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“The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.”

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864 – 1901)

Henri Toulouse-Lautrec was born on 1864 in France, to a wealthy, aristocratic family that had fought in the crusades. He inherited a weakness of bones, limiting his height to 4ft 11, as a result of which he spent long periods drawing in bed as a child. At age 17 he went to Paris and enrolled in the studios of different artists including Bonnard. He lived a bohemian life.

Inspired by artists such as Gauguin, Toulouse-Lautrec painted scenes of sex and adventure, becoming an insider in the lives of pimps, prostitutes and alcoholics. In his case it was a world in which he came to be accepted. Because of the subject matter of his work it was too controversial to be fully accepted in his time, but he has a strong legacy, not least as the pioneer of the modern poster.  He designed posters for cultural figures of the time including Jane Avril and Aristide Bruant who were both involved in the cabaret circuit of the time and personal friends of Toulouse-Lautrec. His poster designs reached far beyond cabaret however and covered as wide ranging as dramas, novels, exhibitions and international businesses amongst others. His images are iconic and many are instantly recognisable today.