When we think of inspirational French artists, it is easy to look towards the big names of Monet and Cezanne because of the fine work they achieved and their long-standing as respectable artists. The name Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec doesn’t always appears so high in these lists because his name, and his image, has been the subject of jokes and ridicule for a long time. His story, however, is sad, interesting and inspiring.By teaching our children about the greatness that lies beyond those broken bones and deformities, we can show that talent can rise above disability
. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec was a disabled artist that beat the critics and is now shown alongside his peers.
During his life, Toulouse-Lautrec was mocked to the point of depression and anxiety and since his death, he has been brought down to caricatures of the little man that had a taste for drink, women and artistic expression. His peers would mock him for his appearance and he was still a source of comedy in recent depictions, such as the Baz Luhrmann film “Moulin Rouge”. The problem with this representation is that it masks the deeper layers of the man and what he was able to achieve in his short life.
He is able to inspire artists today with the talent shown in his numerous paintings, but also to inspire the disabled. Toulouse was born with birth defects due to inbreeding in his family, it lead to conditions in his bones that gave him his short appearance. In fact, pycnodysotosis is commonly named after him. Contrary to many beliefs, he did not have dwarfism. His brittle bones and breaks that did not properly heal would plague him for the rest of his life.We can hope that had he been born in recent times, he would have been supported through his disabilities and respected in a way that would have lead to a long life of prosperity and success in his artistic endeavors, rather than the depression and alcoholism that would later lead to his death. One of the most positive tributes to the man is that his work is now revered at the same level as his peers, with work hanging in major galleries for new generations of physically challenged artists to see.
The attitudes towards Henri may not have helped him, but he still worked hard to pursue his love of art and to express himself in a personal way that is inspirational to anyone that has struggled to prove themselves in a world full of those that seem more able and capable. Over 20 years he created 737 known canvases and over 500 drawings, including advertisements for the Moulin Rouge club. Whenever our artistically-gifted children feel that they don’t belong, all we need to do is show them the influence that this social outcast had on the most famous club in Paris.
We’d love to recommend a book
Henri Toulouse-Lautrec: A Life. A definitive chronicle of the life of one of the world’s great artists draws from thousands of previously unavailable family letters to capture the essence of Toulouse-Lautrec’s life and to accurately evoke his time period. 10,000 first printing.