Henri de TOULOUSE-LAUTREC | Louis Pascal

Henri de TOULOUSE-LAUTREC
France 1864 – 1901

Louis Pascal 1891 oil on cardboard on cardboard
77.0 (h) x 53.0 (w) cm
Reference: Dortu P.467 Musée Toulouse-Lautrec, Albi Gift Countess A. de Toulouse-Lautrec, 1922

Although M.G. Dortu dated this painting to 1893,[1] it has been successfully argued that this work, along with Lautrec’s portraits of Dr Henri Bourges and Gaston Bonnefoy, were all completed in 1891 in time to be shown at the seventh exhibition of the Société des artistes indépendants, opening on 20 March 1891.[2] The influence of the British dandy, as well as Whistler’s simplified portraits, lead one reviewer of the exhibition to mock the ‘snobbery of Parisian pseudo-boulevardiers, who get their laundry done in London’.[3]

Louis Pascal was born in 1864, the same year as Lautrec, and their mothers were first cousins. They were childhood friends, although Louis was in a class behind Henri when they attended the Lycée Fontanes (now the Lycée Condorcet) on the rue du Havre, Paris. While kept indoors because of ill health, the fourteen-year-old Lautrec wrote to his grandmother: ‘I have started
a theatre with Louis Pascal which has 60 (puppet) actors.’[4]

By 1884 the rich and handsome Pascal, who was already showing signs of a certain idleness and lack of direction, joined the Comptoir National d’Escompte, Paris, leading Lautrec to remark to his other grandmother that this bank was ‘a good place for this likeable old fool to end up in’.[5] Later, commenting on his dashing cousin’s appeal to this grandmother, Lautrec noted wickedly:

I am told you enjoyed my handsome friend Louis’s charming ways and patent leather shoes. You ought to find him an heiress and throw her into his arms. He’s not much good, I’d say, for anything else.[6]

The frustration felt by Lautrec regarding Pascal’s good looks, physical health and his wastrel attitude was a continual irritation, which he communicated to his mother.[7] Given his own physical shortcomings, to have such attributes as his cousin and not make use of them, would have been particularly galling.

Lautrec portrays this aristocratic man dressed in debonair fashion, wearing a polished top hat and fine coat, carrying a cane and smoking with a studied insousciance. The fabric of his coat is carefully rendered in a rich dark palette using sweeping strokes of diluted paint, peinture à l’essence. Like Lautrec’s full-length portraits of Bourges and Bonnefoy, Pascal is shown as a dark silhouette against the lighter coloured blue wall and pale timber architectural details of the artist’s studio. The choice of a silhouetted figure and the shape of the composition, reflecting the oban format of Japanese woodblock prints, ukiyo-e,indicates the attraction that Japanese art had for Lautrec.

Most remarkable and most telling are Pascal’s facial features. Despite the dapper moustache, his eyes are vacant and their direction unclear – suggesting a certain emptiness of character, despite the elegant attire and pose. This portrait has been likened to the principal character in Guy de Maupassant’s novel Bel Ami (1885),[8] where the social-climbing Georges Duroy, a journalist in Paris later known as the more aristocratic Du Roy, was a noted philanderer with little backbone. As does Maupassant, Lautrec beautifully captures the ambivalent nature of his cousin – the flamboyant debonair outward appearance masking an inner feebleness.

JK

[1]M.G. Dortu, Toulouse-Lautrec et son oeuvre, New York: Paul Brame et C.M. de Hauke, Collectors Editions, 1971, vol. 2, P.467.

[2] See pp. 98–99; 100–101. Gale B. Murray, Toulouse-Lautrec: The formative years 1878–1891, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991, pp. 213–214.

[3] H. Gauthier-Villars, ‘Le Salon des indépendants’, La Revue indépendant, 19 April 1891, p. 112, quoted by Anne Roquebert, in Claire Frèches-Thory, Anne Roquebert and Richard Thomson, Toulouse-Lautrec, London, Paris: South Bank Centre, Réunion des musées nationaux and the Musée d’Orsay, 1991, p. 152.

[4] Letter to Mme R.C. de Toulouse-Lautrec, [Paris, 17 April 1878], in Herbert D. Schimmel (ed.), with an introduction by Gale B. Murray, The letters of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991, letter no. 25, p. 20.

[5] Letter to Mme L. Tapié de Céleyran, [Paris, January 1884], in Schimmel (ed.), letter no. 89, p. 76.

[6]Letter to Mme L. Tapié de Céleyran, [Paris, 24 December 1884], in Schimmel (ed.), letter no. 106,
p. 88.

[7] Letters to his mother, in Schimmel (ed.), letters nos 211, p. 156; 224, p. 172; 229, p. 175.

[8]By Anne Roquebert, in Frèches-Thory, Roquebert and Thomson, p. 32.

Although M.G. Dortu dated this painting to 1893,[1] it has been successfully argued that this work, along with Lautrec’s portraits of Dr Henri Bourges and Gaston Bonnefoy, were all completed in 1891 in time to be shown at the seventh exhibition of the Société des artistes indépendants, opening on 20 March 1891.[2] The influence of the British dandy, as well as Whistler’s simplified portraits, lead one reviewer of the exhibition to mock the ‘snobbery of Parisian pseudo-boulevardiers, who get their laundry done in London’.[3]

Louis Pascal was born in 1864, the same year as Lautrec, and their mothers were first cousins. They were childhood friends, although Louis was in a class behind Henri when they attended the Lycée Fontanes (now the Lycée Condorcet) on the rue du Havre, Paris. While kept indoors because of ill health, the fourteen-year-old Lautrec wrote to his grandmother: ‘I have started
a theatre with Louis Pascal which has 60 (puppet) actors.’[4]

By 1884 the rich and handsome Pascal, who was already showing signs of a certain idleness and lack of direction, joined the Comptoir National d’Escompte, Paris, leading Lautrec to remark to his other grandmother that this bank was ‘a good place for this likeable old fool to end up in’.[5] Later, commenting on his dashing cousin’s appeal to this grandmother, Lautrec noted wickedly:

I am told you enjoyed my handsome friend Louis’s charming ways and patent leather shoes. You ought to find him an heiress and throw her into his arms. He’s not much good, I’d say, for anything else.[6]

The frustration felt by Lautrec regarding Pascal’s good looks, physical health and his wastrel attitude was a continual irritation, which he communicated to his mother.[7] Given his own physical shortcomings, to have such attributes as his cousin and not make use of them, would have been particularly galling.

Lautrec portrays this aristocratic man dressed in debonair fashion, wearing a polished top hat and fine coat, carrying a cane and smoking with a studied insousciance. The fabric of his coat is carefully rendered in a rich dark palette using sweeping strokes of diluted paint, peinture à l’essence. Like Lautrec’s full-length portraits of Bourges and Bonnefoy, Pascal is shown as a dark silhouette against the lighter coloured blue wall and pale timber architectural details of the artist’s studio. The choice of a silhouetted figure and the shape of the composition, reflecting the oban format of Japanese woodblock prints, ukiyo-e,indicates the attraction that Japanese art had for Lautrec.

Most remarkable and most telling are Pascal’s facial features. Despite the dapper moustache, his eyes are vacant and their direction unclear – suggesting a certain emptiness of character, despite the elegant attire and pose. This portrait has been likened to the principal character in Guy de Maupassant’s novel Bel Ami (1885),[8] where the social-climbing Georges Duroy, a journalist in Paris later known as the more aristocratic Du Roy, was a noted philanderer with little backbone. As does Maupassant, Lautrec beautifully captures the ambivalent nature of his cousin – the flamboyant debonair outward appearance masking an inner feebleness.

JK

[1]M.G. Dortu, Toulouse-Lautrec et son oeuvre, New York: Paul Brame et C.M. de Hauke, Collectors Editions, 1971, vol. 2, P.467.

[2] See pp. 98–99; 100–101. Gale B. Murray, Toulouse-Lautrec: The formative years 1878–1891, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991, pp. 213–214.

[3] H. Gauthier-Villars, ‘Le Salon des indépendants’, La Revue indépendant, 19 April 1891, p. 112, quoted by Anne Roquebert, in Claire Frèches-Thory, Anne Roquebert and Richard Thomson, Toulouse-Lautrec, London, Paris: South Bank Centre, Réunion des musées nationaux and the Musée d’Orsay, 1991, p. 152.

[4] Letter to Mme R.C. de Toulouse-Lautrec, [Paris, 17 April 1878], in Herbert D. Schimmel (ed.), with an introduction by Gale B. Murray, The letters of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991, letter no. 25, p. 20.

[5] Letter to Mme L. Tapié de Céleyran, [Paris, January 1884], in Schimmel (ed.), letter no. 89, p. 76.

[6]Letter to Mme L. Tapié de Céleyran, [Paris, 24 December 1884], in Schimmel (ed.), letter no. 106,
p. 88.

[7] Letters to his mother, in Schimmel (ed.), letters nos 211, p. 156; 224, p. 172; 229, p. 175.

[8]By Anne Roquebert, in Frèches-Thory, Roquebert and Thomson, p. 32.

Although M.G. Dortu dated this painting to 1893,[1] it has been successfully argued that this work, along with Lautrec’s portraits of Dr Henri Bourges and Gaston Bonnefoy, were all completed in 1891 in time to be shown at the seventh exhibition of the Société des artistes indépendants, opening on 20 March 1891.[2] The influence of the British dandy, as well as Whistler’s simplified portraits, lead one reviewer of the exhibition to mock the ‘snobbery of Parisian pseudo-boulevardiers, who get their laundry done in London’.[3]

Louis Pascal was born in 1864, the same year as Lautrec, and their mothers were first cousins. They were childhood friends, although Louis was in a class behind Henri when they attended the Lycée Fontanes (now the Lycée Condorcet) on the rue du Havre, Paris. While kept indoors because of ill health, the fourteen-year-old Lautrec wrote to his grandmother: ‘I have started
a theatre with Louis Pascal which has 60 (puppet) actors.’[4]

By 1884 the rich and handsome Pascal, who was already showing signs of a certain idleness and lack of direction, joined the Comptoir National d’Escompte, Paris, leading Lautrec to remark to his other grandmother that this bank was ‘a good place for this likeable old fool to end up in’.[5] Later, commenting on his dashing cousin’s appeal to this grandmother, Lautrec noted wickedly:

I am told you enjoyed my handsome friend Louis’s charming ways and patent leather shoes. You ought to find him an heiress and throw her into his arms. He’s not much good, I’d say, for anything else.[6]

The frustration felt by Lautrec regarding Pascal’s good looks, physical health and his wastrel attitude was a continual irritation, which he communicated to his mother.[7] Given his own physical shortcomings, to have such attributes as his cousin and not make use of them, would have been particularly galling.

Lautrec portrays this aristocratic man dressed in debonair fashion, wearing a polished top hat and fine coat, carrying a cane and smoking with a studied insousciance. The fabric of his coat is carefully rendered in a rich dark palette using sweeping strokes of diluted paint, peinture à l’essence. Like Lautrec’s full-length portraits of Bourges and Bonnefoy, Pascal is shown as a dark silhouette against the lighter coloured blue wall and pale timber architectural details of the artist’s studio. The choice of a silhouetted figure and the shape of the composition, reflecting the oban format of Japanese woodblock prints, ukiyo-e,indicates the attraction that Japanese art had for Lautrec.

Most remarkable and most telling are Pascal’s facial features. Despite the dapper moustache, his eyes are vacant and their direction unclear – suggesting a certain emptiness of character, despite the elegant attire and pose. This portrait has been likened to the principal character in Guy de Maupassant’s novel Bel Ami (1885),[8] where the social-climbing Georges Duroy, a journalist in Paris later known as the more aristocratic Du Roy, was a noted philanderer with little backbone. As does Maupassant, Lautrec beautifully captures the ambivalent nature of his cousin – the flamboyant debonair outward appearance masking an inner feebleness.

JK

[1]M.G. Dortu, Toulouse-Lautrec et son oeuvre, New York: Paul Brame et C.M. de Hauke, Collectors Editions, 1971, vol. 2, P.467.

[2] See pp. 98–99; 100–101. Gale B. Murray, Toulouse-Lautrec: The formative years 1878–1891, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991, pp. 213–214.

[3] H. Gauthier-Villars, ‘Le Salon des indépendants’, La Revue indépendant, 19 April 1891, p. 112, quoted by Anne Roquebert, in Claire Frèches-Thory, Anne Roquebert and Richard Thomson, Toulouse-Lautrec, London, Paris: South Bank Centre, Réunion des musées nationaux and the Musée d’Orsay, 1991, p. 152.

[4] Letter to Mme R.C. de Toulouse-Lautrec, [Paris, 17 April 1878], in Herbert D. Schimmel (ed.), with an introduction by Gale B. Murray, The letters of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991, letter no. 25, p. 20.

[5] Letter to Mme L. Tapié de Céleyran, [Paris, January 1884], in Schimmel (ed.), letter no. 89, p. 76.

[6]Letter to Mme L. Tapié de Céleyran, [Paris, 24 December 1884], in Schimmel (ed.), letter no. 106,
p. 88.

[7] Letters to his mother, in Schimmel (ed.), letters nos 211, p. 156; 224, p. 172; 229, p. 175.

[8]By Anne Roquebert, in Frèches-Thory, Roquebert and Thomson, p. 32.



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