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Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec – Post-Impressionist Painter

Toulouse-Lautrec Post Impressionist Painter Art Lesson

Integrating art in the classroom is crucial for children’s overall educational development. By incorporating the works of artists like Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, children can refine their artistic abilities while learning about this influential artist.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec was a French painter, illustrator and printmaker who lived between 1864 and 1901. Watch as Barbara Mason discusses the life of Toulouse-Lautrec and creates images inspired by the Post-Impressionist style and Belle Époque period of late 19th-century France.

Discover the Art of Toulouse-Lautrec Video

Join Barbara as she looks into the life and work of Toulouse-Lautrec. Watch as Barbara creates art inspired by the Post-Impressionist movement.

Henri de Toulouse-Latrec-Curriculum

Creating Post-Impressionist Art Inspired by Toulouse-Lautrec

Follow along using the video transcription below as you watch Barbara Mason create art inspired by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Learn about the life of this Post-Impressionist French icon.

Hi everybody, welcome to Golden Road Arts. My name is Barbara Mason and today we’re going to talk about a really famous artist. A man named Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Now, Mr. Lautrec was born in Abbe, France in 1864. So 1864 to 1964 that was 100 years. And now we’re at 2021, so that is really a long time – almost 150 years. So, he was born really a long time ago. And when he was born, his family lived in the South of France and they were very wealthy. And his dad did a lot of hunting and he had racehorses. And he anticipated that his son would follow in his footsteps, and, you know, manage the properties.

But what happened was when Toulouse-Lautrec was thirteen he got up out of a chair and he broke one of his legs right at the femur – right at the top between his hip and his knee. And so of course, that meant he was laid up for quite awhile and really quite a long time. It took him time to recover and then a year later, the same thing happened with his other leg, and so these this happened because he had a problem in his family – it was a genetic problem and it caused his legs to not grow. And so, when he was an adult, the top of his body grew like a normal person, but his legs were very short and so he was only four-foot-six. Now, four-foot-six is not very tall for a man. It’s pretty short.

But he had a wonderful personality. He had a great wit and he was very funny. Very, very funny. He was very friendly and everybody liked him and on top of that he could draw a really well and one of the things he did was he drew caricatures. Now, a caricature is when you take your pencil and instead of drawing a person the way they really look, you emphasize something and so he would make people’s noses pointed and he would make their ears pointed and he would make their chins stick out. And it would look like them – but I wouldn’t really be like a portrait. And people thought these were very funny.

They liked him and so he just made many friends and he wanted to draw when he was laid up all this time he spent many, many hours drawing and fortunately we have a lot of sketchbooks of his from when he was young and we can tell that even when he was, you know 15 or 16 years old that he was really going to be a great artist. And he wanted to go to Paris to learn to draw. That was where everybody went. Paris wasn’t only a city for artists, it was a city, pretty much the city that was the center of France. Maybe the center of Europe at that time and an amazing thing happened. They got electric lights. Now electric lights were brand new.  So you can understand that if you had been going around with a candle – walking in the dark – all of a sudden the whole city was bright.

And Toulouse-Lautrec lived in a part of Paris called Montmartre. It was a working-class part of Paris and one of the things that Montmarte had was a lot of old grain elevators that they had used for commercial work. And these turned into nightclubs. And so they were lit up with electric lights everywhere in the whole part of Montmarte was just amazingly lit up and there was a nightclub there that was very famous, called the Moulin Rouge, and Toulouse-Lautrec did a lot of posters for the Moulin Rouge. And I don’t know if the Moulin Rouge made Toulouse-Lautrec famous or if he made the Moulin Rouge famous, but people still go there today to see it. It’s a great tourist attraction. Everybody wants to see the Moulin Rouge if they go to Paris. So we’re going to do a couple of posters that Lautrec did – he became very very famous for doing these. Posters.

And one of the things we’re going to talk about today is – in our previous discussion we talked about different kinds of binders that we use for art materials. And one of the things that I did today I did this sample and the color in the background and the color around the coat is a water-soluble pencil. That means when I put water on it, it’s going to start bleeding, but this purple line around the edge is an oil pastel. So an oil pastel is a pigment. And instead of being gum Arabic like watercolor or wax-like crayons, it’s actually oil and so it’s very – when you feel it with your finger. For one thing, it feels raised up and it’s very, very waxy but also kind of, kind of when you rub your hand over it you could kind of almost smoosh it. Smoosh it a little bit, let’s see if I can make it smoosh a little bit. Yeah, you see how it smooshes a little bit, and that’s because it’s very soft.

So, we’re going to take our watercolor and we’re going to see what happens when we try it on our art. What’s going to happen now when we get this wet, the water is going to hit the oil and it’s going to stop, so we’re going to be able to put water here on the watercolor crayon. But normally if you put two colors right next to each other with watercolor, one would bleed into the other. But that’s not going to happen here. The blue isn’t going to bleed into the background because it’s going to stop when it hits the oil. So, it’s going to go right up to that oil, and it’s going to stop. It’s not going to spread over. So we’re going to put these drawings on our Internet page for you, so you’ll be able to print them off and color them any color you want. This was a very famous poster, that Toulouse-Lautrec did it was for a man who was a performer and his name was – you can see his name on the bottom here – It’s Astrid Bronte.  These posters were not small posters. These were huge posters. These posters were four feet wide. They were four feet wide and they were six feet tall, so you can imagine a poster that big – just a second, I can just kind of pull the blue over here – You can imagine a poster that big how impressive it looked and they put these up all over the city and so not only did the poster advertise the performance of this performer, Mr. Bronte, but it also made Toulouse-Lautrec really famous because you can see right here at the bottom he has a little thing that was his name and he did a “T” with an “L” and a “C”– kind of in a circle – and it became, it became known as his signature. So, you can see now the same thing is happening when it hits the oil pastel it doesn’t blend in with the with the blue. So, this is a water-soluble crayon called Derwin, but there are lots of companies that make it and I think I got these probably at Dick Blick. We buy a lot of things at Dick Blick. OK, so I’m going to set this aside now.

And then the other thing I did was I did one here that is just crayons so you can see the difference. Now the actual poster that Toulouse-Lautrec did – the coat and the hat were black and then the scarf was bright red and this is an unusual way to make a poster because at this time because people in Europe, they drew things that look real, so if you drew a tree or a lake or a house it had dimension and it looked real. You know things were in the background, things were in the middle ground and then things that were real close to you were in the foreground. But about this time a lot of prints from Japan started to be imported into Europe and it was a very different kind of drawing. Things were outlined in black and the images were very flat and you can see that that’s what these images look like. They’re very flat. They’re just all one color, and it was a way different way of looking at things and Toulouse-Lautrec really liked this. He really liked these drawings that came from Japan and he started to copy these real flat images and he sort of revolutionized things doing that and one of the things that happened was when we had these this printmaking–I’ve got a picture here that we’re going to put on the Internet –but this picture is of a printmaking shop in 1900 in Paris and you can see that this person is standing here and is only this big and this printing press is just huge – so you can see how big these posters were. The posters were six feet tall and four feet wide. They were just enormous and it was unheard of for them to make anything that big that they could print. So not only was the work revolutionary in the way that it looked where it would have flat images, but to do something this large, it was like the beginning of contemporary printmaking and so. I’m sure that they started printing books with this same method eventually, so we’re going to put this picture on the Internet so you can look at it. It’s really amazing to see this gigantic machine.

So, one of the people that Toulouse-Lautrec was friends with was a woman named Jane Avril. Jane Avril was a performer in one of the nightclubs. And she was a friend of Toulouse-Lautrec and so she commissioned this poster of herself for Toulouse-Lautrec to draw and again he did very flat colors and her dress was dark and then this wonderful snake. I can’t imagine having a   dress with a snake like that on it, but it was a very very pretty poster. And, so I’ve done a poster here in Crayon and then I’ve done it with markers. Now you can see there’s not very many choices of colors with markers and so even though this looks pretty good, it looks maybe a little better in crayon and then I have it here on a little heavier piece of paper. And I thought maybe we just do this one of the little watercolors to see how it looks. And maybe we should outline it with oil pastel – now this is the black oil pastel. Let’s just try this and see how it works. If it is going to make it easier to keep the color where I want it to go, just by making the lines in the oil pastel. So, the fact that you can make it resist. That’s what we’re doing. We’re going to be resisting it with the watercolor. You could do a lot of fun drawings with oil pastel by making it resist. Having one color hit the oil pastel and stop. So we’ll just outline this a little bit and then we’ll color it.

So, Jane Avril had bright red hair and Toulouse-Lautrec did quite a few drawings of the Moulin Rouge and she was in quite a few of them with her bright red hair. Sometimes you could only see her from the back. That’s probably enough. OK, so let’s do her bright red hair here. Now you know, remember when we’re painting with watercolor – we’re only going to use the point of the brush. And we’re just going to – now we’re not going to scrub it. I’m just going to very carefully. So now if we want to do her skin. We wanted her skin – I guess we have to make her a little. I got a little lighter for her skin. She probably would look good with bright red skin. We’ll kind of get her skin orange. OK, so we got her hand in here. So now what color should we make her dress? Did I do that line? I think I missed a line there. OK. Maybe we should make her dress green. A little yellow to give her a little life.  So, Jane Avril was an amazing dancer and singer and she was very, very popular. So you can see now I’m doing this watercolor and it’s just stopping where it hits the oil pastel. So even if I try to go over and it wouldn’t go further, it would just stop there. And that’s because it resists. And I add some water here and more green, more yellow. So what do you think it would have been like to be a dancer in the Moulin Rouge? To go every night. And have electric lights which are pretty amazing at the time and to dance on the stage for lots of people. I think it would have been a lot of fun. I think it might have been fun. OK, So what color are we going to make the snake? Let’s make a steak yellow. Now we have the same situation when we do the snake, the snake is not going to. The yellow isn’t going to bleed out because it’s going to stop right against the OPA still. So we did this. And we didn’t have this oil pastel line. It would be pretty hard to keep that those colors separate. Now, Jane Avril has a kind of a headdress on. I guess we can make that green too. So I might be able to not get it to bleed. I don’t have another color next to it, but if I did it would be harder to do this. So because. I don’t have another color next to it. I’m not going to do the background. But you could see that if I let it dry a little bit, if I let it dry a little bit, I could come back and then I could do the background and it wouldn’t bleed. But wouldn’t bleed here because I have the oil pastel, but up here around her head, it probably would. So there we are with our oil color we’ve done off. We’ve done our watercolor with our oil pastel. Our markers are crayons and this again is crayon and then this was our oil pastel and watercolor.

So I want you to be thinking about, not only about Toulouse-Lautrec and about his. Life had a very short life. He died when he was only 36. So 36 is pretty young, 36 is probably maybe the age of your mom and dad. It’s very, very young to die, but he because he had these health issues all his life, he just wasn’t very strong and his health deteriorated. And finally he moved to a much nicer part of Paris, where he just eventually succumbed to his health issues and he died. But he started a movement. Contemporary movement with these posters. Just the beginning of printmaking, really. An he’s a very very famous artist, so there were other artists that came along and they drew things like him but they didn’t. They didn’t become as famous and I’m not sure why their work was similar, but for some reason, they just didn’t become famous now. It might be the fact that Toulouse-Lautrec was so prolific he did so many drawings in his life. He did. I have it written down here. He did 275 watercolors, 325 posters, and he did 5000 drawings. Now, Can you imagine that? So he didn’t live very long and he did all of that work. So one of the important things about being an artist is to spend a lot of time drawing. If you want to be an artist, you have to put a lot of time in working at it, just like anything else. The more you do, the better you get. So if you go to Paris. And you go to see the Moulin Rouge. You will be able to know it still exists because Toulouse-Lautrec made so famous. I want to show you this book. This book is about Toulouse-Lautrec and it’s called Moulin Rouge in the City of Light. Now this book was written by a man named Robert Brule and it was written probably written for, for young people, and so this would be a really good book for your for your teacher to have and for you to look at if you are interested in learning more about Toulouse-Lautrec. One of the things this book shows is it shows a picture of the city when they first started having lights. These pictures are done by two famous artists. One is done by August Renoise. And the other one is done by. Camille Pissarro, these are both very, very famous oil painters around the same time of Toulouse-Lautrec. With track and you can see when you see these, how beautiful a city looks, how exciting it was to be in Paris in the right 1890s and. But this is a very interesting book. It talks about Toulouse-Lautrec’s life and it shows a picture of him when he was a grown person. You can see how short he was anyway. It’s just a very interesting book. It has a lot of the posters in it and this would be a really good book for your teacher to have for you so. I highly recommend it again, it still is Toulouse-Lautrec. The Moulin Rouge and the City of Light by Robert Brule. So thanks for coming to join me today at Golden Road Arts and next time we’re going to be talking about some other famous artists, so I hope I’ll see you soon.

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