Saturday, March 31, 2018

05 Paintings, PORTRAIT OF A LADY, Hélène Vary and Henri de Toulouse Lautrec, with Footnotes. # 19

During the seven years that Toulouse-Lautrec lived on rue Fontaine, in the company of Dr. Bourges, he felt a special admiration for his neighbor Hélène Vary. Henri photographed her several times to take these snapshots as a model of her works.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, 1864 - 1901
Hélène Vary, c. 1888 
Oil on wood
 75 x 50 cm. 
Städtische Kunsthalle (Mannheim) 

Francois Gauzi
The model Hélène Vary in Profile (1888)
Private collection

During the stay of Toulouse-Lautrec in the workshop of the rue Caulaincourt he was enthusiastic about the beauty of a young neighbor named Hélène Vary, using a photograph as a model to paint two portraits. One of them appears only of the bust (below) and in the other shows almost the whole body, seated in a chair with papers in her lap (above). The model is sitting in front of large canvases that indicate the location as his workshop, serving to create the spatial effect through a network of lines. But most significant is the face of the girl, in profile, strictly copying the photograph, showing the beauty of a young bourgeois.



Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, 1864 - 1901
Hélène Vary in Profile (1888)
Musée Toulouse-Lautrec, Albi – Tarn – France


Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, 1864 - 1901
LA LISEUSE, c. 1889
Oil on board
68 by 61cm.
26 3/4  by 24in.
Private Collection

Painted in 1889, La Liseuse is a major example of the penetrative, insightful character of Toulouse-Lautrec's portraiture, as well as of his remarkably modern style. As Anne Roquebert wrote: 'Hélène Vary was Lautrec's young Montmartre neighbour.  Deciding one day that 'she turned out to be very beautiful, extremely beautiful, admirable!' Lautrec determined to paint her portrait and asked his friend François Gauzi to bring along his camera, because he wanted 'to have her photo. Her Grecian profile is incomparable!' Gauzi, to whom we owe the record of this conversation, added: 'Hélène was not a redhead; her hair was a light chestnut brown; but this time Lautrec had eyes only for the purity of the profile. More on this painting
Héléne Vary

Portraiture played an important role in Toulouse-Lautrec's œuvre, and he approached the portrayal of his sitters with a keen psychological acuity. Freed from the necessity of seeking portrait commissions due to his family's wealth, the artist rarely practised flattery or yielded too greatly to convention in his portraits. He was also free to cross class boundaries, choosing between artists and performers, or the working class and his own elite circle of friends and family members.





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