Synopses & Reviews
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec is known as the disfigured and dangerously self-destructive artist who recorded prolifically the louche world of sexy night-club dancers, lounging whores, and drunken bohemian merriment. Both in his life and art, he is thought to embody the climate of inebriated hilarity and excess of the fin de siècle.
But as David Sweetman, the noted biographer of Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin, shows in this definitive work, there was another Toulouse-Lautrec, a committed and concerned man who moved in a secret community of anarchist revolutionaries, whose work betrayed a deep concern for human suffering, an artist who etched his sympathy for fallen women and lesbians into his portraits, and who remained loyal to the disgraced Oscar Wilde when the poet was abandoned and reviled by most. Sweetman's enlightening study of Toulouse-Lautrec has uncovered a man whose alliance with radicals and outspoken social critics (such as Félix Fénéon) is implicit in his work.
Toulouse-Lautrec was also a man on the cutting edge of radical art. He helped design the sets for the play Ubu Rio, which, with its foul language and politically subversive imagery, stirred up a frenzy of public outrage and condemnation yet changed the course of theatrical history. Toulouse-Lautrec also created seminal works in the field of graphic art; his posters advertising performances and artistic events were often stolen from their public posting places and reappeared in the living rooms of middle-class homes, making his posters "the Trojan Horse of modern aesthetics."
Toulouse-Lautrec's seemingly endless capacity for debauched revelry and his larger-than-life persona are undeniable. Yet his art is as complex as he was, more varied and disturbing than it has been perceived in our century. Sweetman has introduced in Explosive Acts an altogether new way of looking at Toulouse-Lautrec, who, along with Oscar Wilde, Félix Fénéon, and their cross-Channel cohort of artists, theorists, and writers, was responding to many of the same social issues and political currents we now face at our own turn of the century.
The author of acclaimed biographies of Van Gogh and Gauguin offers a groundbreaking, illuminating study of Toulouse-Lautrec, one of the most provocative and avant-garde personalities in an explosive generation of artists in fin-de-sicle France. 40 illustrations.
Includes bibliographical references (p. 502-507) and index.
About the Author
David Sweetman is a biographer, art historian, and poet. He spent eight years in Africa writing textbooks and children's stories before working for the BBC in radio and television. In 1988 he left the BBC to become a full-time writer. He is the author of an acclaimed life of van Gogh, the first biography of the historical novelist Mary Renault, and a life of the painter Paul Gauguin, which the New York Times called "magisterial." He lives in London and France.
Table of Contents
Part One: All the Way Up to the Top of the Hill...
1 A Commission
2 Sporting Prints
3 Towards Montmartre
4 The Odour of Redheaded Women
5 What Passes on the Streets
7 Beneath the Windmill
Part Two:...Then All the Way Down Again
8 Monsieur Oscar Wilde
9 Along the Boulevard de Clichy
10 Show Business
11 Explosive Acts
12 A Shuttered World
13 Sapphic Nights
15 In Poland -- That Is to Say Nowhere
16 It's Life That's Bad, Not Me