Artworks
In the Salon at the Rue des Moulins
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mjacobson's picture

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When Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec started living on his own, he moved to the Montmartre area of Paris to live the bohemian life.

He was finally among people who totally got him-- artists, writers, and open-minded people who loved to party.  Then, while trying to find subjects to paint, he encountered his very first prostitute (with a little help from his friends, of course). Henri’s life was changed forever.  Turns out, he loves prostitutes!  He became fascinated with the lesbian relationships between prostitutes who worked together, and this became a common theme for his paintings.  But it wasn’t in a gross fetishizing way like the guy I knew in college who would try to push girls faces together when he was drunk.  Henri found these relationships sweet and painted them innocently, which is awesome. Sensitivity to queer sexuality/sex workers was not exactly the norm at the time.

Henri inspired the character of Toulouse in the film "Moulin Rouge" and here we have a brothel on the Rue des Moulins. Is this the Moulin Rouge? You would think so because it’s awfully red, and one of those redheads could totally be Nicole Kidman.  But the title is a misnomer, and this is actually the brothel at the Rue d’Amboise. And our Nicole Kidman in the foreground is actually Mireille, one of Henri’s favorite girls. Too bad, this would have made for a very fancy movie poster.

This painting was done only a handful of years before Henri’s severe alcoholism finally caught up to him.  Even though the ladies let Henri paint them, he was still horribly teased for his deformity and became so dependent on alcohol that he even invented a cocktail called Le Tremblement de Terre (or "The Earthquake.") It's 3 parts absinthe and 3 parts cognac, and we can't in good faith recommend it. In 1899 he was committed to a sanitarium, but he continued to paint.  By 1901, he was dead. Lesson being, be nice to people...if for no other reason that they might be famous one day.