Monday, July 18, 2016

In a Time of Sorrow: Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

 Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec as Pierrot

Within the short span of the last sixteen months the Nation of France has been struck with three sobering, disastrous and murderous attacks. In this climate of uncertainty and mourning we reflect and pray as we of many nations look for solace, strength and understanding. A lesser nation than France might succumb to the senseless, wanton disregard for peace, liberty and the joy of living all people of good will seek to enjoy. The French are an exceptional people who will not succumb. Neither will the free world as we have to try to look away from the insanity toward the light of possibility. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s life and work remain a beacon of light for the entire world. The Artist Lautrec is one of France’s national treasures. 

Toulouse-Lautrec; a man possessing personal resolve and character celebrated the passions and joys of living in spite of personal obstacles. We will look to his work for it’s greatness and glory…this, as our hearts and spirits weep.

My first encounter with the art of Toulouse-Lautrec was when I walked into the “Art” department at my high school in South Western Virginia.  On the wall at the entrance amid the plaster casts, drawing tables and pottery wheels was a seemingly gigantic poster reading Moulin Rouge, Moulin Rouge, Moulin Rouge. The poster colorfully featured dancer La Goulue and the patrons of the world famous establishment in a moment of feverous excitement. I was at the time and remain transfixed by the work’s exquisite beauty, sense of style and most importantly daring nature.   Seeing it would be the greatest lesson I would ever receive in art. I had never experienced anything as lovely as this! I knew I was going to enjoy my journey into this larger world of art, history, culture and contemporary fashion. 


I would take much from my beautiful and exuberant young teacher; Mrs. Wonderly. The Moulin Rouge poster was her own and not the schools. It was a way of enriching her student’s lives and adding her own flair to our class room. We would work and learn while the music of the day; Santana, Led Zeppelin, James Taylor and Cher played in the background.  Our lessons included not only the importance of technique but an enhanced and enriched way of seeing along with a genuine love of this most indescribable addiction;  Art.

Toulouse-Lautrec draftsmanship, skill and dedication were central to the teachings of Mrs. Wonderly and in turn our learning. Lautrec’s uniquely distinctive abilities, his tolerance in living and his triumphant joy over life’s obstacles are a reminder of all that is good in this world and in humanity. The wit and wonder of the man is a beacon of the best a single person can offer…a beacon in a time of sorrow.