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Toulouse-Lautrec's The Circus: Thirty-Nine Crayon Drawings in Color

Not you? Forgotten password? Forgotten password Use the form below to recover your username and password. New details will be emailed to you. Simply reserve online and pay at the counter when you collect. Available in shop from just two hours, subject to availability. Your order is now being processed and we have sent a confirmation email to you at. This item can be requested from the shops shown below. If this item isn't available to be reserved nearby, add the item to your basket instead and select 'Deliver to my local shop' at the checkout, to be able to collect it from there at a later date.

Preferred contact method Email Text message. When will my order be ready to collect? Following the initial email, you will be contacted by the shop to confirm that your item is available for collection. For permissions and other inquiries, please contact cg-support commongroundpublishing. The International Journal of the Image is peer-reviewed, supported by rigorous processes of criterion- referenced article ranking and qualitative commentary, ensuring that only intellectual work of the greatest substance and highest significance is published. Moving picture devices and popular interest in them had been prevalent since the s.

As the century progressed, artists and scientists developed cameras capable of capturing sequences of movement in photographs and, finally, film. The impact of these technological advances on the avant-garde during the last quarter of the nineteenth century remains an open question. These drawings demonstrate an awareness of and involvement with the visual tools of nascent cinema. Spectators sit on the edge of their seats, wait with bated breath, and then sink back with satisfaction and wonder as they marvel at what they just witnessed.

They replay these moments over and over in their heads, each time amazed. His films, such as The Vanishing Lady, , The Bewitched Inn, , and The Man with the Rubber Head, , present the viewer with a host of tricks, ranging from disappearing and reappearing objects to inflatable heads. These films tend to lack a strong narrative.

Instead, they rely on their ability to surprise and confound the audience. The artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec also lured viewers with incredible feats of skill in his drawings, specifically his Au cirque series from These drawings, produced in the later years of his career, demonstrate the culmination of a lifelong investigation of movement.

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From his youthful paintings of animals in motion to his dancehall scenes and finally his circus series, his depiction of movement changed, as did his presentation of figures. Daniel Gerould, The Drama Review 18, no. This essay was reprinted in Thomas Elsaesser, ed. All future citations refer to the latter source. The International Journal of the Image Volume 3,, www.

In doing so, he challenged and attempted to surpass cinema by seizing on those elements unique to drawing: stillness, smallness, and tactility. His early career includes much of his lithography, as well as paintings of dancehalls and brothels. His final, or mature, phase includes objects produced from until his death in This interest extended from the action itself to the rapid brushstrokes he used to paint the scene.


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Johnson, Jr. He found that Lautrec stripped an action to its essential features, often cropping limbs of a figure to suggest the speed of the action. Lautrec began studying with Princeteau after breaking his legs in and He included a sketch of he and Princeteau working at their easels in a letter to his uncle, Charles de Toulouse-Lautrec, from May For these letters, see Herbert D. From a biographical point of view, these divisions are logical and useful. Therefore, I have chosen to use groupings that reflect artistic and societal transformations.

Their incessant motion mirrored the race to record movement by Eadward Muybridge, Etienne-Jules Marey, and early filmmakers. As an adolescent, he enjoyed drawing animals. His father was an avid outdoorsman and an expert in the aristocratic hobbies of hunting and riding. The artist loved horses, and even when he could not participate in hunting and physically demanding activities due to injuries, he drew and painted these scenes.

In the spring of , he fell in his family home in Albi, France, fracturing his left femur. His leg remained in a splint until April 24, Then, a mere four months later, he broke his right leg when he fell into a ditch. His legs never recovered fully from these adolescent accidents. The passenger is in the process of rising from his seat, gripping the frame of the cart. His shoulders hunch over in the moment before he descends from the vehicle. The horse raises his back right hoof and bends his head while the driver looks out into the background, ignoring his passenger.

The slapdash diagonal, horizontal, and vertical brushstrokes in the background produce a frenzied atmospheric effect in the painting. They contrast the anti-climatic action depicted in the scene. Source: Devynck, If we plot a timeline of events for this action, we find that this scene is located toward the beginning: first the man must rise, then stand at the precipice of the doorway, begin his descent, and finally land on the ground.

The action in this painting falls too early in the timeline to spark any real curiosity in the viewer. There is no danger or guesswork as to what will occur next; we can be fairly certain that he will stand up without incident. However, if he were in the doorway leaning out, we might question whether he would make the long step down agilely or stumble and fall. Furthermore, none of the figures makes eye contact with the viewer. In this early work, Lautrec presented an action without producing a sense of anticipation or desire in the viewer and without directly appealing to him.

In this painting, a man stands with his back to us as he places the saddle on the horse. The scene is stuck in the realm of possibility rather than action. His bent limbs and position next to the horse suggest the deftness of his body and the likelihood that he will mount the animal, yet the potential energy has not translated into kinetic action. The previously mentioned movement that 8 For ease of reading and clarity of the text, I have chosen to use masculine pronouns when referring to the viewer.

This is not meant to suggest that the viewer is necessarily male or has to be male to enjoy or partake in the viewing experience. Brushstrokes swirl around the curves of the bodies of the man and horse and radiate out from the pair into the scenery. They suggest a rapid, frantic application of paint. However, they do not provide any more information about the action depicted in the work, nor do they give the viewer a sense of momentum.

Both paintings lack suspense. They illustrate the beginning of activities before anything of note has happened. Each one is still in the process of building up to its climatic moment, the crucial instant when the promise of success is fulfilled or denied. Eadward Muybridge was the most famous of the amateurs. He believed that there was a point when this did occur, but the speed at which it happened was too fast for the human eye to see.

Muybridge set up a system of twelve to twenty cameras that could rapidly record an image on a track to find the answer. Each one was attached to a cord that the horse would hit as it ran past, thereby activating the camera. He published the evidence in La Nature and Scientific American in His findings piqued the interest of scientists, artists, and the general public. His chronophotography captured human and animal locomotion.

In addition, he recorded the circulatory system of humans and animals. Parisian newspapers like Le Figaro and La Croix chronicled his accomplishments. The possibilities for the technology, especially for recording of the flight of birds, 9 Muybridge used the wet-plate collodion process for these photographs. He also received the Legion of Honor in For example, in order for Muybridge to record equine locomotion, the horse had to trip a wire to signal the camera to take a photograph.

Furthermore, a smaller animal, like a bird, did not possess enough body weight or strength to trigger the wire without a great deal of effort. This interference with the natural, uninhibited movement of the animal could not generate objective results. His goal was to understand biological movement, including locomotion and internal systems of the body. The camera served as a prosthetic device for human perception. It aided, supplemented, and, at times, replaced his senses so that he could see where he was once blind. Marey noted in In representing movement, the artist is rightly preoccupied with showing what the eye can see of man in action.

In general, the preparatory and final phases of motion are best perceived. In the same way that certain parts of a working machine are only seen at dead points, that is, at the short instants when their movement is finished in one direction, and about to commence in the opposite one, there are, in certain acts of man, attitudes that last longer than others.

Toulouse-Lautrec's the Circus

Chronophotography on a fixed plate would determine these attitudes. The moments in the paintings transpired slowly, and they occurred early in the sequence of events. Lautrec could have easily seen these with his naked eye and been certain as to what he had witnessed. In contrast, he seized upon moments that occurred later in the sequence of actions in his early career and mature work.

The changes in the way he painted movement coincided with the expanding knowledge of human and animal locomotion at the time and have greater visual interest for the viewer. As Muybridge toured Europe, it became clear to the scientific community that he was not a scientist. Although he continued to enjoy the esteem of artists and the general public, his work did not measure up to scientific standards, nor did he have the experience or background in science and math to conduct meticulous experiments.

Lautrec chose to depict him in grisaille, pushing the emphasis onto La Goulue, whom he positioned slightly off center and in full color. Lautrec froze this fleeting action in the fast-paced dance, la chahut. La Goulue balances on her left leg as she kicks her right leg out to the side. He displayed the rear view of the dancer, a vantage point that affords the audience maximum viewing pleasure.

In this work, Lautrec presented the viewer with a titillating scene, encouraged him to visually consume La Goulue without reproach, and captured the most climatic moment in the dance. This aspect was missing from his youthful paintings. While pictures from this period succeed in building curiosity and desire in the viewer, they do not involve him in the scene. That is not to say that there are no advantages to this strategy.

The lack of address allows the viewer to have the pleasure of gazing without experiencing the guilt of being caught. He can covertly absorb the scene safely from a distance. It separates the viewer from the scene and exiles him from the image, relegating him to the edge of the frame and confining him to the status of an outsider. In Voltige Fig. The clown turns his head to look over his right shoulder at him. The glance brings him into the rehearsal ring and into the unfolding action.

Lessons from LAUTREC - how to draw like the master

Figure 4: Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Voltige, , black and colored chalk, gouache, Here, the equestrienne has not yet completed her trick. She remains in limbo during the most nerve-wracking moment of the performance. Her hands grasp the horse while she arches her back and points her toes against its side. The ringmaster stands guard with his whip, ready to strike if either of them performs the exercise unsatisfactorily. Moreover, the equestrienne would have no recourse if he decided to lash her or the horse.

Thirty-Nine Crayon Drawings in Color

The trick not only requires concentration but also balance, strength, and, most of all, both of her hands on the horse. If she tried to shield her body from the whip, she would surely fall. The size is necessary to convey the idea of the combined single body of the woman and horse. This drawing contains the engagement with the audience and excitement that the earlier pictures lack. Even when none of the figures looks out at the viewer in his later works, Lautrec still included him in the picture. In this example, Lautrec zoomed in on the clown holding the paper ring for the woman to jump through.

This close depiction of his back allows him to function as a repoussoir figure with whom the viewer can identify. Caspar David Friedrich used this technique to great effect in his landscapes. In Wanderer above the Sea of Mist, c. As we identify with the wanderer, we feel the overpowering sense of awe that he experiences while looking out into the distance.

The terrifying and all-consuming power of the sublime engulfs the wander and the viewer. This also applies to the repoussoir figure in Travail de panneau. Through the figure of the clown, we again change from spectators to participants. Moreover, it brings us closer the main attraction: the rosy rear end of the equestrienne. Source: Toulouse-Lautrec, Will she land softly on the back of her horse? Will she miss and crash into the ground? This is the moment in the performance when the audience is most on edge. Viewers hold their breath and hope for the best.

Lautrec selected the most exciting, tensest part of the performance to depict in this drawing. This shift to illustrating the climax of an action demonstrates his growth as an artist in his later work. We can also see the techniques of early film in this work, specifically the cinema of attractions. Since then, he has refined the definition. Meanwhile, other authors, such as Gaudreault and Charles Musser, have contributed to the meaning of the phrase and the significance of this genre of film.


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  4. Additionally, films in this category tend to have flimsy storylines. Charles Musser rightly pointed out that an action unfolds in each of them and follows a logical structure. He then brings a woman onto the stage the vanishing lady from the title. Next, he spreads a sheet of newspaper on the floor and places a wooden chair on top of it, a common conceit during live magic performances to prove to the audience that there was not a trap door on the stage.

    The magician places a large piece of fabric over her head, concealing her body, and proceeds to make her disappear. He gestures wildly, looks out at the camera, and conjures a skeleton to the chair. Finally, he places the fabric over the skeleton and brings the woman back. They bow and exit the stage and then return for another bow. They directly address the viewer in much the same manner that they would have addressed a live audience during a theater performance.

    We can see a cut when he first makes the woman vanish. The edge of her dress sticks out from under the fabric cover, and then it is gone. By breaking the fourth wall, he gives a nod to his feats as a magician and director. We see a similar strategy in The Man with the Rubber Head, The film opens with him mixing chemicals, which he quickly puts aside. From a closet at the back of the room, he brings out a table.