Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, ‘Palace Pigalle - Le Photographe Sescau’, 1896, Omnibus Gallery

Year: 1896
Country: France
Condition: B / B+
"The lively Paul Sescau, who gave in to the same pleasures as Lautrec, taught Lautrec the art of photography. Lautrec often used photographs for figures and compositional motifs in his painting and posters. In this poster a woman (possibly Jane Avril) in a red print gown holds a lorgnette in her black-gloved hand, and stands vivid against the overall moss green of the background. The woman’s contracted and shrinking attitude, suggests that she is fleeing from the camera, which is an ironic comment probably intended for Sescau who, 'used his studio mainly for seduction.' Sescau’s head and body are largely hidden by a dark cloth, converting the photographer into an almost extraterrestrial creature whose head is composed of a square box with a bulging eye-lens, intent on pursuing or exposing his object. The woman’s dress, designed with a repeating pattern of question marks, could be said to add irony to the message” (Wagner, p. 26). Julia Frey’s interpretation is even more explicit and interesting: “Sescau . . . who was reputed to use his studio primarily for sexual liaisons, is completely hidden under the black cloth of his camera, but the cloth itself dangles between his legs in a long phallus-shape, and the elegant woman of his focus seems to be trying to flee” (Frey, p. 422).

Signature: Signed in stone by the artist, lower right corner above "photographe"

About Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

Renowned Post-Impressionist painter, lithographer, and art nouveau illustrator Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec is famous for his depictions of French fin de siècle urban life. Working in his characteristic linear style, Lautrec frequently portrayed scenes from brothels and cabaret clubs, including the Moulin Rouge, where he had a seat reserved after producing a series of promotional posters for the club’s opening in 1888. Lautrec was influenced by the artists Edgar Degas and Édouard Manet, who shared with them a keen interest in the observation of social culture.

French, 1864-1901, Albi, France, based in Paris, France