Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec was born in the South of France.
He was born with an incurable bone disease, which resulted in his growing to only slightly over four feet tall in adulthood. He was not considered a midget however, as his torso was of normal size, but his legs remained that of a child.
Henri spent most of his young life confined to bed. He was not able to keep up with his father and the other men in their hunting adventures. To pass the time, he frequently would work on sketching and other pieces of art. Happily he had an uncle that encouraged and helped him to improve his technique in the early years. He seems to have really needed this attention and thrived on the positive feedback his drawings received. His parents therefore, were not overly surprised when at age 18 he announced he was going to Paris to study art.
Though impressionism was the popular technique at the time, Henri developed his own style. Long, bold brush strokes and defined lines gave his work a fresh appeal that would catch the eye of a popular club owner in France.
If you suggested to a patron at one of the clubs or brothels Henri produced most of his sketches in that he was a descendent of a bloodline that could be traced to the noble Charlemagne; that he was a count, one who stood to inherit one of the biggest fortunes in the south of France, they would surely have laughed at you. His clothing, demeanor and alcohol intake certainly was not telling of his aristocratic lineage. Behind the outward appearance laid an artistic genius, whose work would be instantly recognizable from its conception to now.
The Moulin Rouge was an epicenter for seeing and being seen. The club's name means "Red Mill" in French, and the building itself was a sight to behold. It attracted patrons from all over the world. Its owner, having already purchased a few small pieces of Henri's work before, commissioned Toulouse-Lautrec to create a poster design for the club.
Knowing that this was an opportunity of a lifetime, Henri set to work. Sitting at a table night after night, new customers would stare at the small man scribbling furiously in his sketchbook. Drinking and sketching (and drinking some more); No matter how much he drank (and he drank a lot) he would be focused and intent on his sketches. When complete, it would become a famous work and cement his reputation as the founder of poster design.
(I don’t know about you, but after I started looking at these works, I was hooked and ready to book MY flight to the Moulin Rouge, which, I suppose was the point.)
Sadly, Henri died at a young age, cheating the world of what may have been many more beautiful images. His great works are known throughout the world however, and he is regarded as the His lifestyle of drinking and ill health caught up with him and he died with his family at his bedside at the young age of 36.
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