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Collection of the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum

Henri Marie Raymo Toulouse-Lautrec

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Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec was born on November 24, 1864 in southern France. Son and heir of Comte Alphonse-Charles de Toulouse, he was the last in the line of an aristocratic family that dated back a thousand years. Today, the family estate houses the Musée Toulouse-Lautrec. At age twelve Toulouse-Lautrec broke his left leg and at fourteen his right leg. The bones did not heal properly, and his legs ceased to grow. He reached maturity with a body trunk of normal size but with abnormally short legs. He was only 4 1/2 feet (1.5 meters) tall. Deprived of the physical life that a normal body would have permitted, Toulouse-Lautrec lived completely for his art. He dwelt in the Montmartre section of Paris, the center of the cabaret entertainment and bohemian life that he loved to depict in his work. Dance halls and nightclubs, racetracks, prostitutes- all these were memorialized on canvas or made into lithographs. In order to join in the Montmartre life - as well as to fortify himself against the crowd's ridicule of his appearance -Toulouse-Lautrec began to drink heavily. By the 1890s the drinking was affecting his health. He was confined first to a sanatorium and then to his mother's care at home, but he could not stay away from alcohol. Toulouse-Lautrec died on September 9, 1901, at the family chateau of Malrome.

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