Man About Town: the Boulevardier

The grand boulevards of Paris lent themselves to a newly developing cultureof modern city living. Lautrec and his friends inhabited this stage as youngmen about town, boulevardiers or flâneurs, who embraced the spectacleof nightlife in Paris by frequenting its fashionable haunts and its low-brow dives.

For the visual artist the flâneur was an ideal subject to represent the newParis. He was a well dressed and educated man with elegant manners who could be seen promenading along the boulevards, seated in the city’s arcadesor amongst the crowd at the racecourse, the Jockey Club or the Opéra.

The year 1891 was significant for Lautrec in terms of his artistic development. One notable event was the display of ten of his paintings, including three portraits, at the seventh exhibition of the Société des artistesindépendants. In preparation, Lautrec began painting the portraits of his friends – Gaston Bonnefoy, a young man who had recently returned from Saigon, Louis Pascal, Lautrec’s dashing cousin, and Henri Bourges, who had just become a doctor of medicine. All three were young men of good fortune. In Lautrec’s compositions the idea of the silhouetted form emerges. This visual device also appears in Lautrec's posters.

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