pay the price.

Life as an aristocrat

Father Alphonse dedicated his life to women, hunting, idleness and life in the open air. The mother was the exact opposite: pious, loving, bigoted and hypochondriac.

Although the marriage was only formal, little Henri lived an idyllic and comfortable childhood with his mother, between one castle and another, fondled by the many friends and relatives of the family.

In 1872 Henri was in Paris with his mother and some precious family friends, including the animalist painter René Princeteau, encouraging little Lautrec to devote himself to drawing.

In the family, art is so well regarded that Henri's grandmother says: "If my children catch a bird on the hunt, they derive three pleasures: shoot it, eat it and draw it".

 

Bad luck presents the bill

Unfortunately, at the age of 10, Henri's life changes completely, and for the worse. As already happened in the family, the child falls ill and is struck by a degenerative disease in the legs that causes him very severe pain.

The mother certainly does not lack the means to summon the best doctors in the world, but this crowding of treatments and solutions (sometimes questionable) are of little use.

Unable to go to school, her mother hires tutors and teachers to take care of Henri's education.

Immobile and convalescing for most of his time what does little Toulouse do? Draw and draw again. He can't do anything else.

 

Nobody objects

Ultimately the disease reduces him with the trunk of a man and the legs of a child for a total of 152 cm. Obviously he is prevented from all the activities of men of his class: no hunting, riding, weapons, etc. and therefore he devotes himself to art all the time.

Moreover, the family is not opposed to an artistic career, as we read in many biographies of painters, and when Toulouse Lautrec announces that he wants to devote himself exclusively to art, no one is opposed.

Considering his enormous economic possibilities, he was spoiled for choice and turned to the best painters of his time to refine his technique.

If a teacher, like Leon Bonnat, judges him to be of little value, Toulouse has no hesitation: he changes his teacher.

 

The star of Montmartre

Until, in 1884, he opened his own atelier.

Attention. The family owned dozens and dozens of buildings in the most luxurious and "good" places in Paris, but where does Henri open his studio?

In Montmartre near brothels and clubs of dubious reputation.

This is the environment he frequents and here he finds the subjects for his paintings.

The family is surprised and disappointed, but the only request is not to sign the paintings with the family name but to use a pseudonym.

Toulouse Lautrec, in that environment, was popular with everyone: prostitutes, bar singers, models because, while being witty and sarcastic, he was never at the expense of others.

His deformity did not prevent him from having an intense love affair and he collected sentimental adventures and fiery relationships.

The people of the night

This was Henri's most fruitful and productive period who, unlike the Impressionists who love to paint outdoors, dedicated himself to portraying "his world" made up of brothels, dances, cabarets and cafes.

His insatiable curiosity led him to practice lithography and graphics for printing. His first advertising posters and illustrations for the most prestigious magazines.

His psychological introspection is the greatest virtue of his great fresco of the people of the night.

 

Let's get hurt

Unfortunately, in addition to the burden of the disease, Toulouse Lautrec adds the disastrous effects of an excessively transgressive life. He falls ill with syphilis, is an alcoholic and begins to have alcoholic seizures and delirium tremens.

He enters and leaves sanatoriums and shelters, but the good intentions, once detoxified, last a few hours and start again. He was struck by a paresis in the legs and then by hemiplagia: by now he had little left. The last heir of the glorious noble family since the time of Charlemagne, he finally died at 2.15 am on 9 September 1901, assisted at the bedside by his desperate mother.

Fortune and disgrace met in Henri Toulouse Lautrec. Perhaps some of the cards that life had given him he could play better, but ultimately no one knows what the rules of the game of life are.

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