Design Inspiration
12/16/2020

Design Inspiration: Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

By: Anna Popov

Design Inspiration
12/16/2020

Design Inspiration: Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

By: Anna Popov

If the picture above looks familiar to you then you’ve seen art by the incredible French painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. His style is stark and incredibly unique, and he has become one of the most well-known painters in French history. Many interior designers find inspiration in his bold and recognizable art. They use this to bring seduction and fun-loving energy to life when designing a classic European interior.

With many rainy days in Seattle, Toulouse-Lautrec’s mischievous paintings are the perfect inspiration to bring romantic designs to life. Liven up your space with colorful, art-deco motivated designs in a style true to the famous Belle Epoque period.

Parisian Nightlife

The late 1800’s in Paris, the Belle Epoque period, was a time of great passion, adventure and excitement. The Moulin Rouge was in full swing, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec was caught in the middle of this intoxicating world. No one could better express the addicting, vivacious energy of Paris’ nightlife, which is why Toulouse-Lautrec was hired to create the Moulin Rouge’s posters.

These posters became his most famous pieces of art and gave the world a glimpse into the upcoming Jazz age. Toulouse-Lautrec’s art is infused with bold black shapes against faded white backgrounds, punctuated by splashes of red, yellow and orange. You can find humanity in his paintings, specifically revolving around sex workers and lower-class women in society. This adds a depth to his art that other painters of his time weren’t able to achieve. According to Artnet, he is linked to the avant-garde movements and lived a decadent bohemian lifestyle. Both of which are evident throughout his incredible prints and posters.

Cora Michael, curator of prints and drawings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, eloquently elaborated on his portrayal of women. Speaking about his 1897 painting Woman Before a Mirror, Michael states “Indeed, the directness and honesty of the picture testify to Lautrec’s love of women, whether fabulous or fallen, and demonstrates his generosity and sympathy toward them.”

Key features of Toulouse-Lautrec’s work

Toulouse-Lautrec’s paintings are bold and represent the famous exotic nightlife of the late 1800’s. The use of bold moody colors and sophisticated depiction of Parisian nightlife make his art recognizable. Key features help to transport observers back in time to the beautiful rustic French nightclubs.

  • Moody colors: Toulouse-Lautrec was a master at creating movement and scenes through distinct muted colors. In his paintings you often find a mix of off-white, organic opaque black and red shapes. This color combination lends perfectly to his beautiful nightlife scenes. Most of his paintings only depict a few colors so when he is not working in white, black and red you may also notice oranges and yellows. Because his art is already unique and distinct as is, you do not miss the absence of bright colors.

  • Parisian sophistication: While the people you find most often in Toulouse-Lautrec’s paintings are not from the upper class, you can still clearly see Parisian sophistication. Through his paintings, he adds something a little sexy and unusual which you find even today in Parisian culture. French nightclubs were famous for their glamour, glitz, and urban elegance and Toulouse-Lautrec’s paintings are his love letters to Paris.

  • Long lines: Toulouse-Lautrec’s paintings are quite linear. With long, thin brush strokes he is able to capture an interesting scene without the need for many small lines. Designers often hide lines in plain sight through furniture and structural choices when his paintings are their inspiration.

 

How Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s art inspires interior design

The paintings of this incredible French artist are often an inspiration for interior designers who are aiming to create sophisticated spaces. Through the use of color, lines and strategic design elements, designers are able to transform modern spaces into romantic retreats. At Interiors by Popov, we specialize in modern European design and Toulouse-Lautrec has always been an incredible inspiration to our designers.

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