Thursday, November 11, 2010

Toulouse-Lautrec Painted...A Bassett Hound! (Thursday Art Journal)


I made a brief trip to the Art Institute of Chicago today, and relaxed among Renoir's sisters and water lilies, and Henri Toulouse-Lautrec's Moulin Rouge settings.

Later, while searching the web for more information on these works, I was surprised to learn that Toulouse-Lautrec is known for a painting of a Bassett Hound, "Tete de chien courant" (1880 (which translates, sort of incorrectly, as "The head of a foxhound"):

I love the way he captured the little knob on top of its head, which makes me want to gently cup my hand over that vulnerable spot; and the texture of the folds on its face and under its eyes, conveying the somber and mischievous expression.  The ears just look so soft, making a gentle frame around this noble face....

"At The Moulin Rouge", on permanent display at the Art Institute, has always fascinated me. I immediately notice the weirdly-lighted woman in the right foreground, and the different planes of light and action in the background.  I always find something new; and it tells a story in my head.

There's an informative and interesting page on the AIC Website, which described this work.  I have excerpted it below.  (I was not aware that Toulouse-Lautrec lived to be only 37 years old.)

The study of art and literature, music and philosophy, dance and architecture, will provide the education of a lifetime, and deepens my hunger and appreciation for greatness in the art of film. 

... Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec ...frequented the Moulin Rouge, a famous Parisian nightclub named for the red windmill on its roof; here, he depicted many of his friends and favorite entertainers.

In the background, La Goulue, the Moulin Rouge’s reigning dance star, adjusts her red hair while the dwarfish Toulouse-Lautrec and his tall cousin, Gabriel Tapié de Céléyran, walk toward the left. The glum assembly of characters seated around the table includes writer Edouard Dujardin, entertainer La Macarona, photographer Paul Sescau, winemaker Maurice Guibert, and another redhead, perhaps entertainer Jane Avril. The woman with the green face illuminated with artificial light is May Milton, another popular dancer of the day.

...The eerie green light of the interior evokes an unhealthy atmosphere. The artist then added to the visual drama by utilizing different lines, such as the curving silhouette of La Goulue fixing her hair, the collar of Avril’s coat, and the outline of Milton’s sleeve. These lines contrast with the strong diagonals of the banister and the floorboards, which rush forward toward the viewer, enhancing the lively mood of the decidedly worldly setting.


  1. I never realized Toulouse was actually in the painting. Quelle interessant! With all those personalities and stories in one's almost like an Altman film. Perhaps that's what appeals to us both?

    That dog is precious!

  2. Hmmmm...Altman had said that filmmaking was like painting a canvas... Very astute observation!