Henri de TOULOUSE-LAUTREC | Study for 'Fashionable people at Les Ambassadeurs [Aux Ambassadeurs: gens chics]'

Henri de TOULOUSE-LAUTREC
France 1864 – 1901

Study for 'Fashionable people at Les Ambassadeurs [Aux Ambassadeurs: gens chics]' 1893 black chalk on buff paper on buff paper
60.5 (h) x 55.3 (w) cm
Reference: Dortu D.3.442 The British Museum, London

In this preparatory study for Aux Ambassadeurs: gens chics 1893,[1] Lautrec has depicted a male and female seated at a table at Les Ambassadeurs – a café-concert popular for its open-air concerts and its list of star performers, including Aristide Bruant, Caudieux and Yvette Guilbert. Whilst the female figure is unknown, her male companion has been identified as the English-born artist and friend of Lautrec’s, Charles Conder.

In 1884, at the age of eighteen, Conder travelled to Sydney, determined to fulfil his dream to become an artist. After irregularly attending Art Society classes and meeting fellow artist and long-term friend Tom Roberts, Conder was persuaded to move to Melbourne. Over the next two years he established himself as one of the most original of the Heidelberg School of painters, exhibiting alongside Arthur Streeton and Roberts in the 9 x 5 Impression Exhibition in Melbourne in 1889. Conder moved to Paris in 1890 and quickly began to enjoy all that fin-de-siècle Paris had to offer a young unconventional artist. Over the ensuing decade many close male friendships developed, particularly with the English artist William Rothenstein and Lautrec. Conder’s life was filled with numerous sexual partners and, in combination with his over-indulgence of alcohol, it was short, hedonistic, at times desperate, and towards the end, tragic.

In the pursuit of a bohemian lifestyle, one’s etiquette, behaviour, friendship group, leisure activities and, in particular, one’s appearance were of utmost importance. Through a carefully self-fashioned image, Conder was considered a mysterious, charming and international character. Lautrec was interested in Conder’s atypical appearance as a younger, rakish dandy, with a tall, well-built physique – the complete opposite to Lautrec himself. Conder was drawn to Lautrec and to his circle of friends for their creative and intellectual energies, but also due to a shared fascination with the prohibited and the debauched. Lautrec befriended Conder as one of a number of his male ‘partners in crime’ and, along with Louis Anquetin, the group frequented the cabarets and brothels.

Lautrec’s brilliant draughtsmanship is on display in this black chalk study, with his sophisticated contrast of areas of great detail, as with the treatment of the woman’s face, hair and billowing sleeves set against areas of sparseness found in the simple chalk outline of Conder. His pose relays an air of practised self-confidence, a manner of cool detachment. With his left hand placed on his hip, Conder appears to be deliberately showing off his physique in a masculine ploy to win the affection of his female companion. His long, foppish blonde hair and square jawline reveal him to be a rather handsome, refined figure and, thus, remarkable amongst Lautrec’s customary subjects of ageing prostitutes, comical looking actors and eccentric performers. Lautrec saw Conder as a ‘type’ – an Englishman and a sensual dandy – and portrays him as such in Aux Ambassadeurs: gens chics.

Lautrec’s oil study on cardboard Charles Conder, sketch for‘Fashionable people at Les Ambassadeurs’ [‘Aux Ambassadeurs: gens chics’] is an associated preparatory study.[2]

 

JB

 

[1] National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.

[2] See p. 215.

In this preparatory study for Aux Ambassadeurs: gens chics 1893,[1] Lautrec has depicted a male and female seated at a table at Les Ambassadeurs – a café-concert popular for its open-air concerts and its list of star performers, including Aristide Bruant, Caudieux and Yvette Guilbert. Whilst the female figure is unknown, her male companion has been identified as the English-born artist and friend of Lautrec’s, Charles Conder.

In 1884, at the age of eighteen, Conder travelled to Sydney, determined to fulfil his dream to become an artist. After irregularly attending Art Society classes and meeting fellow artist and long-term friend Tom Roberts, Conder was persuaded to move to Melbourne. Over the next two years he established himself as one of the most original of the Heidelberg School of painters, exhibiting alongside Arthur Streeton and Roberts in the 9 x 5 Impression Exhibition in Melbourne in 1889. Conder moved to Paris in 1890 and quickly began to enjoy all that fin-de-siècle Paris had to offer a young unconventional artist. Over the ensuing decade many close male friendships developed, particularly with the English artist William Rothenstein and Lautrec. Conder’s life was filled with numerous sexual partners and, in combination with his over-indulgence of alcohol, it was short, hedonistic, at times desperate, and towards the end, tragic.

In the pursuit of a bohemian lifestyle, one’s etiquette, behaviour, friendship group, leisure activities and, in particular, one’s appearance were of utmost importance. Through a carefully self-fashioned image, Conder was considered a mysterious, charming and international character. Lautrec was interested in Conder’s atypical appearance as a younger, rakish dandy, with a tall, well-built physique – the complete opposite to Lautrec himself. Conder was drawn to Lautrec and to his circle of friends for their creative and intellectual energies, but also due to a shared fascination with the prohibited and the debauched. Lautrec befriended Conder as one of a number of his male ‘partners in crime’ and, along with Louis Anquetin, the group frequented the cabarets and brothels.

Lautrec’s brilliant draughtsmanship is on display in this black chalk study, with his sophisticated contrast of areas of great detail, as with the treatment of the woman’s face, hair and billowing sleeves set against areas of sparseness found in the simple chalk outline of Conder. His pose relays an air of practised self-confidence, a manner of cool detachment. With his left hand placed on his hip, Conder appears to be deliberately showing off his physique in a masculine ploy to win the affection of his female companion. His long, foppish blonde hair and square jawline reveal him to be a rather handsome, refined figure and, thus, remarkable amongst Lautrec’s customary subjects of ageing prostitutes, comical looking actors and eccentric performers. Lautrec saw Conder as a ‘type’ – an Englishman and a sensual dandy – and portrays him as such in Aux Ambassadeurs: gens chics.

Lautrec’s oil study on cardboard Charles Conder, sketch for‘Fashionable people at Les Ambassadeurs’ [‘Aux Ambassadeurs: gens chics’] is an associated preparatory study.[2]

 

JB

 

[1] National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.

[2] See p. 215.

In this preparatory study for Aux Ambassadeurs: gens chics 1893,[1] Lautrec has depicted a male and female seated at a table at Les Ambassadeurs – a café-concert popular for its open-air concerts and its list of star performers, including Aristide Bruant, Caudieux and Yvette Guilbert. Whilst the female figure is unknown, her male companion has been identified as the English-born artist and friend of Lautrec’s, Charles Conder.

In 1884, at the age of eighteen, Conder travelled to Sydney, determined to fulfil his dream to become an artist. After irregularly attending Art Society classes and meeting fellow artist and long-term friend Tom Roberts, Conder was persuaded to move to Melbourne. Over the next two years he established himself as one of the most original of the Heidelberg School of painters, exhibiting alongside Arthur Streeton and Roberts in the 9 x 5 Impression Exhibition in Melbourne in 1889. Conder moved to Paris in 1890 and quickly began to enjoy all that fin-de-siècle Paris had to offer a young unconventional artist. Over the ensuing decade many close male friendships developed, particularly with the English artist William Rothenstein and Lautrec. Conder’s life was filled with numerous sexual partners and, in combination with his over-indulgence of alcohol, it was short, hedonistic, at times desperate, and towards the end, tragic.

In the pursuit of a bohemian lifestyle, one’s etiquette, behaviour, friendship group, leisure activities and, in particular, one’s appearance were of utmost importance. Through a carefully self-fashioned image, Conder was considered a mysterious, charming and international character. Lautrec was interested in Conder’s atypical appearance as a younger, rakish dandy, with a tall, well-built physique – the complete opposite to Lautrec himself. Conder was drawn to Lautrec and to his circle of friends for their creative and intellectual energies, but also due to a shared fascination with the prohibited and the debauched. Lautrec befriended Conder as one of a number of his male ‘partners in crime’ and, along with Louis Anquetin, the group frequented the cabarets and brothels.

Lautrec’s brilliant draughtsmanship is on display in this black chalk study, with his sophisticated contrast of areas of great detail, as with the treatment of the woman’s face, hair and billowing sleeves set against areas of sparseness found in the simple chalk outline of Conder. His pose relays an air of practised self-confidence, a manner of cool detachment. With his left hand placed on his hip, Conder appears to be deliberately showing off his physique in a masculine ploy to win the affection of his female companion. His long, foppish blonde hair and square jawline reveal him to be a rather handsome, refined figure and, thus, remarkable amongst Lautrec’s customary subjects of ageing prostitutes, comical looking actors and eccentric performers. Lautrec saw Conder as a ‘type’ – an Englishman and a sensual dandy – and portrays him as such in Aux Ambassadeurs: gens chics.

Lautrec’s oil study on cardboard Charles Conder, sketch for‘Fashionable people at Les Ambassadeurs’ [‘Aux Ambassadeurs: gens chics’] is an associated preparatory study.[2]

 

JB

 

[1] National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.

[2] See p. 215.




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