Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
(Albi, 1864-1901, Ch. de Malromé, Gironde)
François Gauzi, 1886
Oil on canvas, 46 x 38 cm
Dortu P. 276
The eighth and last Impressionist exhibition in 1886, where Seurat and Signac appeared on the insistence of Pissarro, defines the Paris art scene against the background of which the young Toulouse-Lautrec develops his personal style. Lautrec is not involved in theoretical polemics, but he is well informed about the new trends. When he painted his friend François Gauzi in 1887, Toulouse-Lautrec, at the age of twenty-three, had left his academic mentors behind, and established himself among the leaders of his generation. He was still groping his way in this artistic new territory, when he composed the texture of the sitter's face built up out of fine brushstrokes on a whitegrounded canvas, with a greenish-grey and pale brown background to provide the portrait with solidity. Gauzi, in his recollections of Lautrec, reports in detail on why the picture with the light-green indication of the shirt drawn in remained incomplete: Lautrec had originally wished to paint Gauzi in a yellow-and-white plaid waist-coat, which the painter had lost during the sittings. After this loss, Lautrec had no further interest in the picture, and it remained unfinished. François Gauzi, two years older than Lautrec, had come from Toulouse in 1885 to the Atelier Cormon in Paris. His friendship with Lautrec lasted until the latter’s death. Lautrec also did a full-length portrait of Gauzi in 1888, which Gauzi along with other pictures by Lautrec – including "A First Communion", where Gauzi is shown pushing a pram – bequeathed to the Musée des Augustins in Toulouse.