Explore the Astonishing Sketchbooks of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

 In Art & Gallery News, Artists & Special Collections, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
Untitled sketch, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, c. 1879-81

Untitled sketch, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, c. 1879-81

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec is one of the legendary artists of 19th-century Paris, famous for traversing the nightspots of the city’s Montmartre district, always with a sketchbook in hand.

He was a superb draftsman, able to capture the motion, emotion, and energy of Parisian society with just a few deft strokes of his pencil.

While today, Toulouse-Lautrec’s paintings hang in museums around the world, during his lifetime, he was most famous for his illustrations. The work that originally made him a Parisian celebrity was “Moulin Rouge: La Goulue,” his 1891 four-color lithograph that he designed as an advertising poster for the notorious Moulin Rouge nightclub.

“Moulin Rouge: La Goulue,” Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, 1891

“Moulin Rouge: La Goulue,” Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, 1891

The director of the club, Charles Zidler, commissioned the poster—which was the first poster and first lithograph the artist ever created—and it was an instant hit, forever linking Toulouse-Lautrec’s iconic art with the Moulin Rouge and the Parisian can-can.

You can see the early inspirations for Toulouse-Lautrec’s Moulin Rouge designs while glancing through the many sketchbooks he left behind.

"Cafe-Concert a Montmatre," Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, c. 1886

“Cafe-Concert a Montmatre,” Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, c. 1886

A large collection of original Toulouse-Lautrec sketches are currently on display at Park West Museum, the free-to-the-public museum sponsored by Park West Gallery and the Park West Foundation just outside of Detroit, Michigan.

The Park West Museum collection falls into two distinct groups. The first is a selection of untitled sketches taken from one of Toulouse-Lautrec’s personal sketchbooks, all captured in pencil and wax crayon. This album is documented in M.G. Dortu’s Toulouse-Lautrec et son oeuvre, New York, 1971, vol. IV.

Untitled sketch, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, c. 1878-80

Untitled sketch, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, c. 1878-80

 

Untitled sketch, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, c. 1878-80

Untitled sketch, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, c. 1878-80

The second group is known as Toulouse-Lautrec’s “Phylloxera” drawings.

In 1881, Toulouse-Lautrec visited his uncle, Amedee Tapie de Celeyran, who owned a large wine estate. The vineyard was suffering from an attack of phylloxera, an insect notorious for ravaging wine vines.

Amidst the chaos, Toulouse-Lautrec created a series of 77 ink drawings executed across 48 sheets, humorously documenting the time-consuming process of eradicating the phylloxera.

Submersion #33, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, 1881

Submersion #33, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, 1881

 

Submersion #16-17, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, 1881

Submersion #16-17, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, 1881

Structurally akin to a comic strip, these drawings were displayed in the 1991 exhibition “Toulouse” at the Hayward Gallery in London and the Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais in Paris.

Submersion #65, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, 1881

Submersion #65, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, 1881

Toulouse-Lautrec’s sketches of life in 19th-century France act as a magnificent time capsule of the era—full of life, energy, and personality—and capture history in a way no textbook ever could.

The sketchbooks of Toulouse-Lautrec will forever endure as an essential part of his artistic canon, acting as both the inspiration and building blocks for many of his world-famous oil paintings and watercolors.

 

You can view selections from Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s sketchbooks at Park West Museum. The free-to-the-public museum also featured select works from art world masters likes Pablo Picasso, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Albrecht Dürer, Rembrandt van Rijn, and more.

The Toulouse-Lautrec collection at Park West Museum.

The Toulouse-Lautrec collection at Park West Museum.

Click here for more information about visiting Park West Museum.

Park West Museum is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The gallery and museum are located at 29469 Northwestern Highway, Southfield, Michigan 48034.

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