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Toulouse-Lautrec: A Life (Phoenix Giants) Paperback – October 1, 1995


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Product Details

  • Series: Phoenix Giants
  • Paperback: 624 pages
  • Publisher: Orion Publishing (October 1, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1857993632
  • ISBN-13: 978-1857993639
  • Product Dimensions: 1.8 x 6 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #544,794 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

"I expect to burn myself out by the time I'm forty," vowed Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901), whose alcoholism, sexual debauchery with prostitutes and probable syphilis led to his death in 1901 at age 36. In the fullest portrait of the great French artist to date (superbly illustrated with 84 photographs and 50 color plates), Frey traces Toulouse-Lautrec's self-destructiveness to psychic pain resulting from congenital dwarfism and the conflicts of his parents-first cousins from a wealthy, aristocratic, inbred family-who used him as a pawn in their endless power struggle. The combination of a pious, overprotective, controlling mother and a grandiose, anti-clerical, manic-depressive father produced an ambivalent son who sought refuge in art. In oils, lithographs and posters, Lautrec penetrated people's masks and exposed undercurrents of despair, poverty and exploitation beneath the Belle Epoque's superficial gaiety. Drawing on hundreds of previously untapped letters and family documents, Frey, who teaches art and literature at the University of Colorado, has produced a vivid, engrossing, often astonishing biography that delves into Toulouse-Lautrec's obsession with gems and hygiene, his mania for publicity, his love-hate relationship with his mother and troubled relations with other women.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

In this readable biography of French painter and poster artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901), which draws on primary sources and family letters, the focus is on biography rather than art criticism. Toulouse-Lautrec, best known for his posters in Art Nouveau style of cabaret performers, was of aristocratic stock; neither of his parents comes off well, and the author casts his life as a reaction to both abandonment by a manic-depressive father and domination by a rigidly pious mother. This psychological approach works well on the personal level. Frey (Univ. of Colorado, Boulder), who has studied the artist for a decade, has a solid command of the literature, though her style can be overly familiar at times. Recommended for general collections. (Notes and color plates not seen.)-Jack Perry Brown, Art Inst. of Chicago Lib.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Richard S. Corzatt on March 30, 2000
Format: Paperback
I read Frey's work on Lautrec and enjoyed it very much, but then read Henri Perruchot's work, published in 1962, and felt like I was rereading Frey's book. This leads me to believe that Frey used Perruchot's work as an outline and fleshed it out with the originally unpublished letters of Lautrec to his family.
If you want the definitive work on Lautrec, find an old copy of Henri Perruchot's work, which is more consise. If you can't find a copy, Frey's work is good, but more drawn out in unnecessary details.
I should comment that the great thing about Frey's book is the reprint of Lautrec's work, which I continually referred to while reading.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By C. Fitting on December 30, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Briefly, what Julia Frey manages to do is to bring the soul and genius of Henry Toulous-Lautrec to life. Compounding fact on fact, she slowly reveals the life and times of a complicated son, man, artist and genius, who lived in a major transitional time period as social classes were dissolving and artistic trends and beliefs were being wrenched from their moorings. This 'little man'-who evokes our pathos as well as love-broke down more walls than any army could have, and he did it with style, guts and humor. It's an intense journey which could easily bog down in the details, yet I came away feeling like I knew his soul, could feel his deepest despair and witness his drive, ambition and frustation. What a marvel! His art is illuminated by Frey in a fresh way as she helps explain how he almost single-handedly invented posters-as-art, but also why he was a brilliant painter who created a style that was bold and unique.

What Frey manages to do is to humanize Toulous-Lautrec so that he's not a cartoon character, not the oddity that he's often reduced to. This is a brave man, an honorable man, a complictaed man who came from a complicated family. Bravo for them for sharing these letters, and for Julia Frey for putting the puzzle together afresh with such respectful illumination. It will break your heart but it will lift you higher. And you will feel like you lived in Paris in the late 1800s with the most phenomenal docent...one of the greatest artists of all time, Henry Toulouse-Lautrec!
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Sometime in the late 1980s Julia Frey was gifted with access to a newly acquired/discovered collection of Lautrec family correspondence given to the University of Texas at Austin. The fit was perfect. Frey is an artist/printmaker, and a PhD French scholar specializing in nineteenth-century manuscripts. It took only 15 minutes for her to realize the treasure she had in front of her. The Lautrec family are aristocrats with the wealth, resources, and simply the places to keep these papers. We hear the private voices of Henry's parents Adele and Alphonse, first hand reports of lunches with Theo and Vincent, and the machinations of just getting works shown. The list could be pages long. Henry's childhood, including the catastrophe of two broken legs, is personally described at length and in detail. Frey's bibliography and notes documenting her sources, not to mention a very thorough index, are welcome and useful scholarship.

One of the review comments on this book uses the word "magisterial." It's very appropriate.
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I have read other works about this 19th Century Post-Impressionist artist, but never have I read one so well-researched and detailed. It is almost a day-to-day history of his life. Although so very detailed, it is easy to read and well organized.

I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in one of the strangest and most interesting artist of this era.
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