Henri Marie Raymond de Toulouse-Lautrec-Monfa, or more commonly known as just Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, was born on November 1864 in a commune named Albi, more specifically in the department named after the Tarn River in France. He was the first child of Adèle Zoe Tapié de Celeyran and Alphonse Charles Comte de Toulouse-Lautrec-Monfa, an aristocratic family in which he would have inherited the title fo Comte, but only if he had outlived his father. Lautrec’s grandmothers were siblings, meaning his parents were cousins, resulting in congenital problems and was possibly the reason his brother, who was born in 1867, passed away only a year later. Eventually, his parents split up, and the young Lautrec went under the care of a nanny.
Lautrec was sent to live with his mother in Paris at eight years old, and she quickly noticed his innate talent for art. He was mostly interested in painting and drawing horses and would often draw caricatures in his schoolbooks. Rene Princeteau, a painter and a friend of his father, would periodically visit the young boy to give him lessons. A young artist who would become not only a beloved modern painter, but also a draughtsman, printmaker, caricaturist, illustrator, and who even wrote a cookbook, entitled The Art of Cuisine. Although today Lautrec is seen as a beloved artist of the Parisian cabarets, this didn’t come without struggles. He moved back to Albi in 1875 due to his health issues, as he had problems with his growth and development. Lautrec’s face had some deformities as he grew, causing him pain in his teeth as well. Because of his fragile bone, Lautrec fractured his femurs twice in two years, when he was thirteen and fourteen years old. After these incidents, his body never developed properly, leaving his legs shortened for the rest of his life, while his body grew normally - forcing him to use a cane. Some historians believe he had pycnodysostosis, which later became known as Toulouse-Lautrec Syndrome.
Princeteau was astounded with his pupils’ progress and convinced Lautrec’s parents to let the young artist study art under Léon Bonnat, a portrait painter, in Paris. Lautrec was mostly interested in the bohemian area of Paris, Montmartre - a hot spot for modern painters, philosophers, and writers. In 1882, Lautrec began to study with Fernand Cormon, who influenced his students to search for their artistic motifs in the streets of Paris. He met great modern masters like Vincent Van Gogh and Emile Bernard during this period which influenced his production. The artists’ exposure to the bohemian lifestyle, which included bars and brothels (reoccurring themes in his artworks) as well the traumas he endured because of his health and his appearance, led him to alcoholism.
Although printmaking was looked down upon by many other artists, Lautrec created a beautiful series of lithographic posters for the Moulin Rouge, which helped tremendously in his income. He was inspired by early Impressionists like Manet and Degas, as well as the traditional Japanese woodblock prints. In 1886, Lautrec painted the masterpiece La Blanchisseuse - an artwork that sold for US$22.4 million in a 2005 auction. For many years the artist participated in the Société des Artistes Indépendants, continued selling artworks, and even exhibited works with Van Gogh. While on a trip to London, Lautrec became good friends and supporter of Oscar Wilde. Lautrec passed away in 1901 after his alcoholism and syphilis began to deteriorate his mental and physical health significantly.