French postimpressionist painter, lithographer, and illustrator who depicted the nightlife of late 19th-century Paris.
Toulouse-Lautrec was born in Albi on November 24, 1864, a descendant of one of the most aristocratic French families. He broke both legs as an adolescent, and because of a congenital calcium deficiency, they remained stunted for the rest of his life. During his convalescence, his mother encouraged him to paint. He subsequently studied painting with the French academic painters L. J. F. Bonnat and Fernand Cormon. Toulouse-Lautrec frequented the colorful cabarets, such as the Moulin Rouge, in the Montmartre district of Paris, where his wit attracted a large group of artists and intellectuals, including the Irish author Oscar Wilde, the Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh, and the French singer Yvette Guilbert. He also frequented the theater, circus, and brothels. He preserved his impressions of these places and their celebrities in portraits and sketches of striking originality and power. Outstanding examples are La Goulou Entering the Moulin Rouge, Jane Avril Entering the Moulin Rouge, and Au salon de la rue des Moulins. His alcoholic dissipation, however, eventually brought on a paralytic stroke, to which he succumbed at Malromé, one of his family's estates, on September 9, 1901.
Toulouse-Lautrec was a prolific creator, producing great numbers of paintings, drawings, etchings, lithographs, and posters, as well as illustrations for various contemporary newspapers. Many of his works are in the Musée Toulouse-Lautrec in Albi. He incorporated into his own highly individual style elements of the styles of various contemporaneous artists, especially those of the French painters Edgar Degas and Paul Gauguin. Japanese art, then coming into vogue in Paris, also influenced him in his use of sharply delineated line, asymmetric composition, and flat areas of color. His work inspired van Gogh, Georges Seurat, and Georges Rouault.