- Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
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Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

Born into a rich family (his father was descended from the semiroyal counts of Toulouse), he was a very sickly child, and his future was altered after he broke both legs - in two separate accidents. The bones never healed properly and eventually stopped growing, leaving Lautrec deformed in adulthood, with a normal-sized torso and abnormally shortened legs - he stood a mere four and a half feet tall. Daunted by his image, Lautrec threw himself into art, became a heavy drinker, and compensated for his appearance with an engaging personality.

Having studied academic art in Paris, Toulouse-Lautrec came into his own as an artist during his nocturnal visits to both the fashionable nightclubs of Montmartre and the brothels of Paris. In both settings, Lautrec deftly captured mood and gestures with his quick charcoal sketches, which he later taped to his studio walls as reference for larger paintings.

In the late 1890s Lautrec's excessive drinking began to catch up with him and his work began to deteriorate. By 1899 the artist suffered a complete mental breakdown and was confined to a sanatorium for a time; he suffered a second breakdown and died at the age of thirty-seven.

Today, Toulouse-Latrec's work is celebrated not just for its bon vivance, but for its historic value as an accurate documentation of his generation.

contributed by Gifford, Katya


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