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“Quadrille at the Moulin Rouge” by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

"Quadrille at the Moulin Rouge" by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

“Quadrille at the Moulin Rouge” by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

“Quadrille at the Moulin Rouge” by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec depicts a woman starting a dance that was fashionable in late 18th- and 19th-century Europe. Usually, it is performed by couples and is related to square dancing.

The Moulin Rouge cabaret quickly became a great success because it offered a mixture of unique factors. It had a revolutionary architecture for the auditorium that allowed rapid changes of décor and where everyone could mix.

The festive champagne evenings allowed people to dance and be entertained thanks to amusing acts that changed regularly. A new dance that became more and more popular, the Can-can, where dances danced in rhythm in titillating costumes.

Famous dancers and artists performed at the venue. It was also a place loved by artists, including Toulouse-Lautrec, whose posters and paintings secured rapid and international fame for the Moulin Rouge.

Moulin Rouge

Moulin Rouge (“Red Mill”) is a cabaret in Paris, France. The original house, which burned down in 1915, was co-founded in 1889. Close to Montmartre in Paris, it is marked by the red windmill on its roof. 

Moulin Rouge is best known as the birthplace of the modern form of the can-can dance. Originally introduced as a seductive dance by courtesans, the can-can dance revue evolved into a form of entertainment of its own,

Today, the Moulin Rouge offers musical dance entertainment for visitors with its club’s decor still containing much of the romance of the 1880s and 1890s era.

Quadrille at the Moulin Rouge

  • Title:                 Quadrille at the Moulin Rouge
  • Français:           Au Moulin Rouge: Le départ du quadrille
  • Artist:               Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
  • Year:                 1892
  • Medium:          oil and gouache on cardboard
  • Dimensions:     Height: 80 cm (31.4 ″); Width: 60.5 cm (23.8 ″)
  • Museum:          National Gallery of Art, DC

“Quadrille at the Moulin Rouge” by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

Henri Marie Raymond de Toulouse-Lautrec-Monfa (1864 – 1901), also known as Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec was a French painter, printmaker, caricaturist, and illustrator whose immersion in the colorful and theatrical life of Paris in the late 19th century.

Toulouse-Lautrec was born in the Midi-Pyrénées region of France, where his parents were members of a wealthy and aristocratic family.

His mother and father were first cousins, his grandmothers were sisters, and unfortunately, he suffered from congenital health conditions sometimes attributed to a family history of inbreeding. 

Modern physicians attribute his condition to an unknown genetic disorder, sometimes known as Toulouse-Lautrec Syndrome.

His legs ceased to grow so that as an adult, he was extremely short (1.42 m or 4 ft 8 in). He developed an adult-sized torso while retaining his child-sized legs.

Physically unable to take part in many activities, Toulouse-Lautrec immersed himself in the arts from an early age. After initially failing college entrance exams, he passed his second attempt and completed his studies.

Later, when he sought independence from his mother, Toulouse-Lautrec was drawn to Montmartre, the area of Paris famous for its bohemian lifestyle and the haunt of artists, writers, and philosophers.

Studying art in the heart of Montmartre, it became an area he rarely left over the next 20 years.

When the Moulin Rouge cabaret opened, Toulouse-Lautrec was commissioned to produce a series of posters. Although he had a regular and comfortable income from his family, making banners offered him a living of his own.

Other artists looked down on the work, but he ignored them. The cabaret reserved a seat for him and displayed his paintings. Among the well-known works that he painted for the Moulin Rouge and other Parisian nightclubs are depictions of famous singers and dancers.

Unfortunately, Toulouse-Lautrec was mocked for his short stature and physical appearance, which led him to abuse alcohol. In addition to his growing alcoholism, Toulouse-Lautrec also frequented prostitutes.

He was fascinated by their lifestyle and incorporated those characters into his paintings. In 1901, at the age of 36, he died from complications due to alcoholism and syphilis.


Moulin Rouge by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

Virtual Tour of the National Gallery of Art

Moulin Rouge Can-Can Dance


“Love is when the desire to be desired takes you so badly that you feel you could die of it.”
– Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec


Photo Credit: 1) By Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec via Wikimedia Commons 2) Museum of Modern Art [Public domain]

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