Henri de TOULOUSE-LAUTREC | Promenade [Promenoir]

Henri de TOULOUSE-LAUTREC
artist France 1864 – 1901

Promenade [Promenoir] 1899 planographic , crayon lithograph printed in black olive-green on Japan paper
46.0 (h) x 35.5 (w) cm , one state only , edition of 100
signed lower left, printed from the stone in black ink, 'HTL' monogram not dated
Reference: Wittrock 307 National Gallery of Australia, Canberra NGA 2011.181 The Poynton Bequest 2011

In Promenade [Promenoir] Lautrec presents a battle-of-the-sexes scenario where two well-dressed men approach and ogle two women. The scene unfolds on the promenade level of the Moulin Rouge where men and women could stroll, observing, chatting and flirting. Each individual would hope to have been recognised as flâneur or flâneuse, described in the 1866–79 edition of Pierre Larousse’s Grand dictionnaire as ‘a person who strolls, or has the habit of strolling’.[1] The term resonated with allusions of leisure and worldliness. Such Parisians were a common feature in Lautrec’s oeuvre, especially the male variety, and many of his close friends were posed as these sauntering men.[2] Their female counterparts, however, were often neglected in the visual arts and literature until after the turn of the century.

Here the women are most likely a lesbian couple. While the woman on the left appears in a typical dress for the time, her companion, to whom she looks for reassurance, is dressed in a mannish outfit – a tailored jacket and a jaunty fedora, instead of the feathered fascinator of the first woman. Her outfit is similar in style to that favoured by the proprietress of the lesbian bar, Le Hanneton. The more masculine woman on the right is protectively clutching the first woman’s hand, as if to reassure her that the two ogling males will not cause them any concern. The stern look on her face is echoed in her posture, her other hand buried deep in her coat pocket.

The men were both close friends of the artist. The taller of the two, with the mutton-chop sideburns and beard, wearing a flat broad-brimmed hat, is Lautrec’s first cousin Gabriel Tapié de Céleyran. Gab, as he was known to his cronies, was the child of Lautrec’s mother’s brother and his father’s sister who were married. He was in many ways the antithesis of Lautrec – tall and willowy, but shy and socially awkward. After Gab moved to Paris in 1891 to study medicine, the two cousins became especially close, with Lautrec making several portraits of him. With art dealer Maurice Joyant, Tapié de Céleyran was instrumental in organising the bequest of Lautrec’s work to the city of Albi after the artist’s death.

The other man is Lautrec’s photographer friend Paul Sescau. He is shown with his pointed face thrust out at the two women. This caricature of his friend has been aptly described as ‘a human camera’.[3] Sescau was a notorious womaniser, whose lechery often extended into his photographic studio.[4]

SM

 

[1] Quoted in Ruth Irskin, ‘The flâneuse in French fin-de-siècle posters: advertising images of modern women in Paris’, in Aruna D’Souza and Tom McDonough (eds), The invisible flâneuse? Gender, public space and visual culture in nineteenth-century Paris, Manchester: Manchester University, 2006, p. 114.

[2] See Jane Kinsman, ‘Man about town: the boulevardier’, infra, pp. 93-97.

[3] Nora Desloge, Toulouse-Lautrec: The Baldwin M. Baldwin collection, San Diego: San Diego Museum of Art, 1989, p. 192.

[4] See p. 244.

In Promenade [Promenoir] Lautrec presents a battle-of-the-sexes scenario where two well-dressed men approach and ogle two women. The scene unfolds on the promenade level of the Moulin Rouge where men and women could stroll, observing, chatting and flirting. Each individual would hope to have been recognised as flâneur or flâneuse, described in the 1866–79 edition of Pierre Larousse’s Grand dictionnaire as ‘a person who strolls, or has the habit of strolling’.[1] The term resonated with allusions of leisure and worldliness. Such Parisians were a common feature in Lautrec’s oeuvre, especially the male variety, and many of his close friends were posed as these sauntering men.[2] Their female counterparts, however, were often neglected in the visual arts and literature until after the turn of the century.

Here the women are most likely a lesbian couple. While the woman on the left appears in a typical dress for the time, her companion, to whom she looks for reassurance, is dressed in a mannish outfit – a tailored jacket and a jaunty fedora, instead of the feathered fascinator of the first woman. Her outfit is similar in style to that favoured by the proprietress of the lesbian bar, Le Hanneton. The more masculine woman on the right is protectively clutching the first woman’s hand, as if to reassure her that the two ogling males will not cause them any concern. The stern look on her face is echoed in her posture, her other hand buried deep in her coat pocket.

The men were both close friends of the artist. The taller of the two, with the mutton-chop sideburns and beard, wearing a flat broad-brimmed hat, is Lautrec’s first cousin Gabriel Tapié de Céleyran. Gab, as he was known to his cronies, was the child of Lautrec’s mother’s brother and his father’s sister who were married. He was in many ways the antithesis of Lautrec – tall and willowy, but shy and socially awkward. After Gab moved to Paris in 1891 to study medicine, the two cousins became especially close, with Lautrec making several portraits of him. With art dealer Maurice Joyant, Tapié de Céleyran was instrumental in organising the bequest of Lautrec’s work to the city of Albi after the artist’s death.

The other man is Lautrec’s photographer friend Paul Sescau. He is shown with his pointed face thrust out at the two women. This caricature of his friend has been aptly described as ‘a human camera’.[3] Sescau was a notorious womaniser, whose lechery often extended into his photographic studio.[4]

SM

 

[1] Quoted in Ruth Irskin, ‘The flâneuse in French fin-de-siècle posters: advertising images of modern women in Paris’, in Aruna D’Souza and Tom McDonough (eds), The invisible flâneuse? Gender, public space and visual culture in nineteenth-century Paris, Manchester: Manchester University, 2006, p. 114.

[2] See Jane Kinsman, ‘Man about town: the boulevardier’, infra, pp. 93-97.

[3] Nora Desloge, Toulouse-Lautrec: The Baldwin M. Baldwin collection, San Diego: San Diego Museum of Art, 1989, p. 192.

[4] See p. 244.

In Promenade [Promenoir] Lautrec presents a battle-of-the-sexes scenario where two well-dressed men approach and ogle two women. The scene unfolds on the promenade level of the Moulin Rouge where men and women could stroll, observing, chatting and flirting. Each individual would hope to have been recognised as flâneur or flâneuse, described in the 1866–79 edition of Pierre Larousse’s Grand dictionnaire as ‘a person who strolls, or has the habit of strolling’.[1] The term resonated with allusions of leisure and worldliness. Such Parisians were a common feature in Lautrec’s oeuvre, especially the male variety, and many of his close friends were posed as these sauntering men.[2] Their female counterparts, however, were often neglected in the visual arts and literature until after the turn of the century.

Here the women are most likely a lesbian couple. While the woman on the left appears in a typical dress for the time, her companion, to whom she looks for reassurance, is dressed in a mannish outfit – a tailored jacket and a jaunty fedora, instead of the feathered fascinator of the first woman. Her outfit is similar in style to that favoured by the proprietress of the lesbian bar, Le Hanneton. The more masculine woman on the right is protectively clutching the first woman’s hand, as if to reassure her that the two ogling males will not cause them any concern. The stern look on her face is echoed in her posture, her other hand buried deep in her coat pocket.

The men were both close friends of the artist. The taller of the two, with the mutton-chop sideburns and beard, wearing a flat broad-brimmed hat, is Lautrec’s first cousin Gabriel Tapié de Céleyran. Gab, as he was known to his cronies, was the child of Lautrec’s mother’s brother and his father’s sister who were married. He was in many ways the antithesis of Lautrec – tall and willowy, but shy and socially awkward. After Gab moved to Paris in 1891 to study medicine, the two cousins became especially close, with Lautrec making several portraits of him. With art dealer Maurice Joyant, Tapié de Céleyran was instrumental in organising the bequest of Lautrec’s work to the city of Albi after the artist’s death.

The other man is Lautrec’s photographer friend Paul Sescau. He is shown with his pointed face thrust out at the two women. This caricature of his friend has been aptly described as ‘a human camera’.[3] Sescau was a notorious womaniser, whose lechery often extended into his photographic studio.[4]

SM

 

[1] Quoted in Ruth Irskin, ‘The flâneuse in French fin-de-siècle posters: advertising images of modern women in Paris’, in Aruna D’Souza and Tom McDonough (eds), The invisible flâneuse? Gender, public space and visual culture in nineteenth-century Paris, Manchester: Manchester University, 2006, p. 114.

[2] See Jane Kinsman, ‘Man about town: the boulevardier’, infra, pp. 93-97.

[3] Nora Desloge, Toulouse-Lautrec: The Baldwin M. Baldwin collection, San Diego: San Diego Museum of Art, 1989, p. 192.

[4] See p. 244.




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