Henri de TOULOUSE-LAUTREC | Cecy Loftus

Henri de TOULOUSE-LAUTREC
France 1864 – 1901

Cecy Loftus 1895 planographic , crayon and spatter lithograph, printed in olive-green on China paper
37.0 (h) x 25.0 (w) cm , edition 25
signed upper right, printed from the stone in olive-green ink, 'HTL' monogram not dated
Reference: Delteil 116; Adriani 100; Wittrock 113 National Gallery of Australia, Canberra NGA 2011.182 The Poynton Bequest 2011

Lautrec’s subject is Marie-Cecilia McCarthy, also known as Cecy, Cicy or Cissie Loftus. Born in Scotland, she made her name on the stage in London. There she caught the eye of the caricaturist and critic Max Beerbohm who was entranced with her performances, although noting that ultimately she had turned to the forms of popular theatre, as he wrote in his essay ‘A defence of cosmetics’ for The yellow book:

‘Why, a few months past, the whole town went mad over Miss Cissie Loftus! Was not hers a success of girlish innocence and the absence of rouge?
If such things as these be outmoded, why was she so wildly popular?’ Indeed, the triumph of that clever girl, whose debut made London nice even in August, is but another witness to the truth of my contention. In a very sophisticated time, simplicity has a new dulcedo … Miss Cissie Loftus had the charm which things of another period often do possess. Besides, just as we adored her for the abrupt nod with which she was wont at first to acknowledge the applause, so we were glad for her to come upon the stage with nothing to tinge the ivory of her cheeks. It seemed so strange, that neglect of convention. To be behind footlights and not rouged! Yes, hers was a success of contrast.

And yet, such is the force of convention, that when last I saw her, playing in some burlesque at the Gaiety, her fringe was curled and her pretty face rouged with the best of them … But, with her grave insouciance, Miss Cissie Loftus had much of the reserve that is one of the factors of feminine perfection, and to most comes only, as I have said, with artifice.[1]

After her initial success in London, Loftus went to Paris where Lautrec was struck by her appearance. The Parisian vogue for British entertainers enhanced the appeal of her performances, which ranged from Shakespearean plays to singing in vaudeville, sometimes mimicking her fellow performers such as Yvette Guilbert or Jane Avril – to the audience’s great amusement. She was later to make her name on the American stage.

In this composition we see Loftus treading the boards in a top hat and carrying a cane, captured with a wonderful economy —
a slash of lipstick for her expression, a toe put forward, an arched gloved hand and a voluminous costume carefully suggested with dainty lines. The action is lit by stage lights from below in the tradition of Honoré Daumier and later Edgar Degas, who frequently depicted the stage from the orchestra pit.

JK

 

[1] Max Beerbohm, ‘A defence of cosmetics’, The yellow book, April 1894, pp. 76–77

Lautrec’s subject is Marie-Cecilia McCarthy, also known as Cecy, Cicy or Cissie Loftus. Born in Scotland, she made her name on the stage in London. There she caught the eye of the caricaturist and critic Max Beerbohm who was entranced with her performances, although noting that ultimately she had turned to the forms of popular theatre, as he wrote in his essay ‘A defence of cosmetics’ for The yellow book:

‘Why, a few months past, the whole town went mad over Miss Cissie Loftus! Was not hers a success of girlish innocence and the absence of rouge?
If such things as these be outmoded, why was she so wildly popular?’ Indeed, the triumph of that clever girl, whose debut made London nice even in August, is but another witness to the truth of my contention. In a very sophisticated time, simplicity has a new dulcedo … Miss Cissie Loftus had the charm which things of another period often do possess. Besides, just as we adored her for the abrupt nod with which she was wont at first to acknowledge the applause, so we were glad for her to come upon the stage with nothing to tinge the ivory of her cheeks. It seemed so strange, that neglect of convention. To be behind footlights and not rouged! Yes, hers was a success of contrast.

And yet, such is the force of convention, that when last I saw her, playing in some burlesque at the Gaiety, her fringe was curled and her pretty face rouged with the best of them … But, with her grave insouciance, Miss Cissie Loftus had much of the reserve that is one of the factors of feminine perfection, and to most comes only, as I have said, with artifice.[1]

After her initial success in London, Loftus went to Paris where Lautrec was struck by her appearance. The Parisian vogue for British entertainers enhanced the appeal of her performances, which ranged from Shakespearean plays to singing in vaudeville, sometimes mimicking her fellow performers such as Yvette Guilbert or Jane Avril – to the audience’s great amusement. She was later to make her name on the American stage.

In this composition we see Loftus treading the boards in a top hat and carrying a cane, captured with a wonderful economy —
a slash of lipstick for her expression, a toe put forward, an arched gloved hand and a voluminous costume carefully suggested with dainty lines. The action is lit by stage lights from below in the tradition of Honoré Daumier and later Edgar Degas, who frequently depicted the stage from the orchestra pit.

JK

 

[1] Max Beerbohm, ‘A defence of cosmetics’, The yellow book, April 1894, pp. 76–77

Lautrec’s subject is Marie-Cecilia McCarthy, also known as Cecy, Cicy or Cissie Loftus. Born in Scotland, she made her name on the stage in London. There she caught the eye of the caricaturist and critic Max Beerbohm who was entranced with her performances, although noting that ultimately she had turned to the forms of popular theatre, as he wrote in his essay ‘A defence of cosmetics’ for The yellow book:

‘Why, a few months past, the whole town went mad over Miss Cissie Loftus! Was not hers a success of girlish innocence and the absence of rouge?
If such things as these be outmoded, why was she so wildly popular?’ Indeed, the triumph of that clever girl, whose debut made London nice even in August, is but another witness to the truth of my contention. In a very sophisticated time, simplicity has a new dulcedo … Miss Cissie Loftus had the charm which things of another period often do possess. Besides, just as we adored her for the abrupt nod with which she was wont at first to acknowledge the applause, so we were glad for her to come upon the stage with nothing to tinge the ivory of her cheeks. It seemed so strange, that neglect of convention. To be behind footlights and not rouged! Yes, hers was a success of contrast.

And yet, such is the force of convention, that when last I saw her, playing in some burlesque at the Gaiety, her fringe was curled and her pretty face rouged with the best of them … But, with her grave insouciance, Miss Cissie Loftus had much of the reserve that is one of the factors of feminine perfection, and to most comes only, as I have said, with artifice.[1]

After her initial success in London, Loftus went to Paris where Lautrec was struck by her appearance. The Parisian vogue for British entertainers enhanced the appeal of her performances, which ranged from Shakespearean plays to singing in vaudeville, sometimes mimicking her fellow performers such as Yvette Guilbert or Jane Avril – to the audience’s great amusement. She was later to make her name on the American stage.

In this composition we see Loftus treading the boards in a top hat and carrying a cane, captured with a wonderful economy —
a slash of lipstick for her expression, a toe put forward, an arched gloved hand and a voluminous costume carefully suggested with dainty lines. The action is lit by stage lights from below in the tradition of Honoré Daumier and later Edgar Degas, who frequently depicted the stage from the orchestra pit.

JK

 

[1] Max Beerbohm, ‘A defence of cosmetics’, The yellow book, April 1894, pp. 76–77



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