1864 - 1901
oil, ink and graphite on panel, circa 1883 - 1884
monogrammed and on verso inscribed "Toulouse-Lautre" [sic]
6 1/2 x 9 1/2 in 16.5 x 24.1 cm
Estimate: $30,000 - $50,000
Sold for: $31,250
Preview at: Heffel Toronto – 13 Hazelton Ave
François Gauzi, Paris
Galerie de la Présidence, Paris
Estate of Liliane M. Stewart, Montreal
Maurice Joyant, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec 1864 - 1901, 1926, listed page 259
Paul de Lapparent, Toulouse-Lautrec, 1927, page 15
François Gauzi, Lautrec et son temps, 1954, page 13
Maurice Joyant, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Volume 1, 1968, page 259
M.G. Dortu, Toulouse-Lautrec et son oeuvre, 1864 - 1901, Volume 2, 1971, listed page 100, reproduced page 101, catalogue #P.230
Gale B. Murray, Toulouse-Lautrec: The Formative Years, 1878 – 1891, 1991, reproduced as figure 43, page 55
In the dozen years before his death at age 36, the work of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec—paintings, drawings and graphics—embodied the alluring nightlife of Montmartre, and in turn a popularized image-mythology for Paris in the 1890s as the European centre for modern art. Montmartre, as many have written, was a hybrid of the leisure and entertainment industries, and was superficially decadent and hardly anti-bourgeois. In this staged micro-culture, Lautrec was cast as a character - an artist from an aristocratic family, corrupted and in turn, a corrupting influence. His physical deformities and the lurid aspects of his personal life fed a romanticized and scandalous view of Lautrec’s work. But his legacy and his contribution to the language of modern art are better seen in the context of artist intimistes of the period, who included Pierre Bonnard, Mary Cassatt, Edgar Degas, Théophile Steinlen, Félix Valloton and Édouard Vuillard.
Lautrec’s academic training had been dismissed for decades, but has now been given scholarly attention as a critical period in the development of his technical and perceptual skills. Lautrec studied briefly in the atelier of Léon Bonnat before entering the atelier of Fernand Corman, where he studied from April 1882 through early 1887. Corman, as did Bonnat, emphasized drawing, primarily from life models. He tolerated innovation from his students but did not advocate it. Other notable students during Lautrec’s time were Émile Bernard in 1884 and Vincent van Gogh in 1886.
Charrette embourbée (Mired Cart) is an esquisse peinte, a painted sketch that was part of atelier instruction and an important stage in the development of skills in composition, colour and effect. The esquisse peinte has a long history in painting and represents a completed work more so than an ébauche, which denotes a preliminary or quick sketch in oil. Charrette embourbée, however, was likely done outside of the Corman atelier instruction, and possibly while Lautrec was working through other artists’ work, a common self-directed practice. Lautrec visited the Salon exhibitions of the 1880s, when rural subjects and themes were popular. In one documented example, Lautrec painted a variation on Évariste Luminais’s myth-history painting La Fuite du roi Gradlon, 1884. Closely related to the composition of Charrette embourbée is Lautrec’s drawing of peasant figures and horses pulling a cart (M.G. Dortu, catalogue #D.2.925), titled Les vendanges (Harvest), although it was dated 1885 - 1886 by Dortu (her dating was transcribed from the first cataloguing of Lautrec’s work by Maurice Joyant in 1927—the dating of Lautrec’s work has since been revised). Another connected composition is Lautrec’s 1884 drawing of a ploughman and two oxen done as an illustration for a deluxe edition of Victor Hugo’s writings. Corman invited Lautrec to contribute, although Lautrec’s drawings were not used.
Charrette embourbée has the confident hallmarks and spirit of Lautrec’s later independent work, including dynamic abbreviated figures that appear in the Montmartre dance hall and circus works. Horses were also a favourite early subject for Lautrec and reappear in his Paris street and circus works. A prime example appeared in the widely reproduced Au cirque Fernando, l’écuyère, 1887 - 1888 (in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago). While confined to a nursing home in 1899, Lautrec returned to circus horses with acrobatic performers as subject matter, done from memory.
Not to be dismissed are the verso sketches. The style of the standing figure thumbnail sketch can be seen in the side drawing of a Corman-period atelier life drawing (Dortu, catalogue #D.2.551). Also worthy of note are the three other ink sketches, characteristic of Lautrec’s quickly observed and decisive caricatures, which were probably done at a later date. The upside-down head, connected to the feet of the full figure, is Lautrec’s playfulness at work.
We thank Ihor Holubizky for contributing the above essay. Holubizky is a senior curator at the McMaster Museum of Art and an adjunct assistant professor at McMaster University.
This lot is accompanied by a photo-certificate of authenticity from Galerie de la Présidence, Paris, signed by M. Combe, October 24, 1972.
For the biography on Liliane M. Stewart in PDF format please click here
Estimate: $30,000 - $50,000
All prices are in Canadian Dollars
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