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Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901) came from an Aristocratic background, having been a son of an earl. As a schoolboy, he showed a talent for drawing and his family arranged for him to take lessons from an animal painter in Paris. At the age of 18 he decided to study art seriously where he mingled with Paris’ local denizens, honing his craft among like-minded contemporaries such as Leon Bonnat, Emile Berand, as well as Degas and Van Gogh. He became a frequenter of cafes, cabarets and brothels of the neighborhood, drawing from them inspirations for his artistic themes. From the beginning, his drawings showed an unerring eye for catching facial characteristics, expressions and mannerisms with deadly accuracy. As his stature grew, his work was exhibited and featured in magazines. His subject matter continued to focus on the types he came into contact with during his rounds—anonymous loafers, street girls, and venders. In 1891, Toulouse-Lautrec began to investigate the potential for lithography and learned the craft from the bottom up. Within months his talent reached an unprecedented zenith, and he managed to cram some 400 lithographs into the remaining 10 years of his life, 31 of which were posters, and all of which were the cream of the graphic design.