‘Today we know Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec as the archetypal bohemian artist of the belle époque…’
Toulouse-Lautrec became a fixture at the Moulin Rouge. He spent his evenings drinking absinthe, sketching, and socialising with the rest of the clientele. He found comfort in the more marginal social whirl of Montmartre, where bourgeois men consorted with their mistresses and prostitutes.
He captured this atmosphere in posters such as La Goulue at the Moulin Rouge (1895), which shows the dancer and performer Louise Weber (1866-1929), who called herself La Goulue (“the Glutton”), because of her astonishing ability to consume alcohol.
She is pictured dancing with her partner Jacques Renaudin (1843-1907), whose rubbery joints had earned him the nickname “Valentin the Boneless”. Toulouse-Lautrec loved the way the pair looked mismatched.
Stylistically, this poster shows the artists expressive style, which is governed by his free-flowing line and decorative sense of colour. It is also significant for the technical sophistication of its printing; this was the first time a colour lithograph was created using four separate stones (black, red, yellow, and blue). This technique allowed Toulouse-Lautrec’s original design to be reproduced without losing any of its splendid colourist effects.