Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

Size: 11 3/8 x 15 3/4 inches - Original Lithographs
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Maitres de L'Affiche
Divan Japonais
Date: 1896
Price: $5500
Print Code: Polau002

Maitres de L'Affiche
La Revue Blanche
Date: 1897
Price: $3000
Print Code: Polau082

Maitres de L'Affiche
Jane Avril
Date: 1898
Price: $6000
Print Code: Polau110

Maitres de L'Affiche
Moulin Rouge
Date: 1898
Price: $7000
Print Code: Polau122

The "Les Maitres de l'Affiche" series was offered as a subscription series to collectors. Every month for 60 months, from December 1895 through November 1900, subscribers received by mail, 4 loose sheets (Maitres) with a cover sheet. It was sold in Paris for 2.50 francs for one month's subscription, (4 Maitres) and for 27 francs for 12 months (48 maitres), plus special (bonus) plates. Maitre's were never issued in a book form, but a binding of the 12 months Maitres was offered to subscribers, at the end of the year, with a beautiful hardcover design by Paul Berthon for 8 Francs.

The "Maitres de l'Affiche," were issued as separate numbered sheets, referred to as "plates" (PL). They were numbered, with the printers name "Imprimerie Chaix," in the margin at the bottom left hand corner, "PL.1" to "PL.240." In the margin at the bottom right hand corner of each, is a blind embossed stamp from a design of Cheret's.

Each overall plate measures approximately 11 3/8 in. x 15 3/4 inches. (29cm x 40cm).

In addition to the 240 posters, Special plates (or bonus plates) were issued to subscribers. There were a total of 16 Special plates, which were sent over the five years, each December, each June, and March and September of the final three years. These were not posters, but unique original lithographs done exclusively for the "Maitres de l'Affiche" series.
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec came from an aristocratic background, having been born the son of an earl. Even as a schoolboy he showed a talent for drawing. By 14 he had suffered two horse back riding accidents, combined with a serious bone disease which eventually left him crippled for life. His body continued to grow but not his legs, he would remain only five feet tall and suffer pain and embarrassment his entire life. At the age of 18 Lautrec moved to Montmartre in Paris to study art seriously. He worked with artists Emile Bernard, Degas, Van Gogh and others. He became a frequenter of the the cafes, cabarets and brothels of the neighborhood, drawing from them inspirations for his artistic themes.
As the artist's stature grew, several magazines wanted to publish his work, including Le Rire. His subjects, as well as street life, included some of the most famous music-hall performers, with whom he became friends, such as Yvette Guibert,
La Goulue, Jane Avril and several others. He became absorbed in the night life of the Montmartre until he himself was an indispensable part of it. "His (poster) masterpieces define the limits of poster style: where Cheret epitomizes a completely external, impersonal viewpoint, Lautrec is the embodiment of internal, personal vision with a point to make, not, to be sure, a moral judgment, but rather an amused, wry observation on the passing scene. Virtually all posterists, then and since, have had to make their stance somewhere between these two poles. True, some may have tried a satirical bite more vicious than Toulouse-Lautrec's, or a neutrality even more profound than Cheret's, but none could surpass the sheer mastery of the pioneers. The best proof is that a century later, their work still sparkles with all its force, inventiveness and beauty, and each in his way is more popular than they ever were in their own lifetimes. However, the years of night life and excessive intake of absinthe began to take their toll, and his physical condition became very fragile. He had to be taken through the Paris World's Fair of 1900 in a wheel-chair, and the following year he died in his country home.