Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864–1901), scion of an ancient aristocratic family, was a crippled dwarf. His family's wealth gave him financial security, and he chose to become an artist. In Paris he was drawn to the world of the red-light district around Montmartre. In the cafés, cabarets, dance halls and brothels he observed "the theatre of life", viewing this world not from the moralising standpoint of the 19th-century bourgeoisie, but with the eyes of one for whom all inhibitions had long since vanished.
Lautrec recorded what he saw without the arrogance of a social superior, but also without "spurious pity – like a reporter with a "photographic paintbrush". He transferred his observations to paper and canvas with sensitive understanding and a sharp eye, creating the real atmosphere and live character studies of a world where middle-class morals do not count, in which elegance and baseness mix, as do the ingenuous and the sinful. Lautrec had the gift of painting life as it is. No one else has captured the entertainment world of the belle époque in so unadulterated, so masterful and so timelessly true a manner as did Lautrec in his paintings, lithographs and posters.
This monograph sets out to examine the close relations between Lautrec's work and life. It thereby offers the reader a lively impression of Lautrec's art, and at the same time provides an understanding of his private life and of the magnificent Paris of the belle époque.