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Toulouse-Lautrec: A Life
     

Toulouse-Lautrec: A Life

by Julia Frey
 

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Part Two Of Two Parts

The bohemian life forever fascinates. What more colorful character could conventional folk follow into this underground world than Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec? A dwarf in stature, he lives as a mythological figure in our minds.

A debauched aristocrat and a cabaret painter, Lautrec was a tortured man. Family letters and insiders' anecdotes

Overview

Part Two Of Two Parts

The bohemian life forever fascinates. What more colorful character could conventional folk follow into this underground world than Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec? A dwarf in stature, he lives as a mythological figure in our minds.

A debauched aristocrat and a cabaret painter, Lautrec was a tortured man. Family letters and insiders' anecdotes reveal how his free-spirited life fostered and eventually destroyed his astonishing discipline as a brilliant artist. Lautrec self-destructed. He died at 36, probably from a combination of drinking and syphilis. But he had immortalized the world of dancers, clowns, cabaret performers, pimps and prostitutes of fin de siecle Paris.

"Lautrec emerges as a man absolutely of his time, an odd-shaped peg snugly fitting an odd-shaped hole that history might as well have designed for him." (Los Angeles Times)

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
``I expect to burn myself out by the time I'm forty,'' vowed Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901), whose alcoholism, sexual debauchery with prostitutes and probable syphilis led to his death in 1901 at age 36. In the fullest portrait of the great French artist to date (superbly illustrated with 84 photographs and 50 color plates), Frey traces Toulouse-Lautrec's self-destructiveness to psychic pain resulting from congenital dwarfism and the conflicts of his parents-first cousins from a wealthy, aristocratic, inbred family-who used him as a pawn in their endless power struggle. The combination of a pious, overprotective, controlling mother and a grandiose, anti-clerical, manic-depressive father produced an ambivalent son who sought refuge in art. In oils, lithographs and posters, Lautrec penetrated people's masks and exposed undercurrents of despair, poverty and exploitation beneath the Belle Epoque's superficial gaiety. Drawing on hundreds of previously untapped letters and family documents, Frey, who teaches art and literature at the University of Colorado, has produced a vivid, engrossing, often astonishing biography that delves into Toulouse-Lautrec's obsession with gems and hygiene, his mania for publicity, his love-hate relationship with his mother and troubled relations with other women. (Dec.)
Library Journal
In this readable biography of French painter and poster artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901), which draws on primary sources and family letters, the focus is on biography rather than art criticism. Toulouse-Lautrec, best known for his posters in Art Nouveau style of cabaret performers, was of aristocratic stock; neither of his parents comes off well, and the author casts his life as a reaction to both abandonment by a manic-depressive father and domination by a rigidly pious mother. This psychological approach works well on the personal level. Frey (Univ. of Colorado, Boulder), who has studied the artist for a decade, has a solid command of the literature, though her style can be overly familiar at times. Recommended for general collections. (Notes and color plates not seen.)-Jack Perry Brown, Art Inst. of Chicago Lib.
Donna Seaman
If Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901) had been born healthy, he would have been a count, but his parents were first cousins--not the only such couple in the family--and their folly led to the genetic malady that caused him so much pain and suffering. A good-natured child in spite of his chronic illnesses and deformity, Toulouse-Lautrec channeled his considerable energy into drawing and painting. At first his parents, a most incompatible pair, were pleased, but once Toulouse-Lautrec was on his own in Paris, living the bohemian life and painting scandalous pictures of cabaret and brothel life, they were mortified, a conflict still raging on the day of his tragic death. Frey, trained as an artist, and with a doctorate in French, is the ideal biographer for Toulouse-Lautrec. As she chronicles his transformation from a pampered invalid into one of the most radical of the fin de siecle artists, Frey expresses a lively and compassionate interest in his complex psyche, and focuses on how he coped with his deformity. Frey also discusses Toulouse-Lautrec's profound ambivalence toward women and his artistic innovations and achievements. Her sensitive, eloquent, and richly illustrated biography has brought the real Toulouse-Lautrec out from behind the scrim of myth and such indelible images as Moulin Rouge, La Goulue" for the first time, and he is absolutely fascinating.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780670808441
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
12/28/1994
Pages:
608
Product dimensions:
6.45(w) x 9.55(h) x 1.96(d)

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