Journal of Suzanne Valadon, model and apprentice of Henry Toulouse-Lautrec. pans, July 25 1889 It’s a calm Sunday afternoon. I Just woke up next to Toulouse. He’s still snoring, probably due to the large amount of alcohol he had last night. Absinthe in abundance in the crazy bohemian Parisians nights. Toulouse always drinks too much, no one realizes because everyone enjoys drinking every night but I can see he’s not far from being an alcoholic. It’s going to kill him someday. He had that funny walk when we got home, he looks as a child, with his short height, staggering from left to ight.
I know it’s a subject he doesn’t usually talks about, his height. I heard the story from someone at a table one night. He was 14, no 13, when his accident happened. After fracturing his thighbone, the break didn’t heal properly and his legs stopped growing, meanwhile the rest of his body kept a normal size. During his convalescence period he got pushed by his mother to paint and draw. He didn’t spend time with children his age but rather develop his art skills. Anyhow Toulouse never had a good health maybe it’s because of his origins.
He confessed that he came, from an aristocrat family keeping marriage among them. Incest never turns out good. Toulouse has a certain fascination for brothels. We hadn’t seen each other for a week now because he was in one of them. This place of sexual enjoyment is its little shelter; he enjoys the environment of love and pleasures. He has become very close to all the prostitutes; he has started to gain their trust. He stays days and nights, watching and painting the female’s lifestyle in the house, especially in their intimate moments. Women have become one of his favorites subject in his work.
Also Toulouse began to work on posters for the cabaret the Moulin Rouge. I always see him with a toothbrush in his pocket to splat on the lithographic stone to produce tonal effects. I am always captivated when I watch him work doing lithography. I see him starting from scratches; he never has a sketch but instead starts directly on the lithographic stone from memory. Yesterday he was doing a poster called ” Le Goulue au Moulin Rouge”, He did different patterns with flat planes placing Valentine ” the oneless one ” in the middle, this really flexible dancer.
I like how simple and expressive the poster was, keeping a very communicative form. He created a new style, inspired by the Japanese art principally. Japanese art became in vogue in Paris. It has been 35 years that Japan re-opened its trade and they would send porcelains, woodcuts, and screens. Then in the 1960’s, ukiyo-e, Japanese wood prints, became popular and originated an inspiration for many artists that I know. When we go out to “le Chat Noir Night Club”, we get some drinks share some laughs.
There are moments when we don’t hear Toulouse anymore. He is sketching the scenes; part of the bohemian lifestyle is to incorporate your art in your everyday life. He was very good at capturing moments and people. He would draw the crowd scenes focusing on one or two fgures. He’s always very detached in his paintings but keeps a compassionate ee e “Chat Noir Night Club” is also a place where he gathered with artists. They like to collaborate and exchange their views. I often hear him talk to Th©ophile-Alexandre Steinlen and Georges Auriol.
Steinlen and Toulouse have a very similar style, and there is a constant rivalry between them for certain commissions. When I see Toulouse frustrated chugging some absinthe I know they Just argued before. However I appreciate Steinlein’s company; he showed me his new poster for “le Chat Noir” with beautiful cat illustrations. I admire Toulouse, his wide variety of paintings, drawings, etchings, lithographs, and posters, as well as illustrations for various contemporary newspapers are mind-blowing. Many artists inspire him and he inspires many.
What I like the most is that he incorporates the styles of contemporary artists like the painters Edgar Degas and Paul Gauguin. The Japanese art is becoming very trendy and I can see its impact on his work on many elements as sharp delineation, oblique angles, flat areas of color and asymmetric composition. I hope he won’t sleep all day. He is supposed to teach me painting today. I am very grateful for everything he did for me. He taught me his techniques, how he applies the paint in long, with thinbrushtrokes and also his use vibrant colors. I think I’ll wake him up soon.