The Artist Roadmap

Artist Insights: Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

Toulouse-Lautrec Painting

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864–1901)

Toulouse-Lautrec did his best creative work at night, sketching at cabarets or setting up his easel in brothels. The resulting depictions of fin de siècle Parisian nightlife made his name, but the cabaret lifestyle proved disastrous to his health: Toulouse-Lautrec drank constantly and slept little. After a long night of drawing and binge-drinking, he would often wake early to print lithographs, then head to a café for lunch and several glasses of wine.

Returning to his studio, he would take a nap to sleep off the wine, then paint until the late afternoon, when it was time for aperitifs. If there were visitors, Toulouse-Lautrec would proudly mix up a few rounds of his infamous cocktails; the artist was smitten with American mixed drinks, which were still a novelty in France at the time, and he liked to invent his own concoctions - assembled not for complementary flavours but for their vivid colours and extreme potency. (One of his inventions was the Maiden Blush, a combination of absinthe, mandarin, bitters, red wine, and champagne. He wanted the sensation, he said, of “a peacock’s tail in the mouth.”)

Dinner, more wine, and another night of boozy revelry soon followed. “I expect to burn myself out by the time I’m forty,” Toulouse-Lautrec told an acquaintance. In reality, he only made it to thirty-six.


From Daily Rituals by Mason Currey





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