Toulouse- Lautrec was a post impressionist artist who worked during the 1890s “Belle Epoque” in France. He was one of the pioneers of the modern poster. Using the relatively new process of colour lithography – he showed the artistic potential of the medium. His first poster, Moulin Rouge, elevated the status of the poster to fine art.
Also described as an alcoholic, acerbic dwarf, his short bright career lasted just over a decade.
“There always have been two Toulouse-Lautrecs. His posters glamourise sex and the city. They do it well. But the real greatness of his art is elsewhere, in his unvarnished, rough and tender portrayals of the true nature of the demi-monde he inhabited. Wild, savage dances, raw desire, aching loneliness and fragile intimacy make this other, less famous side of Toulouse-Lautrec far more significant”. The Guardian
“I have tried to do what is true and not ideal.”
Toulouse-Lautrec generally chose a limited palette of four or five colours for his posters. His most employed colours included curry yellow, olive brown and vermilion. One of his preferred ways to apply ink was a technique called ‘crachis’ (‘spit’ in French) which involved either shaking a brush over a sieve or running a knife along the edge of a brush to create a sprinkled/airbrushed effect.
The style and content of Lautrec’s posters were heavily influenced by Japanese ukiyo-e prints. Areas of flat color bound by strong outlines, silhouettes, cropped compositions, and sharp angles are typical of woodblock prints by artists like Katsushika Hokusai and Ando Hiroshige. His focus on individual performers is very similar to the depictions of famous actors, actresses, and courtesans from the so-called “floating world” of Edo-period Japan.