All artists are shaped by their background and experience in life. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec came from an aristocratic family and was fascinated by theatres and Parisian dance halls. In early teens Henri broke his legs which lead to a deformity in his physical structure. This unfortunate experience controlled his art forms to a great degree. His love of painting equestrian objects reflects his passion for riding, of which, in reality, he was unable to do. When he paints a horse-drawn carriage the thoroughbreds and their vibrant beauty becomes alive on the canvas. Since he would be ridiculed for his physical deformity to a certain degree, he preferred to spend time in company of the eccentric and other depraved human beings, where his deformity would go unnoticed. His outlook of life was pessimistic to a certain degree. He took refuge in alcohol as he would take refuge in human degradation. His paintings would depict life not only in its stark reality, but also his keen observation of human character. Lautrec’s work is characterised by highly individual interpretation of forms. One may even call him a graphic artist. His lines are bold, expressive and restless and bring out the emotional intensity of his subjects. Toulouse-Lautrec was influenced by Degas in the sense that dance-halls and dancers were attractive to both. However, while Degas concentrates on perfecting small details, Luatrec sees life on a much grander scale. He understands that a crowd may assume a complete different personality. than the men and women who make it up. Placing anonymous models in the foreground he would sum up the character of his compositions. His most famous paintings include the series on Moulin Rouge and one of its important can-can dancers Jane Avril. Toulouse-Lautrec is also well known for the posters he made to advertise dance or musical performances in cafes and theatres. He would outline his figures but only color the images partially to draw attention. Sometimes he would draw caricatures of famous dancers like Jane Avril to make the posters more attractive. In his posters and lithographs broad flat colors and graphic outlines were influenced by Gauguin’s style. Lautrec died young, at the age of thirty-seven, a pessimist already notorious for his portrayal of human degradations. Gauguin, on the other hand, was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth and started working as a stockbroker. Only later he turned to a full-time artist. He was a friend of Pissaro and had
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