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"There is nothing but sleep and painting": Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec in the studio of Fernand Cormon

Toulouse-Lautrec, Henri de, French painter and illustrator (1864-1901). Autograph letter monogrammed "HTL".

[Paris, ca. 1884/1885].

8vo. 3 pp. on bifolium. In French.

Intriguing, early and insightful letter to his mother Adèle, written during Toulouse-Lautrec's formative period in the studio of Fernand Cormon alongside Vincent van Gogh, Émile Bernard, Louis Anquetin, and others. The letter gives testimony to Toulouse-Lautrec's feelings of insecurity and insufficiency towards his teacher and his fellow students, whom he admired greatly: "I thought that in my last letter I discussed my attempts at painting [navets] before Cormon. It seems I was mistaken. He considered my oxen to be bad, the little pastiches not too bad and the one in the green [sur l'herbe] good. In all, it is feeble compared to the landscapes that Anquetin brought. Everyone is astonished. He is following an Impressionist path that is a great credit to him. One feels quite like a little child alongside workers of such calibre" (transl.).

The early works mentioned cannot be identified with certainty. Toulouse-Lautrec painted several versions of "Oxen Under the Yoke" in the early 1880s; his best-known pastiche in the narrow sense of the word is the 1884 parody of Pierre Puvis de Chavannes' "The Sacred Grove". His close friend Louis Anquetin began experimenting with Impressionism in 1884, and Toulouse-Lautrec appears to record the first reactions to this new body of work.

In the charming second part of the letter, Toulouse-Lautrec tells his mother that he has "again taken up the daily grind" which "will last until spring", when he "might do colourful things". For the moment, he does not even have "the energy to go to the shirtmaker", preferring the heated studio of his friend and fellow student Albert Grenier, where he lived temporarily. In closing, he asks his mother to knit "a greek cap and slippers" for him, complaining: "The coffeehouse annoys me. Going down disturbs me, there is nothing but sleep and painting. I shall stop myself because I am giving a sermon".

With several minor tears to the margins and folds, partly affecting the text. Minimally stained.