Henri de TOULOUSE-LAUTREC | Respite during the masked ball [Repos pendant le bal masqué]

Henri de TOULOUSE-LAUTREC
France 1864 – 1901

Respite during the masked ball [Repos pendant le bal masqué] c.1899 gouache and oil on cardboard on cardboard
56.0 (h) x 39.0 (w) cm
Reference: Dortu P.695 Denver Art Museum, Denver Gift of T. Edward and Tullah Hanley Collection

After Lautrec’s mother’s departure from Paris on 4 January 1899, which precipitated his breakdown, his cousin Dr Gabriel Tapié de Céleyran looked after him before he was confined to a sanatorium. Lautrec was very fond of Gabriel and appreciated his kindness, writing that he should be rewarded for this: ‘I ask my family to give him a magnificent commemorative gift.’[1] From 1891 when his cousin had moved to Paris to study medicine, they had been close, as he reported to his mother in a letter in late 1893: ‘… we have dinner together once or twice a week. I’m doing his portrait on Sundays.’[2] Lautrec completed Gabriel’s portrait over the period 1893–94,[3] where we see a tall, unassuming man in silhouette against a backdrop of a brilliant red floor as he wanders the corridors of the Comédie Français. Lautrec’s affection for Tapié de Céleyran, and his gratitude for his care, did not preclude his cousin becoming the butt of Lautrec’s humour.

In Respite during the masked ball [Repos pendant le bal masqué]Lautrec has adopted the theme and the caricatural style of Paul Gavarni who, like Honoré Daumier, was a prolific satirist of French society. In the case of Gavarni, he applied his skill as a caricaturist to social subjects such as life in the underbelly of Paris, rather than political topics. Both mid century artists were much admired by Lautrec, and Gavarni’s influence is particularly evident in this late painting where the artist applies a wicked slant to the appearance of his cousin.

Here Lautrec has captured the liveliness and sometimes scandalous nature of the masked ball. He explored this theme earlier in his career, such as in Monsieur Fourcade of 1889, and later in Maxime Dethomas at the Opéra Ball of 1896.[4] Respite during the masked ball, which incorporates a pronounced caricatural approach also reveals a later uninhibited painting style, along with a rich and dramatic palette and lively brushwork.

It has been proposed that the venue might well be the same cabinet particulier as in Tête-à-tête supper,[5] with Emile Zola’s novel La curée of 1871 providing the source of inspiration where lovers meet in a private dining room such as this and begin an affair.[6] We see an ageing cocotte with her back to the viewer, displaying an ample body and dressed for the ball, like the woman in Tête-à-tête supper with her hood. Beneath her mask she smiles and gazes at herself in a mirror – blissfully insensitive to her ungainly appearance. Seated next to her is the equally unsettling looking figure of her companion or client (identified by Dortu as Lautrec’s cousin, Tapié de Céleyran[7]). Goggle-eyed, with his oversized gloved hand he appears about to lurch towards her buttocks, revealed by the transparency of her dress. This movement, emphasised by the cropping of his figure – and totally at odds with the behaviour of the doctor – suggests the artist is making a playful dig at his rather austere cousin.

JK

 

[1] Letter to his family, [Paris] 16 January 1899, 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. 558, p. 346.

[2] Letter to his mother, [Paris] 21 December 1893, in Schimmel (ed.), letter no. 329, p. 228.

[3] Musée Toulouse-Lautrec, Albi.

[4] Museu de arte de São Paulo, Brazil, and National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, respectively.

[5] See p. 256.

[6] Robert Thomson, 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. 498.

[7]M.G. Dortu, Toulouse-Lautrec et son oeuvre, New York: Paul Brame et C.M. de Hauke, Collectors Editions, 1971, vol. 3, P.695.

After Lautrec’s mother’s departure from Paris on 4 January 1899, which precipitated his breakdown, his cousin Dr Gabriel Tapié de Céleyran looked after him before he was confined to a sanatorium. Lautrec was very fond of Gabriel and appreciated his kindness, writing that he should be rewarded for this: ‘I ask my family to give him a magnificent commemorative gift.’[1] From 1891 when his cousin had moved to Paris to study medicine, they had been close, as he reported to his mother in a letter in late 1893: ‘… we have dinner together once or twice a week. I’m doing his portrait on Sundays.’[2] Lautrec completed Gabriel’s portrait over the period 1893–94,[3] where we see a tall, unassuming man in silhouette against a backdrop of a brilliant red floor as he wanders the corridors of the Comédie Français. Lautrec’s affection for Tapié de Céleyran, and his gratitude for his care, did not preclude his cousin becoming the butt of Lautrec’s humour.

In Respite during the masked ball [Repos pendant le bal masqué]Lautrec has adopted the theme and the caricatural style of Paul Gavarni who, like Honoré Daumier, was a prolific satirist of French society. In the case of Gavarni, he applied his skill as a caricaturist to social subjects such as life in the underbelly of Paris, rather than political topics. Both mid century artists were much admired by Lautrec, and Gavarni’s influence is particularly evident in this late painting where the artist applies a wicked slant to the appearance of his cousin.

Here Lautrec has captured the liveliness and sometimes scandalous nature of the masked ball. He explored this theme earlier in his career, such as in Monsieur Fourcade of 1889, and later in Maxime Dethomas at the Opéra Ball of 1896.[4] Respite during the masked ball, which incorporates a pronounced caricatural approach also reveals a later uninhibited painting style, along with a rich and dramatic palette and lively brushwork.

It has been proposed that the venue might well be the same cabinet particulier as in Tête-à-tête supper,[5] with Emile Zola’s novel La curée of 1871 providing the source of inspiration where lovers meet in a private dining room such as this and begin an affair.[6] We see an ageing cocotte with her back to the viewer, displaying an ample body and dressed for the ball, like the woman in Tête-à-tête supper with her hood. Beneath her mask she smiles and gazes at herself in a mirror – blissfully insensitive to her ungainly appearance. Seated next to her is the equally unsettling looking figure of her companion or client (identified by Dortu as Lautrec’s cousin, Tapié de Céleyran[7]). Goggle-eyed, with his oversized gloved hand he appears about to lurch towards her buttocks, revealed by the transparency of her dress. This movement, emphasised by the cropping of his figure – and totally at odds with the behaviour of the doctor – suggests the artist is making a playful dig at his rather austere cousin.

JK

 

[1] Letter to his family, [Paris] 16 January 1899, 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. 558, p. 346.

[2] Letter to his mother, [Paris] 21 December 1893, in Schimmel (ed.), letter no. 329, p. 228.

[3] Musée Toulouse-Lautrec, Albi.

[4] Museu de arte de São Paulo, Brazil, and National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, respectively.

[5] See p. 256.

[6] Robert Thomson, 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. 498.

[7]M.G. Dortu, Toulouse-Lautrec et son oeuvre, New York: Paul Brame et C.M. de Hauke, Collectors Editions, 1971, vol. 3, P.695.

After Lautrec’s mother’s departure from Paris on 4 January 1899, which precipitated his breakdown, his cousin Dr Gabriel Tapié de Céleyran looked after him before he was confined to a sanatorium. Lautrec was very fond of Gabriel and appreciated his kindness, writing that he should be rewarded for this: ‘I ask my family to give him a magnificent commemorative gift.’[1] From 1891 when his cousin had moved to Paris to study medicine, they had been close, as he reported to his mother in a letter in late 1893: ‘… we have dinner together once or twice a week. I’m doing his portrait on Sundays.’[2] Lautrec completed Gabriel’s portrait over the period 1893–94,[3] where we see a tall, unassuming man in silhouette against a backdrop of a brilliant red floor as he wanders the corridors of the Comédie Français. Lautrec’s affection for Tapié de Céleyran, and his gratitude for his care, did not preclude his cousin becoming the butt of Lautrec’s humour.

In Respite during the masked ball [Repos pendant le bal masqué]Lautrec has adopted the theme and the caricatural style of Paul Gavarni who, like Honoré Daumier, was a prolific satirist of French society. In the case of Gavarni, he applied his skill as a caricaturist to social subjects such as life in the underbelly of Paris, rather than political topics. Both mid century artists were much admired by Lautrec, and Gavarni’s influence is particularly evident in this late painting where the artist applies a wicked slant to the appearance of his cousin.

Here Lautrec has captured the liveliness and sometimes scandalous nature of the masked ball. He explored this theme earlier in his career, such as in Monsieur Fourcade of 1889, and later in Maxime Dethomas at the Opéra Ball of 1896.[4] Respite during the masked ball, which incorporates a pronounced caricatural approach also reveals a later uninhibited painting style, along with a rich and dramatic palette and lively brushwork.

It has been proposed that the venue might well be the same cabinet particulier as in Tête-à-tête supper,[5] with Emile Zola’s novel La curée of 1871 providing the source of inspiration where lovers meet in a private dining room such as this and begin an affair.[6] We see an ageing cocotte with her back to the viewer, displaying an ample body and dressed for the ball, like the woman in Tête-à-tête supper with her hood. Beneath her mask she smiles and gazes at herself in a mirror – blissfully insensitive to her ungainly appearance. Seated next to her is the equally unsettling looking figure of her companion or client (identified by Dortu as Lautrec’s cousin, Tapié de Céleyran[7]). Goggle-eyed, with his oversized gloved hand he appears about to lurch towards her buttocks, revealed by the transparency of her dress. This movement, emphasised by the cropping of his figure – and totally at odds with the behaviour of the doctor – suggests the artist is making a playful dig at his rather austere cousin.

JK

 

[1] Letter to his family, [Paris] 16 January 1899, 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. 558, p. 346.

[2] Letter to his mother, [Paris] 21 December 1893, in Schimmel (ed.), letter no. 329, p. 228.

[3] Musée Toulouse-Lautrec, Albi.

[4] Museu de arte de São Paulo, Brazil, and National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, respectively.

[5] See p. 256.

[6] Robert Thomson, 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. 498.

[7]M.G. Dortu, Toulouse-Lautrec et son oeuvre, New York: Paul Brame et C.M. de Hauke, Collectors Editions, 1971, vol. 3, P.695.




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