Henri de TOULOUSE-LAUTREC | Young woman holding a bottle [Jeune fille tenant une bouteille]

Henri de TOULOUSE-LAUTREC
France 1864 – 1901

Young woman holding a bottle [Jeune fille tenant une bouteille] 1886 sanguine drawing
69.5 (h) x 36.8 (w) cm
Reference: Dortu D.2.993 Prat collection, Paris

From the time Lautrec joined the studios of Léon Bonnat and then Fernand Cormon in Paris in 1882, he began a series of full-scale figure drawings of nudes, mostly male, some female, standing, seated or reclining in various poses, as he explored proportions of the human form and studied foreshortening. He also drew copies of casts of sculpture from the classical or Renaissance periods. Outside the ateliers and their life classes Lautrec turned to family – his mother, uncles, cousins, as well as some of the workmen on the family estates at Albi. There were also heads of social types, such as sailors or workmen, often created in a caricatural style.

By the mid 1880s Lautrec had expanded his repertoire of drawings outside of the confines of the class or the home. As in the case of this Young woman holding a bottle [Jeune fille tenant une bouteille]he began to depict Parisian life of the kind he was now experiencing. A drawing in blue crayon and Indian ink, A Saint Lazare 1887 – the title and subject taken from a song by Artistide Bruant – shows a young woman seated at a table writing. She had been held at the prison hospital at Saint Lazare and was writing to her pimp lover.[1] Lautrec chose to draw further gritty subjects such as low-class prostitutes, known as Pierreuses in Parisian argot.[2]

Before this Young woman holding a bottle, Lautrec had drawn another young woman, looking rather worse for wear, carrying a bottle of wine across a street, prepared but not published as an illustration in Le Courrier français.[3] He then transforms the subject. This young woman, shown in profile and with upswept hair, is a figure of innocence and reserve. The drawing differs from other artists’ interpretations of laundresses, milliners, femmes de brasserie and other working-class women, as Lautrec has not emphasised the physical reality of the girl’s drudgery by including details such as an iron or hanging washing. Instead, even at this early stage of his career, he has concentrated more on the characterisation of his model – a tiny waif-like creature, modestly dressed holding a bottle to indicate her lowly status. In this way his drawing signals a move towards a growing focus on the psychological aspect of his subject.  

This drawing in sanguine is important as it represents the period 1885–86 when Lautrec first turned to modern urban subjects. Aside from his own experience living in Paris and frequenting the streets where working-class women could be found, he was also taken with the Naturalist writings of Emile Zola and Joris-Karl Huysmans and the bleak art of Edgar Degas, Jean-Louis Forain and Théophile Steinlen.

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.275. The first verse of this song is as follows:

          I’m writing this from clink
     My poor Polyte,
     I dunno wot come over me yesterday
     At visiting time;
     It’s the sort of disease wot’s invisible
     When it starts.
     Anyway, ’ere I am banged up
     In Saint-Lazare.

            Translation by James Grieve, Visiting Fellow, School of Language Studies, Australian National University.

[2]Dortu, vol. 5, D.2.897, D.2.899.

[3]Dortu, vol. 5, D.2.928.

From the time Lautrec joined the studios of Léon Bonnat and then Fernand Cormon in Paris in 1882, he began a series of full-scale figure drawings of nudes, mostly male, some female, standing, seated or reclining in various poses, as he explored proportions of the human form and studied foreshortening. He also drew copies of casts of sculpture from the classical or Renaissance periods. Outside the ateliers and their life classes Lautrec turned to family – his mother, uncles, cousins, as well as some of the workmen on the family estates at Albi. There were also heads of social types, such as sailors or workmen, often created in a caricatural style.

By the mid 1880s Lautrec had expanded his repertoire of drawings outside of the confines of the class or the home. As in the case of this Young woman holding a bottle [Jeune fille tenant une bouteille]he began to depict Parisian life of the kind he was now experiencing. A drawing in blue crayon and Indian ink, A Saint Lazare 1887 – the title and subject taken from a song by Artistide Bruant – shows a young woman seated at a table writing. She had been held at the prison hospital at Saint Lazare and was writing to her pimp lover.[1] Lautrec chose to draw further gritty subjects such as low-class prostitutes, known as Pierreuses in Parisian argot.[2]

Before this Young woman holding a bottle, Lautrec had drawn another young woman, looking rather worse for wear, carrying a bottle of wine across a street, prepared but not published as an illustration in Le Courrier français.[3] He then transforms the subject. This young woman, shown in profile and with upswept hair, is a figure of innocence and reserve. The drawing differs from other artists’ interpretations of laundresses, milliners, femmes de brasserie and other working-class women, as Lautrec has not emphasised the physical reality of the girl’s drudgery by including details such as an iron or hanging washing. Instead, even at this early stage of his career, he has concentrated more on the characterisation of his model – a tiny waif-like creature, modestly dressed holding a bottle to indicate her lowly status. In this way his drawing signals a move towards a growing focus on the psychological aspect of his subject.  

This drawing in sanguine is important as it represents the period 1885–86 when Lautrec first turned to modern urban subjects. Aside from his own experience living in Paris and frequenting the streets where working-class women could be found, he was also taken with the Naturalist writings of Emile Zola and Joris-Karl Huysmans and the bleak art of Edgar Degas, Jean-Louis Forain and Théophile Steinlen.

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.275. The first verse of this song is as follows:

          I’m writing this from clink
     My poor Polyte,
     I dunno wot come over me yesterday
     At visiting time;
     It’s the sort of disease wot’s invisible
     When it starts.
     Anyway, ’ere I am banged up
     In Saint-Lazare.

            Translation by James Grieve, Visiting Fellow, School of Language Studies, Australian National University.

[2]Dortu, vol. 5, D.2.897, D.2.899.

[3]Dortu, vol. 5, D.2.928.

From the time Lautrec joined the studios of Léon Bonnat and then Fernand Cormon in Paris in 1882, he began a series of full-scale figure drawings of nudes, mostly male, some female, standing, seated or reclining in various poses, as he explored proportions of the human form and studied foreshortening. He also drew copies of casts of sculpture from the classical or Renaissance periods. Outside the ateliers and their life classes Lautrec turned to family – his mother, uncles, cousins, as well as some of the workmen on the family estates at Albi. There were also heads of social types, such as sailors or workmen, often created in a caricatural style.

By the mid 1880s Lautrec had expanded his repertoire of drawings outside of the confines of the class or the home. As in the case of this Young woman holding a bottle [Jeune fille tenant une bouteille]he began to depict Parisian life of the kind he was now experiencing. A drawing in blue crayon and Indian ink, A Saint Lazare 1887 – the title and subject taken from a song by Artistide Bruant – shows a young woman seated at a table writing. She had been held at the prison hospital at Saint Lazare and was writing to her pimp lover.[1] Lautrec chose to draw further gritty subjects such as low-class prostitutes, known as Pierreuses in Parisian argot.[2]

Before this Young woman holding a bottle, Lautrec had drawn another young woman, looking rather worse for wear, carrying a bottle of wine across a street, prepared but not published as an illustration in Le Courrier français.[3] He then transforms the subject. This young woman, shown in profile and with upswept hair, is a figure of innocence and reserve. The drawing differs from other artists’ interpretations of laundresses, milliners, femmes de brasserie and other working-class women, as Lautrec has not emphasised the physical reality of the girl’s drudgery by including details such as an iron or hanging washing. Instead, even at this early stage of his career, he has concentrated more on the characterisation of his model – a tiny waif-like creature, modestly dressed holding a bottle to indicate her lowly status. In this way his drawing signals a move towards a growing focus on the psychological aspect of his subject.  

This drawing in sanguine is important as it represents the period 1885–86 when Lautrec first turned to modern urban subjects. Aside from his own experience living in Paris and frequenting the streets where working-class women could be found, he was also taken with the Naturalist writings of Emile Zola and Joris-Karl Huysmans and the bleak art of Edgar Degas, Jean-Louis Forain and Théophile Steinlen.

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.275. The first verse of this song is as follows:

          I’m writing this from clink
     My poor Polyte,
     I dunno wot come over me yesterday
     At visiting time;
     It’s the sort of disease wot’s invisible
     When it starts.
     Anyway, ’ere I am banged up
     In Saint-Lazare.

            Translation by James Grieve, Visiting Fellow, School of Language Studies, Australian National University.

[2]Dortu, vol. 5, D.2.897, D.2.899.

[3]Dortu, vol. 5, D.2.928.




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