In late 19th-century Paris, each artist seemingly had his or her “calling cards.” Degas had his weary dancers, Monet his haystacks in winter, spring, summer, and fall, Caillebotte the newly constructed boulevards and bridges, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901) the lurid and indulgent nightlife of Montmartre. It was a signature subject that would be both his legacy and his undoing.
Toulouse-Lautrec was born into an aristocratic family in 1864 but had health problems from an early age that left him bedridden for long periods of time. He had a genetic weakness due to his parents being first cousins, and subsequent breaks in both femur bones caused his legs to cease growing. Throughout his life he had difficulty walking, regularly used a cane, and never surpassed 5 feet in height. It was during his long childhood convalescences that Toulouse-Lautrec acquired an affinity for drawing, his favorite subject being horses.
Butt CA. “A Montrouge”—Rosa La RougeHenri de Toulouse-Lautrec . JAMA. 2016;315(2):116-117. doi:10.1001/jama.2015.14047