Henri de TOULOUSE-LAUTREC | Alone [Seule]

Henri de TOULOUSE-LAUTREC
France 1864 – 1901

Alone [Seule] 1896 oil on cardboard
31.0 (h) x 40.0 (w) cm
Reference: Dortu P.635 Musée d’Orsay, Paris Gift of the Foundation of Florence J. Gould, 1984

In four colours – black, blue, orange and white – Lautrec has quickly and spontaneously painted a prostitute lying collapsed on the bed. Her client has just left the room. Stretched out on her back, with her right hand resting on her thigh and her left arm bent at a 90 degree angle to her side, she is completely fatigued. Her black stockings are pulled up over her thin legs, which hang down as two limp forms from the bed to the floor. This lifeless position conveys utter exhaustion.

In an attempt to suggest the frenzy of the preceding liaison, the bed sheets are depicted as a mix of roughly painted blue strokes and patches of white. The sheets are crumpled left to right, up and down and diagonally. We are witness to the motionless aftermath of turbulent sexual activity that contrasts sharply with the prostrated figure. The scene is one of enigmatic absence. We are left wondering about the sordid transaction that has preceded this moment and feel sympathy for the woman whose trade has left her in such a shattered state.

Lautrec produced this particular composition on more than one occasion. Alone [Seule] is so similar to his Elles suite lithograph Woman lying on her back – lassitude [Femme sur le dos – lassitude] of the same year that this oil on cardboard image can be seen as the preliminary work informing the lithograph.[1]

Lautrec’s monogram and combination signature features prominently in blue in the lower right corner of the composition. The capitalised HT and L encircled in a decorative manner recalls eighteenth-century Japanese design. Whilst the monogram here is hand-painted, Lautrec used an orange stamp to mark his lithographs. After his death his prints were stamped with a red monogram.

JB

       

[1] See p. 147.

In four colours – black, blue, orange and white – Lautrec has quickly and spontaneously painted a prostitute lying collapsed on the bed. Her client has just left the room. Stretched out on her back, with her right hand resting on her thigh and her left arm bent at a 90 degree angle to her side, she is completely fatigued. Her black stockings are pulled up over her thin legs, which hang down as two limp forms from the bed to the floor. This lifeless position conveys utter exhaustion.

In an attempt to suggest the frenzy of the preceding liaison, the bed sheets are depicted as a mix of roughly painted blue strokes and patches of white. The sheets are crumpled left to right, up and down and diagonally. We are witness to the motionless aftermath of turbulent sexual activity that contrasts sharply with the prostrated figure. The scene is one of enigmatic absence. We are left wondering about the sordid transaction that has preceded this moment and feel sympathy for the woman whose trade has left her in such a shattered state.

Lautrec produced this particular composition on more than one occasion. Alone [Seule] is so similar to his Elles suite lithograph Woman lying on her back – lassitude [Femme sur le dos – lassitude] of the same year that this oil on cardboard image can be seen as the preliminary work informing the lithograph.[1]

Lautrec’s monogram and combination signature features prominently in blue in the lower right corner of the composition. The capitalised HT and L encircled in a decorative manner recalls eighteenth-century Japanese design. Whilst the monogram here is hand-painted, Lautrec used an orange stamp to mark his lithographs. After his death his prints were stamped with a red monogram.

JB

       

[1] See p. 147.

In four colours – black, blue, orange and white – Lautrec has quickly and spontaneously painted a prostitute lying collapsed on the bed. Her client has just left the room. Stretched out on her back, with her right hand resting on her thigh and her left arm bent at a 90 degree angle to her side, she is completely fatigued. Her black stockings are pulled up over her thin legs, which hang down as two limp forms from the bed to the floor. This lifeless position conveys utter exhaustion.

In an attempt to suggest the frenzy of the preceding liaison, the bed sheets are depicted as a mix of roughly painted blue strokes and patches of white. The sheets are crumpled left to right, up and down and diagonally. We are witness to the motionless aftermath of turbulent sexual activity that contrasts sharply with the prostrated figure. The scene is one of enigmatic absence. We are left wondering about the sordid transaction that has preceded this moment and feel sympathy for the woman whose trade has left her in such a shattered state.

Lautrec produced this particular composition on more than one occasion. Alone [Seule] is so similar to his Elles suite lithograph Woman lying on her back – lassitude [Femme sur le dos – lassitude] of the same year that this oil on cardboard image can be seen as the preliminary work informing the lithograph.[1]

Lautrec’s monogram and combination signature features prominently in blue in the lower right corner of the composition. The capitalised HT and L encircled in a decorative manner recalls eighteenth-century Japanese design. Whilst the monogram here is hand-painted, Lautrec used an orange stamp to mark his lithographs. After his death his prints were stamped with a red monogram.

JB

       

[1] See p. 147.



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