Jan 9th 2020

The World of Toulouse-Lautrec

by David Galenson

David W. Galenson is Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago; Academic Director of the Center for Creativity Economics at Universidad del CEMA, Buenos Aires; and a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research. His publications include Old Masters and Young Geniuses: The Two Life Cycles of Artistic Creativity (Princeton University Press, 2006) and Conceptual Revolutions in Twentieth-Century Art (Cambridge University Press and NBER, 2009).

At 17, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec declared that an artist should show “what is true, not what is ideal.” He devoted his talent to portraying the world of Montmartre’s cafés and cabarets in the 1880s and ‘90s.

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Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, At the Moulin Rouge, ca. 1892-93. Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

 

From childhood, Lautrec had a genius for representing people. He would rarely paint any other subject. When he looked at a person who caught his interest, not only their appearance, but seemingly also their personality would magically flow from his hand, fixing a moment of their life, and his, on a piece of cardboard or canvas.

True to his early credo, Lautrec did not glorify his subjects. He painted them as they went about their lives – sometimes performing, at other times sprawling exhausted on a chair, or simply lost in thought. No matter their status, he painted them honestly and with dignity.

Lautrec sometimes finished his paintings with care, but it is always apparent that he worked quickly, with sweeping contours and brushstrokes. The speed of his execution animated his drawings and paintings. His genius allowed him to capture a likeness with just a few strokes. But no matter how simple, his drawings never descended into caricature. His subjects might be engaged in carefree activities, but his images of them were always done with utmost seriousness: always the truth.

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Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Jane Avril at the Jardin de Paris, ca. 1893. Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

 

Lautrec’s intuitive understanding of personality made him a master of atmosphere. He brought the excitement and energy of Montmartre’s dance halls to life in the posters of the performers he loved watching – Yvette Guilbert, La Goulue, May Milton, and his favorite, Jane Avril. Always the realist, he painted these cabaret stars not as slender young ingénues, but as they were in fact, with beauty that came not from physical perfection, but from the skill and elegance with which they performed.

Toulouse-Lautrec created a vivid portrait of the world he knew. Walking through his current exhibition at Paris’ Grand Palais takes us into that world, allowing us to see it through his eyes. The experience is both intense and beautiful. Lautrec’s life was neither long nor happy, but in a span of less than two decades he made a body of work that will give pleasure to art lovers for centuries.

Link: https://www.grandpalais.fr/en/event/toulouse-lautrec

 

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May 23rd 2020
EXTRACT: "The aim of my research for the Understanding Unbelief programme was to investigate the worldviews of non-believers, since little is known about the diversity of these non-religious beliefs, and what psychological functions they serve. I wanted to explore the idea that while non-believers may not hold religious beliefs, they still hold distinct ontological, epistemological and ethical beliefs about reality, and the idea that these secular beliefs and worldviews provide the non-religious with equivalent sources of meaning, or similar coping mechanisms, as the supernatural beliefs of religious individuals."
May 22nd 2020
EXTRACT: "Psalm 91, for example, reassures believers that God will protect them from “the pestilence that walketh in darkness… A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee”.............Luther was a devout believer but insisted that religious faith had to be joined with practical, physical defences against sickness. It was a good Christian’s duty to work to keep themselves and others safe, rather than relying solely on the protection of God. "
May 22nd 2020
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May 5th 2020
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May 2nd 2020
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Apr 20th 2020
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Apr 16th 2020
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Apr 7th 2020
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Apr 5th 2020
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Mar 29th 2020
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Mar 23rd 2020
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Mar 21st 2020
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Mar 12th 2020
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Mar 12th 2020
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Feb 22nd 2020
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Feb 22nd 2020
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Feb 16th 2020
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