Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

An original Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec Lithograph print.

(Delteil 355 II; Adhemar 115; Wittrock P16C; Adriani 130 iii/iii.)


Original lithograph printed in four colors (olive-green, blue, red, black) on two sheets of wove poster paper joined horizontally at the center.

Signed with the artist’s monogram device and dated lower left.

A richly printed impression of Delteil’s second state Wittrock’s state “C”, Adriani’s third and final state, printed after the addition of the poster text to the stone. Commissioned by La revue blanche as their annual poster for 1896. Published by G. Charpentier and E. Fasquelle, Paris; printed by Edward Ancourt, Paris. Bearing the hexagonal Republic Français tax registration stamp in black ink lower right.

49 3/8 x 35 7/8 inches

Sheet Size: 51 x 37 inches

Misia Natanson is enchantingly shown ice skating in a mutton-sleeve polka-dot coat, grey fur capelet and muff, and a veiled hat crowned with a fountain of feathers. Although her feet are unseen, a sense of gliding movement across the ice is implied in the open diagonals of her coat and out-stretched arm. Without an indication of setting, however, she appears as a free-flying winter angel who elides precise definition or placement.

Perhaps this was Lautrec’s intention, for Misia (1872-1950) was the “muse” at the center of a constellation of Paris’s most avant-garde intellectuals. She fascinated them and held court for them. Vuillard was in love with her, Lautrec infatuated. Verlaine and Mallarmé wrote poems to her; Renoir, Vuillard, Bonnard and Lautrec painted her portrait.

Since childhood Misia had been a pupil of Gabriel Fauré, and music became her metaphor in Vuillard’s and Lautrec’s paintings, and in a poem which Mallarmé wrote to her on a fan. It would have been typical of Lautrec’s imaginative powers to see another, more contemporary metaphor in the image of a beautiful woman ice skating.

The poster was commissioned as a promotion for the immensely important journal La Revue blanche, which began in Belgium and was founded in Paris in 1891 by the brothers Alfred, Alexandre and Thadée Natanson. Misia was the young wife of Thadée, and it was through the journal that she and her husband became the social center of intellectual Paris. La Revue blanche was a strong supporter of Lautrec’s work, and through it he expanded his circle of friends and contacts beyond the café, becoming close friends with the author Romain Coolus, who introduced him to progressive theater, and the poet and writer Paul Leclerq. Le Revue blanche provided Lautrec with intellectual stimulation, and the Natansons also played a role in his intimate life. From 1895-97 he traveled with them, spent afternoons at their Paris apartment, and sojourned at their country houses in Valvins and Villeneuve-sur-Yonne. Like him, Misia was aristocratic, witty, impetuous, and socially independent of bourgeois concerns. Lautrec called her L’Alouette (The Lark) and flirted with her. The poster deletes entirely any private emotions the artist may have felt, but presents the muse as illusory as she was to the realities which constrained his personal life.

La revue blanche was an eclectic journal of arts and letters. The periodical was distinguished by its left-wing political slant and ribald, avant-garde fiction and illustration. The circle of contributors soon included the writers Stéphane Mallarmé, Paul Valéry, Alfred Jarry, Emile Zola, Marcel Proust and the young Colette, and the painters Pierre Bonnard, Edouard Vuillard and Félix Vallotton. The center around whom all these literary and artistic figures revolved was Misia, then the wife of Thadée, a captivating young woman of Polish origin who possessed sufficient poise to conduct the most celebrated salon of avant-garde Paris while still in her early twenties. Lautrec’s portrayal of her, turned out in a magnificent costume, gliding swiftly along on unseen ice skates, effectively conveys her sophisticated presence.