Henri de TOULOUSE-LAUTREC | Debauchery (second version) [Débauche (deuxiéme planche)]

Henri de TOULOUSE-LAUTREC
artist France 1864 – 1901

Debauchery (second version) [Débauche (deuxiéme planche)] Catalogue of artistic posters [Catalogue d'affiches artistiques] 1896 planographic , brush, crayon and spatter lithograph, printed in three colours
23.6 (h) x 32.4 (w) cm , second edition; edition of 100
signed lower right, printed from stone in blue ink, 'HTL' monogram. not dated.
Reference: Witrock 167 National Gallery of Australia, Canberra NGA 1972.509.114 Felix Man Collection, Special Government Grant 1972

Debauchery is to engage in extreme sensual indulgence or to lead away from virtue and is often a word used to describe an orgy. The scene depicted here by Lautrec has a touch of irony to it; nothing about it is truly sensual, although both characters appear to be far from virtuous and the orgiastic incident is humorously rendered in the French national tricolour. Whilst the woman seated on the red sofa is an anonymous prostitute, her client has been identified as Maxime Dethomas,[1] a close friend and fellow artist of Lautrec’s who frequented brothels with him. Lying behind the woman, Dethomas slyly reaches around with his left hand to grope her breast, revealed to the viewer by the slippage of her dress. The woman leans to her right, her martini glass in the opposite hand, she appears completely uninterested in participating either psychologically or emotionally in the sexual encounter. This is a purely physical and financial transaction. Lautrec has brilliantly captured the difference of the two characters’ dispositions. The man smiles and looks sideways at the woman with sleazy, knowing eyes. Her countenance is in complete contrast as she turns to face the opposite way with her jaw lifted and neck stretched in an embodiment of thinly veiled disgust. Her mouth is turned down and her eyes are devoid of any spark of arousal. She is bored, having preformed this act a thousand times before; he is excited by all that has been promised and paid for.

Lautrec designed and refined this image through numerous preliminary drawings prior to printing Debauchery [Débauche] in two states, with only one impression of the first state known to exist. The original state, however, displays Lautrec’s elephant monogram – placed between Dethomas’ head and the margin on the right side. Although its specific personal meaning is not clear, the elephant monogram, used infrequently by the artist from 1895, has been connected with the large papier-mâché elephant that famously stood outside the Moulin Rouge.[2] This spectacular elephant was acquired by the owner of the Moulin Rouge, Joseph Oller, from the Exposition Universelle of 1889. In this, the second state of Debauchery, the elephant monogram has been removed and the more common HTL encircled monogram is printed from the stone as the sole mark signifying the artist’s hand.

The crayon, brush and spatter lithograph is printed in three colours from three stones – a blue keyline stone was followed by the printing of two further stones for the red and for the small sections of yellow. Despite the reduced palette, Lautrec’s mastery of the lithographic process is evident in the variety of techniques employed: the artist has used a crayon to sketch his figures, a brush to suggest the heavy red material of the sofa, and he has added interest with the spatter technique across the surface of larger areas, including the woman’s dress and much of the background. Of particular note is the way in which Lautrec emphasises the prostitute’s naked skin by leaving it as a negative space, without colour or spatter, in order to heighten its whiteness through contrast alone. Where Lautrec has deliberately overlapped his design on two printing stones, he has created the illusion of a green ink – such as in the lines delineating Dethomas’ hand. This double linear treatment is not a mis-registration of the printing stones but a deliberate visual device used to suggest an area of movement, thus catching our eye and further emphasising the sexualised nature of the scene.

Debauchery functioned as the cover image for the June 1896 catalogue of A. Arnould’s sale of posters created by both French and international artists.

JB

 

[1] Suzanne Grano (ed.), Toulouse-Lautrec: Prints and posters from the Bibliothèque nationale, Brisbane: Queensland Art Gallery, 1991, p. 168.

[2] Nora Desloge, Toulouse-Lautrec: The Baldwin M. Baldwin collection, San Diego: San Diego Museum
of Art, 1988, p. 40.

Debauchery is to engage in extreme sensual indulgence or to lead away from virtue and is often a word used to describe an orgy. The scene depicted here by Lautrec has a touch of irony to it; nothing about it is truly sensual, although both characters appear to be far from virtuous and the orgiastic incident is humorously rendered in the French national tricolour. Whilst the woman seated on the red sofa is an anonymous prostitute, her client has been identified as Maxime Dethomas,[1] a close friend and fellow artist of Lautrec’s who frequented brothels with him. Lying behind the woman, Dethomas slyly reaches around with his left hand to grope her breast, revealed to the viewer by the slippage of her dress. The woman leans to her right, her martini glass in the opposite hand, she appears completely uninterested in participating either psychologically or emotionally in the sexual encounter. This is a purely physical and financial transaction. Lautrec has brilliantly captured the difference of the two characters’ dispositions. The man smiles and looks sideways at the woman with sleazy, knowing eyes. Her countenance is in complete contrast as she turns to face the opposite way with her jaw lifted and neck stretched in an embodiment of thinly veiled disgust. Her mouth is turned down and her eyes are devoid of any spark of arousal. She is bored, having preformed this act a thousand times before; he is excited by all that has been promised and paid for.

Lautrec designed and refined this image through numerous preliminary drawings prior to printing Debauchery [Débauche] in two states, with only one impression of the first state known to exist. The original state, however, displays Lautrec’s elephant monogram – placed between Dethomas’ head and the margin on the right side. Although its specific personal meaning is not clear, the elephant monogram, used infrequently by the artist from 1895, has been connected with the large papier-mâché elephant that famously stood outside the Moulin Rouge.[2] This spectacular elephant was acquired by the owner of the Moulin Rouge, Joseph Oller, from the Exposition Universelle of 1889. In this, the second state of Debauchery, the elephant monogram has been removed and the more common HTL encircled monogram is printed from the stone as the sole mark signifying the artist’s hand.

The crayon, brush and spatter lithograph is printed in three colours from three stones – a blue keyline stone was followed by the printing of two further stones for the red and for the small sections of yellow. Despite the reduced palette, Lautrec’s mastery of the lithographic process is evident in the variety of techniques employed: the artist has used a crayon to sketch his figures, a brush to suggest the heavy red material of the sofa, and he has added interest with the spatter technique across the surface of larger areas, including the woman’s dress and much of the background. Of particular note is the way in which Lautrec emphasises the prostitute’s naked skin by leaving it as a negative space, without colour or spatter, in order to heighten its whiteness through contrast alone. Where Lautrec has deliberately overlapped his design on two printing stones, he has created the illusion of a green ink – such as in the lines delineating Dethomas’ hand. This double linear treatment is not a mis-registration of the printing stones but a deliberate visual device used to suggest an area of movement, thus catching our eye and further emphasising the sexualised nature of the scene.

Debauchery functioned as the cover image for the June 1896 catalogue of A. Arnould’s sale of posters created by both French and international artists.

JB

 

[1] Suzanne Grano (ed.), Toulouse-Lautrec: Prints and posters from the Bibliothèque nationale, Brisbane: Queensland Art Gallery, 1991, p. 168.

[2] Nora Desloge, Toulouse-Lautrec: The Baldwin M. Baldwin collection, San Diego: San Diego Museum
of Art, 1988, p. 40.

Debauchery is to engage in extreme sensual indulgence or to lead away from virtue and is often a word used to describe an orgy. The scene depicted here by Lautrec has a touch of irony to it; nothing about it is truly sensual, although both characters appear to be far from virtuous and the orgiastic incident is humorously rendered in the French national tricolour. Whilst the woman seated on the red sofa is an anonymous prostitute, her client has been identified as Maxime Dethomas,[1] a close friend and fellow artist of Lautrec’s who frequented brothels with him. Lying behind the woman, Dethomas slyly reaches around with his left hand to grope her breast, revealed to the viewer by the slippage of her dress. The woman leans to her right, her martini glass in the opposite hand, she appears completely uninterested in participating either psychologically or emotionally in the sexual encounter. This is a purely physical and financial transaction. Lautrec has brilliantly captured the difference of the two characters’ dispositions. The man smiles and looks sideways at the woman with sleazy, knowing eyes. Her countenance is in complete contrast as she turns to face the opposite way with her jaw lifted and neck stretched in an embodiment of thinly veiled disgust. Her mouth is turned down and her eyes are devoid of any spark of arousal. She is bored, having preformed this act a thousand times before; he is excited by all that has been promised and paid for.

Lautrec designed and refined this image through numerous preliminary drawings prior to printing Debauchery [Débauche] in two states, with only one impression of the first state known to exist. The original state, however, displays Lautrec’s elephant monogram – placed between Dethomas’ head and the margin on the right side. Although its specific personal meaning is not clear, the elephant monogram, used infrequently by the artist from 1895, has been connected with the large papier-mâché elephant that famously stood outside the Moulin Rouge.[2] This spectacular elephant was acquired by the owner of the Moulin Rouge, Joseph Oller, from the Exposition Universelle of 1889. In this, the second state of Debauchery, the elephant monogram has been removed and the more common HTL encircled monogram is printed from the stone as the sole mark signifying the artist’s hand.

The crayon, brush and spatter lithograph is printed in three colours from three stones – a blue keyline stone was followed by the printing of two further stones for the red and for the small sections of yellow. Despite the reduced palette, Lautrec’s mastery of the lithographic process is evident in the variety of techniques employed: the artist has used a crayon to sketch his figures, a brush to suggest the heavy red material of the sofa, and he has added interest with the spatter technique across the surface of larger areas, including the woman’s dress and much of the background. Of particular note is the way in which Lautrec emphasises the prostitute’s naked skin by leaving it as a negative space, without colour or spatter, in order to heighten its whiteness through contrast alone. Where Lautrec has deliberately overlapped his design on two printing stones, he has created the illusion of a green ink – such as in the lines delineating Dethomas’ hand. This double linear treatment is not a mis-registration of the printing stones but a deliberate visual device used to suggest an area of movement, thus catching our eye and further emphasising the sexualised nature of the scene.

Debauchery functioned as the cover image for the June 1896 catalogue of A. Arnould’s sale of posters created by both French and international artists.

JB

 

[1] Suzanne Grano (ed.), Toulouse-Lautrec: Prints and posters from the Bibliothèque nationale, Brisbane: Queensland Art Gallery, 1991, p. 168.

[2] Nora Desloge, Toulouse-Lautrec: The Baldwin M. Baldwin collection, San Diego: San Diego Museum
of Art, 1988, p. 40.



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