Moulin Rouge wouldn’t be as renowned as it is today without the contribution of devoted men and women. Toulouse-Lautrec is one of the most impactful people that the history of Moulin Rouge has ever witnessed. But who was he exactly and how did he contribute to build up the reputation of Moulin Rouge?
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec was born in 1864 in Albi in one of the oldest nobles families of France. Throughout his life and especially during his childhood, Toulouse-Lautrec had some health issues due to his parents’ consanguinity. He suffered a disease that made his limbs abnormally short. After failing at the baccalaureate exam, he decided to pursue his dream of becoming an artist. He later moved to Paris and dedicated his entire life to painting. Belonging to the post-impressionist movement, his paintings depict the life in Montmartre at the end of the 19th century. Suffering alcoholism owing to his unreasonable consumption of absinth and cognac and syphilis at the same time, he was taken care of in a sanatorium before dying at the age of 37.
Montmartre cafés were some kind of consolation to Toulouse-Lautrec, a way for him to forget his condition and that’s what made him appreciate those places so much. Speaking of which, he met his muse “La Goulue” whose real name is Louise Weber in one of the cafés he used to spend time in. Toulouse-Lautrec was also a regular customer of Moulin Rouge and so it’s no wonder that he had the ability to capture some outstanding moments of the venue in a very faithful way. He used to attend to Moulin Rouge shows every night relentlessly drawing everything he observed around him. In 1891, he made the first advertising poster of Moulin Rouge which became one of the most famous representations of the cabaret to date. He also painted some famous personalities like Astride Bruant, Jane Avril and Yvette Guilbert. His portraits of Jane Avril whom he befriended and his representations of Moulin Rouge are today considered as masterpieces that allow us to dive into the atmosphere of Montmartre and Moulin Rouge at the end of the 19th century.