Down and Out with Toulouse Lautrec

Contemporary and Old Art Reviews

Down and Out with Toulouse Lautrec

Postby Featherblend » Sun Aug 14, 2011 2:53 pm

Jane Avril leaving the Moulin Rouge oil on cardboard 1892 Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford

She is downcast, depressed and hopeless. But she is surrounded by joyful energy and excitement. Full of contrasts the lone figure of Jane Avril dominates the street scene as she passes by possible visitors to the Moulin Rouge. Surrounded by a carpet of bright yellow sploges and swiped brushstrokes she is the most prominent point visible in her dark, deep blue long coat, skirt and hat. She is simultaneously alone and detached from her environment but also with us in this rare moment of contemplation and time out from performing as a dancer in the Moulin Rouge. We are sympathetic witnesses to her morose mood as the bright light of the near by street lamp reveals her soured face but also contrasts with her dark clothes. She is a totemic spectre in the scene. A series of downward sweeping brushstrokes describe her elongated yet elegant form.
The splashes of colour and dynamic brushstrokes create the contrast between the downbeat individual and the excitement of the urban environment. Toulouse-lautrec has economically distributed them so that the cardboard surface is still visible underneath. This sketchy, fast passed, haphazard seeming action painting creates a buzz or energy in the image. It captures the aura of the moment, and the energy of time and place frenetically. It is trying to reach for the real world, searching for truth. Like the Punk Rock ethos; come on have a go! This is how it is, now.

At the Moulin Rouge 1892 - 95 oil on canvas Art Institute of Chicago

Inside the Moulin Rouge we are amongst friends. Jane Avril is now sitting with her back to us with fellow dancers, frequenters and even Toulouse-Lautrec himself, preparing to leave in the background. The composition brings the characters together but there is still an atmosphere of detachment in the way the figures are treated separately. They are clustered together in groups rather than being in unity. The figure in the foreground gazing out at us seems to want to leave the main cluster of people and join us. She looks like a fish breaking the surface while coming up for air as the bright under lighting effect coming through on her face suggests they are inhabiting a shadowy canopy. A seedy back ally club with a sort of awkward atmosphere, no one looks at each other directly in the eye, except the foreground women who invites us in as if we are a customer. It seems like the sort of dead end establishment that low life characters dwell or unusual bohemian events take place. A surreal theatre, the gentleman to the right of Jane Avril looks mad with his optimistically raised eyebrow as opposed to the depressed figure to his right. The tiny figure of Toulouse-Lautrec walks next to the towering figure of his cousin Gabriel Tapie de Celeyran, little and large. And another sitter; the scandalous La Goulue (the Glutton) cavorts with her lover in the background.

La Gouloue entering the Moulin Rouge 1891-92 oil on cardboard The Museum of Modern Art, New York

Louise Weber (1870 - 1929), known as La Gouloue, was a symbol of Montmartre. She was a notorious performer and became a star at the Moulin Rouge. But she fell from grace with her gluttonous consumption of food and drink. Being too fat to perform at the Moulin Rouge she set up her own show but gradually dwindled into folklore. Toulouse-Lautrec has depicted her in her peak. Full of swagger and bravado, La Gouloue is escorted into the Moulin Rouge. The curvaceous forms of the interlinking arms, dress and sweeping brushstrokes of the skirt contrast with origami like folded ruffles of La Gouloue's dress.

Toulouse-Lautrec shitting on the beach "the last magnificent gesture of insolence"- Waldemar Januszczak

Toulouse-Lautrec captured the life and energy of Montmartre in its heyday. But he didn't just depict the excitement of the Moulin Rouge. He exposed the dark underbelly and the demoralized figures. He immortalized the sort of Montmatre legends like La Gouloue who became huge performing stars but who burned out into destitution and poverty. He also depicted another storytelling legend from Montmartre Aristide Bruant . And in the end his final gesture of being photographed shitting on a beach is final testament to how the figures he painted and Montmartre that he lived in will eventually end up, back to where they came from.
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Re: Down and Out with Toulouse Lautrec

Postby CAP » Tue Aug 16, 2011 2:52 am

Earlier post on T-L...
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