Jules RENARD | Histoires naturelles [Natural history]

Jules RENARD
author  

Henri de TOULOUSE-LAUTREC
artist France 1864 – 1901

Histoires naturelles [Natural history] 1897 planographic , a book of one lithographic cover and 22 lithographs in block
32.0 (h) x 23.0 (w) cm , edition 100
Reference: Wittrock 202-224 National Gallery of Australia, Canberra NGA 1981.1652 Purchased 1980

As an artist whose childhood was filled with numerous animals, Lautrec was delighted at the opportunity to illustrate Jules Renard’s Histoires naturelles [Natural history], a group of prose poems and short verses published in Paris in 1899 by Henri Floury. In one of the most beautiful bestiaries ever created, Lautrec’s parade of 22 creatures provides an intimate glimpse into the animal kingdom. From the humble to the majestic, the true spirit of each animal is drawn with exquisite line and sensitivity of touch that is uniquely Lautrec.

The artist’s care and attention to the composition of his drawings is masterful. Incorporating the printed name of the animal within the page design, and often pairing or grouping them so as to depict each in a variety of poses, Lautrec uses such visual devices to add both movement and energy to his illustrations. Throughout the book the viewer encounters creatures depicted in an assortment of settings, including the garden, the barn, the field, the pond and the woods.

Beginning with Coqs [Cocks], two roosters are shown, one front and centre revealing a fanciful treatment of tail feathers – humorously likened to the plumes worn by the dancers at Lautrec’s café-concerts – and the other in silhouette strutting across a brick wall horizon, with wings lifted and chest puffed out in preparation for his dawn crowing call. L’Escargot [Snail] is depicted slowly stretching its antennae in what appears to be a laborious effort to slide across the composition; the tiny La Souris [Mouse] momentarily crouches mid dash; and in Le Cygne [Swan] two majestic swans glide across a pond, one craning its long sinuous neck and checking its reflection in a posturing that recalls Lautrec’s treatment of the starlet Yvette Guilbert and her signature gloved arms. In fact, many of the human subjects that frequent Lautrec’s scenes of Parisian night-life have distinct animalistic features, and in drawing these comparisons the artist reveals his interest in the connections between the humanand animal worlds.

Le Crapaud [Toad] is of special interest for Lautrec, as he had been given a toad by the Symbolist writer Auguste Villiers de l’Isle-Adam, which he kept as a pet until it escaped. Renard’s accompanying text is equally delightful, with a humorous focus on the physical characteristics of the creature:

My poor fellow I have no desire to distress you, but, dear God, how ugly you are! ... He opened his mouth, infantile, toothless and warm-breathed, and replied with a slight English accent: ‘And you?’[1]

JB

 

[1] Richard Thompson, Claire Frèches-Thory, Anne Roquebert and Danièle Devynck, Toulouse-Lautrec, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1991, p. 391.

As an artist whose childhood was filled with numerous animals, Lautrec was delighted at the opportunity to illustrate Jules Renard’s Histoires naturelles [Natural history], a group of prose poems and short verses published in Paris in 1899 by Henri Floury. In one of the most beautiful bestiaries ever created, Lautrec’s parade of 22 creatures provides an intimate glimpse into the animal kingdom. From the humble to the majestic, the true spirit of each animal is drawn with exquisite line and sensitivity of touch that is uniquely Lautrec.

The artist’s care and attention to the composition of his drawings is masterful. Incorporating the printed name of the animal within the page design, and often pairing or grouping them so as to depict each in a variety of poses, Lautrec uses such visual devices to add both movement and energy to his illustrations. Throughout the book the viewer encounters creatures depicted in an assortment of settings, including the garden, the barn, the field, the pond and the woods.

Beginning with Coqs [Cocks], two roosters are shown, one front and centre revealing a fanciful treatment of tail feathers – humorously likened to the plumes worn by the dancers at Lautrec’s café-concerts – and the other in silhouette strutting across a brick wall horizon, with wings lifted and chest puffed out in preparation for his dawn crowing call. L’Escargot [Snail] is depicted slowly stretching its antennae in what appears to be a laborious effort to slide across the composition; the tiny La Souris [Mouse] momentarily crouches mid dash; and in Le Cygne [Swan] two majestic swans glide across a pond, one craning its long sinuous neck and checking its reflection in a posturing that recalls Lautrec’s treatment of the starlet Yvette Guilbert and her signature gloved arms. In fact, many of the human subjects that frequent Lautrec’s scenes of Parisian night-life have distinct animalistic features, and in drawing these comparisons the artist reveals his interest in the connections between the humanand animal worlds.

Le Crapaud [Toad] is of special interest for Lautrec, as he had been given a toad by the Symbolist writer Auguste Villiers de l’Isle-Adam, which he kept as a pet until it escaped. Renard’s accompanying text is equally delightful, with a humorous focus on the physical characteristics of the creature:

My poor fellow I have no desire to distress you, but, dear God, how ugly you are! ... He opened his mouth, infantile, toothless and warm-breathed, and replied with a slight English accent: ‘And you?’[1]

JB

 

[1] Richard Thompson, Claire Frèches-Thory, Anne Roquebert and Danièle Devynck, Toulouse-Lautrec, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1991, p. 391.

As an artist whose childhood was filled with numerous animals, Lautrec was delighted at the opportunity to illustrate Jules Renard’s Histoires naturelles [Natural history], a group of prose poems and short verses published in Paris in 1899 by Henri Floury. In one of the most beautiful bestiaries ever created, Lautrec’s parade of 22 creatures provides an intimate glimpse into the animal kingdom. From the humble to the majestic, the true spirit of each animal is drawn with exquisite line and sensitivity of touch that is uniquely Lautrec.

The artist’s care and attention to the composition of his drawings is masterful. Incorporating the printed name of the animal within the page design, and often pairing or grouping them so as to depict each in a variety of poses, Lautrec uses such visual devices to add both movement and energy to his illustrations. Throughout the book the viewer encounters creatures depicted in an assortment of settings, including the garden, the barn, the field, the pond and the woods.

Beginning with Coqs [Cocks], two roosters are shown, one front and centre revealing a fanciful treatment of tail feathers – humorously likened to the plumes worn by the dancers at Lautrec’s café-concerts – and the other in silhouette strutting across a brick wall horizon, with wings lifted and chest puffed out in preparation for his dawn crowing call. L’Escargot [Snail] is depicted slowly stretching its antennae in what appears to be a laborious effort to slide across the composition; the tiny La Souris [Mouse] momentarily crouches mid dash; and in Le Cygne [Swan] two majestic swans glide across a pond, one craning its long sinuous neck and checking its reflection in a posturing that recalls Lautrec’s treatment of the starlet Yvette Guilbert and her signature gloved arms. In fact, many of the human subjects that frequent Lautrec’s scenes of Parisian night-life have distinct animalistic features, and in drawing these comparisons the artist reveals his interest in the connections between the humanand animal worlds.

Le Crapaud [Toad] is of special interest for Lautrec, as he had been given a toad by the Symbolist writer Auguste Villiers de l’Isle-Adam, which he kept as a pet until it escaped. Renard’s accompanying text is equally delightful, with a humorous focus on the physical characteristics of the creature:

My poor fellow I have no desire to distress you, but, dear God, how ugly you are! ... He opened his mouth, infantile, toothless and warm-breathed, and replied with a slight English accent: ‘And you?’[1]

JB

 

[1] Richard Thompson, Claire Frèches-Thory, Anne Roquebert and Danièle Devynck, Toulouse-Lautrec, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1991, p. 391.



Image detail: Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec La Goulue entering the Moulin Rouge [La Goulue entrant au Moulin Rouge] 1892
The Museum of Modern Art, New York Gift of Mrs David M. Levy