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Woman with umbrella

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec • Painting, 1889, 76.6×57.5 cm
About the artwork
Art form: Painting
Subject and objects: Portrait
Style of art: Post-Impressionism
Technique: Watercolor, Gouache, Tempera
Materials: Cardboard
Date of creation: 1889
Size: 76.6×57.5 cm
Artwork in selections: 12 selections

Description of the artwork «Woman with umbrella»

From 1886, Toulouse-Lautrec rented a small apartment with a studio on Rue Caulencourt in Montmartre, where he lived until 1898. And the artist's favorite place was the garden of Monsieur Fores, a retired photographer, located nearby, on the corner of Rue Caulencourt and Boulevard Clichy. According to Lautrec's friend, the gallerist Maurice Joyein, unlike other private gardens, this one was half neglected. But still there were sycamores, lime trees, lilac bushes, and carpets of picket fence.

В "To the woman with the umbrella." the influence of the painting techniques of the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists, which Lautrec began to apply as a student, can be seen. François Gauzy, one of his fellow students at the Cormon studio, recalled how new ideas permeated the classrooms and influenced the students' schedules: "The impact of the Impressionists on Cormon's studio was unobtrusive; those students who fell under it continued to paint, and experimented at extracurricular times behind Cormon's back. Under his guidance and enthusiastic approval, everyone worked, thinking of nothing else but learning to get along with balance, proportion, prejudice, and values.".

The portrait "Woman with an Umbrella" is one of the exploratory works in which Lautrec moved further and further away from the academic style. Imitating the Impressionists, he painted plein air subjects - Monsieur Faurès allowed him to use his garden at any time. A snapshot of a fragment of his work on a painting has been preserved. The artist is sitting on a low folding chair in front of an easel set up under an umbrella. Behind him you can see a shed where paints, tools and supplies were stored. The model is seated in front of it, leaning slightly forward against the spring bush. She was dressed as if for a ceremonial portrait: a smart muslin dress with lace, a fashionable little hat on her head, and her hands clutching a cane umbrella.

"She undoubtedly wanted to look like a society lady, in which she almost succeeded, only the artist could not refrain from irony, albeit not malicious, but rather sympathetic," points out art historian Albert Kostenevich. In reality, this lady, nicknamed Deaf Bertha (the second name of the painting is "Deaf Bertha in Monsieur Forès's Garden.") was a prostitute. She came to Paris to earn money, but after an unsuccessful search for work she ended up in a brothel. That Lautrec brought this creature of the night out into the bright light of day (and Bertha's pale face conflicts with the naturalistic setting) reflects his fascination with the marginalized.

This interest, as well as his keen cartoonist's eye and caustic wit, can partly be explained by his own physical handicap. Due to a genetic disorder caused by the close marriage of his parents (they were cousins), Lautrec's legs stopped growing after he broke both hip bones at different times during his teenage years. As a result, he had an upper body of normal proportions, but short dwarf legs. The artist had great difficulty walking with a cane and compensated for his physical defect with alcohol and sarcasm.

However, Lautrec's sympathy for his model is reflected in the exquisite coloring of this work - pink, purple and blue tones reign here. The portrait is painted with expressive strokes, laid boldly and freely, but with extreme precision.

Author: Vlad Maslov