But as David Sweetman, the noted biographer of Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin, shows in this definitive work, there was another Toulouse-Lautrec, a committed and concerned man who moved in a secret community of anarchist revolutionaries, whose work betrayed a deep concern for human suffering, an artist who etched his sympathy for fallen women and lesbians into his portraits, and who remained loyal to the disgraced Oscar Wilde when the poet was abandoned and reviled by most. Sweetman's enlightening study of Toulouse-Lautrec has uncovered a man whose alliance with radicals and outspoken social critics (such as Félix Fénéon) is implicit in his work.
Toulouse-Lautrec was also a man on the cutting edge of radical art. He helped design the sets for the play Ubu Rio, which, with its foul language and politically subversive imagery, stirred up a frenzy of public outrage and condemnation yet changed the course of theatrical history. Toulouse-Lautrec also created seminal works in the field of graphic art; his posters advertising performances and artistic events were often stolen from their public posting places and reappeared in the living rooms of middle-class homes, making his posters "the Trojan Horse of modern aesthetics."
Toulouse-Lautrec's seemingly endless capacity for debauched revelry and his larger-than-life persona are undeniable. Yet his art is as complex as he was, more varied and disturbing than it has been perceived in our century. Sweetman has introduced in Explosive Acts an altogether new way of looking at Toulouse-Lautrec, who, along with Oscar Wilde, Félix Fénéon, and their cross-Channel cohort of artists, theorists, and writers, was responding to many of the same social issues and political currents we now face at our own turn of the century.
Toulouse-Lautrec : A Life
(Julia Bloch Frey
Debauched aristocrat, cabaret painter, accidental dwarf: Julia Frey's definitive, superbly researched biography strips away the myth of Toulouse-Lautrec to reveal the tortured man beneath. A remarkable and compelling portrait, featuring 135 photos and illustrations. Julia Frey earned her Ph.D. from Yale University. An expert on 19th-century French literature and culture, she has taught at Yale, Brown, Sarah Lawrence, and the University of Colorado; she currently divides her time among New York, Boulder, and Paris. A Pen Award-winning writer, she is also the author of Writers and Puppets in Nineteenth-Century France. 600 pp 6 x 9 50 color & 85 b/w photos & illustrations