Sprite does not enjoy his art. It’s too drab and gloomy for her. It’s really quite a contradiction. Toulouse-Lautrec’s main subjects were the performers, dancers, and patrons of the cabaret nightlife of Montmartre in Paris. You would expect raucous scenes filled with smiling faces. Instead you have images like this one.
Where are the smiles? I’m amazed when portraits of dancers performing on stage show very bored, gloomy expressions. This lack of joy has given us much to discuss — how that kind of “party life” may seem happy but really is so empty. I think Toulouse-Lautrec has captured that truth. (The lifestyle eventually cost him is life to alcoholism.)
A revelation came as I was doing some reading about Toulouse-Lautrec online. Renoir also painted many of the same cafes and cabarets of Montmartre! The Renoir painting below is of the same location as the one above. What a contrast! I pulled out our Renoir book and told my daughter. She was amazed too! Since we had studied Renoir earlier, she was able to make general comparisons of the two artists, expanding beyond the differences between these two artworks. Horray for artist study!
What a great lesson in the power of art to express feelings and mood, and how that can vary from artist to artist, even with the same subject. So do you agree with my daughter? Do you like Renoir’s happier, more youthful, brighter image?