fbpx
Connect with us

DailyArtMagazine.com – Art History Stories

Henri de Toulouse Lautrec Portraying Misia Natanson in a Theater

Henri de Toulouse Lautrec, Madame Thadée Natanson at the Theater, 1895, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY, USA.

Post-Impresionism

Henri de Toulouse Lautrec Portraying Misia Natanson in a Theater

Henri Toulouse Lautrec is famous for his portrayals of Paris nightlife: cabarets, theaters, and brothels. He showed us a world of decadence and escape from urban malaise where his friends, muses, and patrons collided. He portrayed one of the most famous personalities of his time, Misia Natanson, in a theater.

Toulouse Lautrec and Misia Natanson: Henri de Toulouse Lautrec, Madame Thadée Natanson at the Theater,
Henri de Toulouse Lautrec, Madame Thadée Natanson at the Theater, 1895, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY, USA.

In this sketch, he depicts Misia Natanson and an anonymous stagehand on a second plane. So we have a woman from the elite, a patroness of the artists, and a theater worker, who is manually pulling down the curtain.

Madame Thadée Natanson at the Theater, made in 1895, was drawn for the cover of the final issue of L’Estampe Originale (1893–95), a quarterly album of original prints. Artists like Pissarro, Gauguin, Bonnard, Renoir, Signac, Whistler were also published in its pages.

Toulouse Lautrec and Misia Natanson: Henri de Toulouse Lautrec, Madame Thadée Natanson at the Theater
Henri de Toulouse Lautrec, Madame Thadée Natanson at the Theater, 1895, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY, USA. Detail.

The lady in the theater box is the glamorous patroness Maria Zofia Olga Zenajda Godebska, known as Misia. Her dress is provocative with a very low-cut back, revealing her slim, elongated neck. We only see her profile, as she is looking at the stage or the audience. She is alone, seductive, statuesque, and mysterious. 

Toulouse Lautrec and Misia Natanson: Édouard Vuillard, Misia Natanson in Cannes, 1901
Édouard Vuillard, Misia Natanson in Cannes, 1901. Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Marcel Proust used Misia as the prototype for the characters of “Princess Yourbeletieff” and “Madame Verdurin” in his novel In Search of Lost Time. She was “la reine de Paris” at the turn of the 20th century, painted by Lautrec, Renoir, Vuillard, Vallotton, adored by writers who also were indebted to her like Paul Verlaine and Stéphane Mallarmé.

As it is a study for the cover design, it is not finished, only her torso and head look fully accomplished. The blue that outlines her silhouette and the curves of her body is unusual, softer than black. She doesn’t wear any jewelry, the only accessory is a fan in her left hand that gives her a more delicate and sensual look.

On the second plane there is a technician bringing down the curtain. Toulouse Lautrec draws his figure next to a rope, pulling on the chains of stage machinery.

Toulouse Lautrec and Misia Natanson: Henri de Toulouse Lautrec, Madame Thadée Natanson at the Theater, 1895, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY, USA. Detail.
Henri de Toulouse Lautrec, Madame Thadée Natanson at the Theater, 1895, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY, USA. Detail.

This sketch is a rare instance of an artwork depicting the stagehands’ life, symbolizing those who use their technical skills and talent to ‘pull’ the show together. The roadies, the production technicians, are the silent heroes of each concert or theater piece. Without them the magic does not happen. Nowadays the stage is automated, but it still requires riggers, carpenters, light and sound technicians to make a spectacle, an illusion of a world before our eyes.

The drawing was restored a few years ago, as it was once cut into two pieces and framed so as to reveal only Misia in her loge. However, when the two fragments of the work are joined, the scene depicted is more interesting. It juxtaposes the worlds on stage, in the box, and backstage, making Toulouse Lautrec’s vision more complex and full-bodied.


Learn more about Henri Toulouse-Lautrec:

Ex political science researcher at the Jagiellonian University. Lover and promoter of Latin American art and design (via blog www.thebananas.pl). In spare time president of the board of FOH Foundation, non profit, pro publico bono organization whose mission is to further safety and professional standards in the entertainment productions industry.

 

Comments

More in Post-Impresionism

  • Art Forms

    The Charm of Colorful and Shiny Italian Maiolica Ceramic Wares

    By

    Maiolica ceramic wares are exquisitely decorated and vibrantly colored handmade artworks made popular during the Italian Renaissance. Their timeless beauty has inspired artists and fascinated art collectors throughout the ages. The Maiolica technique illuminated ceramics that reflected the elegance of an era and continue to dazzle...

  • 21st century

    London Mall Galleries: An Interview on Covid-19 and Reopening

    By

    The evening of the 4th January united the residents of the UK once again. Everyone’s attention was focused on the third national lockdown announcement that came from the prime minister. With the order of stay-at-home, art galleries once again had to close their physical spaces where...

  • Arenig School Arenig School

    20th century

    Arenig School. Wild Bohemians and Welsh Mountains

    By

    Welcome to a rollicking adventure with the Arenig School of automatic painting starring Augustus John, James Dickson Innes, and Derwent Lees. Arenig Fawr is a majestic mountain in Snowdonia in Wales. Between 1911 and 1913 three unconventional artists lived and breathed the wild landscape here, possessed...

  • H, Dog, acrylic on canvas, 1993 H, Dog, acrylic on canvas, 1993

    dailyart

    What I Found in the Museum Of Bad Art

    By

    MOBA, or the Museum Of Bad Art, is replete with almost anything that could be wished for in terms of the good, the bad, the very bad, the hilarious, and of course the ugly. The category of ‘good’ doesn’t really exist here – that much will...

  • Ancient Greece

    Portrayal of an Abandoned Hero: Philoctetes

    By

    How would you feel if your friends abandoned you on an uninhabited island with a limited amount of food and no shelter just because you were injured? An island where wild animals lurk at night. The only things you have are a bow, ripped old clothes,...

To Top