Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

An original Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec lithograph print.


Original lithograph printed in seven colors (olive-green, beige, red, yellow, blue, black, dark grey-blue) on wove poster paper

Signed and dated on the stone with the artist’s monogram device lower right.

A superb impression of Wittrock and Adriani’s third and final state, printed after the addition of the text to the stone. Commissioned by La Plume (Léon Deschamps) for an international exhibition of posters at the Salon des Cent; printed by Bourgerie & Cie., with their credit line added to the stone at the lower portion of the right edge.

Catalog: Delteil 366; Adhemar 188; Wittrock P20 iii/iii; Adriani 137 iii/iii.

Sheet Size: 23 15/16 x 16 1/8 inches

In the summer of 1895 Lautrec embarked on a voyage from Le Havre with Maurice Guibert, on the steamer Le Chili, which had an ultimate destination of Dakar via Bordeaux and Portugal. Lautrec’s usual point of debarkation was Bordeaux, from where he would proceed to his habitual vacation spot. During the voyage he discovered a young woman, one of his fellow passengers, in cabin no. 54, who was on her way to join her husband, a colonial official in Senegal. He was so fascinated by her beauty that, despite protests from Guibert, he determined to stay on board when the ship reached Bordeaux and continue south with the vessel. It was not until they reached Lisbon that his friend succeeded in getting Lautrec – who was determined to carry on as far as Dakar – off the ship. Guibert then took the artist via Madrid and Toledo to the spa of Taussat, and the trip ended in the late summer near Bordeaux, at the Château de Malromé, the main residence of Lautrec’s mother.
Lautrec produced this poster in the autumn of 1895 from a photograph taken on board and various sketches. The third state, commissioned by tha magazine La Plume, was used as the advertisement for an international poster exhibition from October 1895 to March 1896 on the premises of the Salon des Cent. The avant-garde periodical had been founded by Léon Deschamps and it had been putting on exhibitions, which changed every month, since February of 1894.
The lady Lautrec encountered on board Le Chili inspired the poster. She is shown sitting under an awning in a gay canvas deck chair with a blanket covering her knees. Off the port side, a steamer ploughs through the whitecaps, and Lautrec, an avid sailor, included such nautical details as a lifeboat hanging from its davit at the upper left, a big bitt on the right, and an indication of the ship’s pitch in the slanting rail and deck line. Oblivious to her descriptive setting, the woman is lost in reverie, abstractedly saving her place in a book and reading her own far-away thoughts on the horizon.
Toulouse-Lautrec was a master at catching this sort of uninvited glimpse into an anonymous and private world, whether the setting were a café table, a theater box, or a brothel bedroom. Here especially however, the exoticism of a beautiful woman traveling alone – one of the great clichés of fantasy – tempted one of Lautrec’s rare romantic conceptions. Like Misia Natanson in La Revue blanche, the anonymous passenger was a woman who personified a type of romantic love from which Lautrec would always be excluded. She became his muse in the creation of this evocative image and also of the art exhibition which the poster announced.