From childhood Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec suffered from a rare congenital disease, which was the product of family intermarriage. Lautrec’s poor health was compounded by two accidents when he broke both legs as a young teenager. While he was bedridden, Lautrec turned to drawing and painting – activities which he loved – and so began his extraordinary artistic career.
The artist and family friend, René Princeteau, gave Lautrec his first lessons in drawing, encouraging him to pursue this skill as the basis for his training in art. In Paris Lautrec attended art classes at the studio of the conservative academic portraitist Léon Bonnat. Further studies took place at the studio of the history painter FernandCormon.
During his student days, Lautrec copied the drawings and engravings of the masters – an essential first step in academic training. Students then received tuition in life drawing and painting of both male and female nude models in classical poses.
While studying at the Atelier Cormon, Lautrec met many talented artists including Vincent van Goghand Emile Bernard. Despite Cormon’s traditional approach to teaching art, his studio acted as a springboard for the careers of many young avant-garde artists in Paris.