Henri de TOULOUSE-LAUTREC | Jeanne

Henri de TOULOUSE-LAUTREC
France 1864 – 1901

Jeanne 1882 oil on canvas on canvas
64.0 (h) x 55.5 (w) cm
Reference: Dortu P.231 Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo

During his student days in Paris with Léon Bonnat and then at Atelier Cormon, Lautrec produced a large body of drawings, copying drawings and engravings of the masters, then plaster casts from classical or Renaissance sculptures – an essential first step in academic training. He copied drawings by Leonardo da Vinci and casts of Michelangelo’s sculptures in this stage of his studies. Students then received tuition in life drawing – another necessary part of the curriculum – painting both male and female nude models in poses belonging to the classical tradition.[1]

Of several nudes by Lautrec, Jeanne was probably the first and painted during his time at Bonnat’s studio in 1882. Bonnat was a conservative academic portrait artist who catered for the wealthy, with many keen potential clients – as one contemporary observer put it:

It is necessary to prepare yourself by prayer, fasting and every conceivable kind of austerity, for a portrait by Bonnat is a serious matter. Then, when you are thoroughly soaked with the importance of the step you are taking, you order a ‘portrait by Bonnat’ dress – there are special styles approved by him. Get yourself recommended by a general, a minister or an ambassador, and then and only then will M. Bonnat consent to paint you, standing stiff as a board, bright as a crystal and lit
from above.[2]

Lautrec has adopted a darker palette than the sports painting [peintre sportif] he created as a young artist under the guidance of René Princeteau.[3] Perhaps this was in response to Bonnat’s criticism of the ‘peculiar’ colours Lautrec employed.[4] However he avoided the traditional method of defining form through the use of chiaroscuro, where tone in a painting changes from light to dark in order to provide modelling; here the light falls across the figure – just as Edouard Manet and the Impressionists observed – and washes over the figure rather than defining it.

In this early work Lautrec has painted the half-length nude in a sketchy manner [ébauche]. Shown from a three-quarter view, her plain features and slightly ungainly body reveal already Lautrec’s power of personal observation, not viewed through the prism of academic tradition. Jeanne is seated for her portrait in the studio of Lautrec’s student friend Henri Rachou; and, accompanying this striving for originality, her placement in a chair and the location of her legs remain unresolved – but Lautrec’s talent is evident.

This painting appears within another portrait by Lautrec, that of Monsieur Georges-Henri Manuel, a pastel of 1891.[5] The formal portrait shows Manuel in profile seated in Lautrec’s studio, while behind him the framed portrait of Jeanne leans against other works in a random fashion.

Lautrec received further criticism from Bonnat, indeed a direct rebuke, which he noted in a letter to his uncle Charles of 7 May 1882 – while commenting that the painting ‘isn’t too bad, it’s stylish’, Bonnat condemned the drawing as ‘simply atrocious’. In such circumstances it was fortuitous that Bonnat had to close his atelier and Lautrec sought a new direction in his tuition.

JK

[1]For further details regarding Lautrec’s training at Bonnat’s studio, see Gale B. Murray, Toulouse-Lautrec: The formative years 1878–1891, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991, pp. 33–39.

[2] Julia Frey, Toulouse-Lautrec: A life, New York: Viking, 1994, p. 125.

[3] See Lautrec’s portrait of Princeteau, pp. 40–41.

[4] Frey, p. 133.

[5] Musée d’Orsay, Paris.

During his student days in Paris with Léon Bonnat and then at Atelier Cormon, Lautrec produced a large body of drawings, copying drawings and engravings of the masters, then plaster casts from classical or Renaissance sculptures – an essential first step in academic training. He copied drawings by Leonardo da Vinci and casts of Michelangelo’s sculptures in this stage of his studies. Students then received tuition in life drawing – another necessary part of the curriculum – painting both male and female nude models in poses belonging to the classical tradition.[1]

Of several nudes by Lautrec, Jeanne was probably the first and painted during his time at Bonnat’s studio in 1882. Bonnat was a conservative academic portrait artist who catered for the wealthy, with many keen potential clients – as one contemporary observer put it:

It is necessary to prepare yourself by prayer, fasting and every conceivable kind of austerity, for a portrait by Bonnat is a serious matter. Then, when you are thoroughly soaked with the importance of the step you are taking, you order a ‘portrait by Bonnat’ dress – there are special styles approved by him. Get yourself recommended by a general, a minister or an ambassador, and then and only then will M. Bonnat consent to paint you, standing stiff as a board, bright as a crystal and lit
from above.[2]

Lautrec has adopted a darker palette than the sports painting [peintre sportif] he created as a young artist under the guidance of René Princeteau.[3] Perhaps this was in response to Bonnat’s criticism of the ‘peculiar’ colours Lautrec employed.[4] However he avoided the traditional method of defining form through the use of chiaroscuro, where tone in a painting changes from light to dark in order to provide modelling; here the light falls across the figure – just as Edouard Manet and the Impressionists observed – and washes over the figure rather than defining it.

In this early work Lautrec has painted the half-length nude in a sketchy manner [ébauche]. Shown from a three-quarter view, her plain features and slightly ungainly body reveal already Lautrec’s power of personal observation, not viewed through the prism of academic tradition. Jeanne is seated for her portrait in the studio of Lautrec’s student friend Henri Rachou; and, accompanying this striving for originality, her placement in a chair and the location of her legs remain unresolved – but Lautrec’s talent is evident.

This painting appears within another portrait by Lautrec, that of Monsieur Georges-Henri Manuel, a pastel of 1891.[5] The formal portrait shows Manuel in profile seated in Lautrec’s studio, while behind him the framed portrait of Jeanne leans against other works in a random fashion.

Lautrec received further criticism from Bonnat, indeed a direct rebuke, which he noted in a letter to his uncle Charles of 7 May 1882 – while commenting that the painting ‘isn’t too bad, it’s stylish’, Bonnat condemned the drawing as ‘simply atrocious’. In such circumstances it was fortuitous that Bonnat had to close his atelier and Lautrec sought a new direction in his tuition.

JK

[1]For further details regarding Lautrec’s training at Bonnat’s studio, see Gale B. Murray, Toulouse-Lautrec: The formative years 1878–1891, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991, pp. 33–39.

[2] Julia Frey, Toulouse-Lautrec: A life, New York: Viking, 1994, p. 125.

[3] See Lautrec’s portrait of Princeteau, pp. 40–41.

[4] Frey, p. 133.

[5] Musée d’Orsay, Paris.

During his student days in Paris with Léon Bonnat and then at Atelier Cormon, Lautrec produced a large body of drawings, copying drawings and engravings of the masters, then plaster casts from classical or Renaissance sculptures – an essential first step in academic training. He copied drawings by Leonardo da Vinci and casts of Michelangelo’s sculptures in this stage of his studies. Students then received tuition in life drawing – another necessary part of the curriculum – painting both male and female nude models in poses belonging to the classical tradition.[1]

Of several nudes by Lautrec, Jeanne was probably the first and painted during his time at Bonnat’s studio in 1882. Bonnat was a conservative academic portrait artist who catered for the wealthy, with many keen potential clients – as one contemporary observer put it:

It is necessary to prepare yourself by prayer, fasting and every conceivable kind of austerity, for a portrait by Bonnat is a serious matter. Then, when you are thoroughly soaked with the importance of the step you are taking, you order a ‘portrait by Bonnat’ dress – there are special styles approved by him. Get yourself recommended by a general, a minister or an ambassador, and then and only then will M. Bonnat consent to paint you, standing stiff as a board, bright as a crystal and lit
from above.[2]

Lautrec has adopted a darker palette than the sports painting [peintre sportif] he created as a young artist under the guidance of René Princeteau.[3] Perhaps this was in response to Bonnat’s criticism of the ‘peculiar’ colours Lautrec employed.[4] However he avoided the traditional method of defining form through the use of chiaroscuro, where tone in a painting changes from light to dark in order to provide modelling; here the light falls across the figure – just as Edouard Manet and the Impressionists observed – and washes over the figure rather than defining it.

In this early work Lautrec has painted the half-length nude in a sketchy manner [ébauche]. Shown from a three-quarter view, her plain features and slightly ungainly body reveal already Lautrec’s power of personal observation, not viewed through the prism of academic tradition. Jeanne is seated for her portrait in the studio of Lautrec’s student friend Henri Rachou; and, accompanying this striving for originality, her placement in a chair and the location of her legs remain unresolved – but Lautrec’s talent is evident.

This painting appears within another portrait by Lautrec, that of Monsieur Georges-Henri Manuel, a pastel of 1891.[5] The formal portrait shows Manuel in profile seated in Lautrec’s studio, while behind him the framed portrait of Jeanne leans against other works in a random fashion.

Lautrec received further criticism from Bonnat, indeed a direct rebuke, which he noted in a letter to his uncle Charles of 7 May 1882 – while commenting that the painting ‘isn’t too bad, it’s stylish’, Bonnat condemned the drawing as ‘simply atrocious’. In such circumstances it was fortuitous that Bonnat had to close his atelier and Lautrec sought a new direction in his tuition.

JK

[1]For further details regarding Lautrec’s training at Bonnat’s studio, see Gale B. Murray, Toulouse-Lautrec: The formative years 1878–1891, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991, pp. 33–39.

[2] Julia Frey, Toulouse-Lautrec: A life, New York: Viking, 1994, p. 125.

[3] See Lautrec’s portrait of Princeteau, pp. 40–41.

[4] Frey, p. 133.

[5] Musée d’Orsay, Paris.




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