Henri de Tououse-Lautrec 1864-1901

Ruth Philbrick, 1953

All of Toulouse-Lautrec’s prints, these lithographs as well as his few etchings and monotypes, were made between 1892 and his death. During these ten years he produced 368 prints, 27 of which Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Randall Shapiro have graciously loaned for this exhibition.

The earliest one exhibited, no. 14, dates 1893, shows a dancer, Jane Avril, studying a proof in a print shop. As though to join the beginning to the end, she is also the subject of the latest lithograph shown, no. 2, dated 1900, which portrays her dancing. The former is an album cover; the latter an advertising poster.

These are only two of the uses to which Lautrec put his prints. Others were menus, illustrations (no. 23), invitations, song covers, greeting cards, and magazine covers. The Ault E. Wiborg Co., an American ink firm, used “Au Concert” (no. 7), for example, to advertise its products. As in many of his prints, the two figures, Madame Missia Natanson and Dr. Tapie de Celeyram, were friends of the artist. Almost all of his prints portray people, and they are easily identified whether they are labeled or not.

Lautrec’s works are revelations of these friends rather than caricatures. He seldom drew a face alone. There is generally a gesture, a setting, or a costume which further exemplifies the personality of the sitter. Actors (no. 22), dancers (no. 7), singers (nos. 10, 25, and 27), entertainers of all kinds (no. 23) as well as friends (no. 4) are represented. Even in cases where we no longer know who is pictured, as in the album, Elles, 1896, (nos. 5, 16-19), there is no doubt they were known when the work appeared.

Toulouse-Lautrec not only greatly advanced the use of quality prints in advertising; he also revived interest in lithography. During the mid- 19th century the process had fallen into use primarily for reproductive purposed, but because the artist found it an ideal medium for his drawing technique he made lithography again an acceptable print medium.