The Cover Section Editor: M. Therese Southgate,
MD, Senior Contributing Editor.
Had he been able to live as the nobleman he was born, said Henri de
Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901) in later life, he would not have become a painter.
But because of a genetic bone disorder believed to be related to his parents'
consanguineous marriage, Lautrec could neither ride nor take part in the other
strenuous activities common to an aristocratic family in southern France.
Instead, under the devoted eye of his mother, he spent much of his time drawing.
When he was 18, he left the family estate in Albi and, accompanied by his
mother, went to Paris where he studied painting with Leon Bonnat and Fernand
Cormon; by the time he was 20 he had set up his own studio in the Montmartre
quarter of Paris. Quickly he became an habitué of the nightclubs and
cafés clustered at the foot of the hill: Moulin de la Galette, Moulin
Rouge, Chat Noir—places and patrons that would acquire enduring fame
because of his painting. The life he painted was the life he lived—the
frenetic life of fin de siècle Paris and its singers, dancers, racetrack,
circus performers, and café-goers. His mother disapproved of his lifestyle;
his father did not forbid his career, but begged him to paint at least under
a pseudonym—the family name was ancient, it should not be dishonored.
Southgate MT. Equestrienne (At the Circus Fernando). JAMA. 2001;285(3):260. doi:10.1001/jama.285.3.260