Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901) is rightly one of the best known of all nineteenth-century French artists. He conveys with a unique flair the glitter and glamour of Parisian nightlife, and at the same time lays bare its artificiality.
Crippled and stunted from childhood by two falls that broke his thighs, he was forever isolated from society by his deformity. His response was to immerse himself in the dross of society. He threw himself into the capital's demi-monde and chose to portray the most trivial - if vital - subjects: actresses, clowns, dancers, brothels, race-tracks. He also, finally, turned to alcohol, which caused his collapse and death.
Yet his spirit remained surprisingly unscathed, as did the enormous richness of his talent. At first influenced by the Impressionists - he particularly admired Degas - he produced classics in many media: oil paintings, posters, lithographs, drawings. His works combine authority with all the verve and spontaneity of on-the-spot sketches - a technique that still seems immediate and modern.
Edward Lucie-Smith is well known for his writing on art history. His many publications include Art in the Seventies and Sculpture since 1945, both published by Phaidon. This wonderful introduction to Toulouse-Lautrec, first published in 1983, is here reissued in an attractive new design.