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“At the Moulin Rouge, The Dance” by Toulouse-Lautrec

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, - At the Moulin Rouge- The Dance

“At the Moulin Rouge, The Dance” by Toulouse-Lautrec

“At the Moulin Rouge, The Dance” is the second of many paintings by Toulouse-Lautrec depicting the Moulin Rouge cabaret built in Paris in 1889. It portrays two dancers dancing the can-can in the middle of the crowded dance hall. 

An inscription by Toulouse-Lautrec on the back of the painting reads: “The instruction of the new ones by Valentine the Boneless.” 

This inscription indicates that the dancing man is Valentin le désossé, a well-known dancer at the Moulin Rouge, and he is teaching the newest addition to the cabaret.

Featured in the painting are many aristocratic people such as poet Edward Yeats, the club owner, and Toulouse-Lautrec’s father.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec immersed himself in the colorful and theatrical life of Paris in the late 1800s, which allowed him to produce a collection of elegant and provocative images of the modern and decadent life of Paris at the time.

Moulin Rouge

The Moulin Rouge is a cabaret in Paris, France. The original house, which burned down in 1915, was founded in 1889. It is close to Montmartre in Paris, with a red windmill on its roof that marks it. Moulin Rouge is best known as the birthplace of the modern form of the can-can dance.

Originally introduced as a seductive dance by the courtesans who operated from the site, the can-can dance revue evolved into a kind of entertainment of its own and led to the introduction of cabarets across Europe.

Today, the Moulin Rouge is a tourist attraction, offering musical dance entertainment for visitors from around the world. The club’s decor still contains much of the romance of the end of 19th century France.

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, it was called the Can-can. In the dance, the dancers in titillating costumes dance in rhythm. 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.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

Henri Marie Raymond de Toulouse-Lautrec-Monfa (1864 – 1901) was a French painter and illustrator.

His immersion in the colorful and theatrical life of Paris in the late 19th century allowed him to produce a collection of enticing and provocative images of the modern and decadent scenes of those times.

Toulouse-Lautrec is counted amongst the best-known painters of the Post-Impressionist period.

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.

Toulouse Lautrec: Paris and the Moulin Rouge

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 posters 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.

In his less-than-20-year career, Toulouse-Lautrec created over a thousand canvas paintings, watercolors, prints, and posters.

Also, he left over five thousand drawings. His style was influenced by the Impressionists and by the classic Japanese wood prints, which became popular in art circles of his time in Paris.

At the Moulin Rouge, The Dance

  • Title:               At the Moulin Rouge, The Dance
  • Artist:             Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
  • Year:               1890
  • Medium:         Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions     H: 116 cm (45.55 in). Width: 150 cm (59.04 in).
  • Museum:         Philadelphia Museum of Art


Toulouse Lautrec at the Moulin Rouge

A Tour of the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Dance at Moulin Rouge by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec


“I have tried to do what is true and not ideal.”
– Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec


Photo Credit: 1) By Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec via Wikimedia Commons

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