Toulouse-Lautrec and graphic art (2023)

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

(1864 -1901)- France

Graphic Art Design


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Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec was a French painter, printmaker, and illustrator who is known for his art showing the colorful, theatrical life of Paris in the late 19th century. He is from the Post-Impressionist period which means “after Impressionism”.

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Portrait of Van Gogh by Toulouse-Lautrec

Van Gogh and Cezanne were also artists from that period, and the three all became acquainted when they lived in Paris.

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Toulouse-Lautrec’s parents were a count and countess, so he was from an important, well-to-do family. He was born with health problems. When he was 13 he broke a leg and at the age of 14 he broke the other. The legs did not heal back properly, and doctors today suspect it was due to a genetic disorder that affected his bones. Toulouse-Lautrec’s body grew, but his legs remained small, not growing, so that as an adult he was very short at 4 foot 11 inches.

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Toulouse-Lautrec immersed himself in his art. He became an important illustrator, painter, and lithographer - or printmaker. Our artwork of the week is one of Toulouse-Lautrec's many posters he illustrated for Parisian businesses and cabarets. It is call Divan Japonais, which is the name of a the cabaret the poster is advertising.


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Toulouse-Lautrec moved to Paris and lived in the neighborhood of Montmartre, where many artists lived. Paris had many cabarets. These were music halls where adults watched performers and danced. Toulouse-Lautrec was commissioned to produce a series of posters to advertise a cabaret called Moulin Rouge.

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Toulouse-Lautrec made the posters and received money which helped him be independent. Other artists looked down on the posters as not being true art. ​​

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Toulouse-Lautrec and graphic art (10)

One of the dancers Toulouse-Lautrec painted is known for creating the French Can-Can dance. The Can-Can was a high-energy dance popular in the Parisian caberets. It featured girl dancers who kicked and waved their multiple layers of ruffled petticoats.

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Toulouse-Lautrec and graphic art (12)

Graphic art is a combination of images, words, or symbols that communicate an idea or message. Toulouse-Lautrec's posters were created to advertise different businesses, yet they are recognized today as fine art for their design and technique.


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Toulouse-Lautrec was made fun of all his life for being so short. He was an unhappy person and became an alcoholic, which contributed to his early death at the age of 36.

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After his death, his mother and his art dealer continued exhibiting his work. His mother contributed funds for a museum to be created in Albi,his birthplace, to show his works.

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This Musee Toulouse-Lautrecowns the largest collection of works by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.

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Toulouse-Lautrec and graphic art (18)

In his less than 20-year career, Toulouse-Lautrec created 737 canvas paintings, 275 watercolors, 363 prints and posters, and over 5,000 drawings.

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Toulouse-Lautrec's posters are considered to be some of his most powerful works.


Graphic designers create artwork using a wide variety of methods. Their techniques could involve drawing, painting, printmaking, and other forms.

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Toulouse-Lautrec and graphic art (22)

Many today produce art with digital media. Those artists most often use Adobe software products such as Photoshop or Illustrator.

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"Prototyping With Facebook Origami".Vimeo. N. p., 2014. Web. 20 Apr. 2016.

Graphic art designers’ work is meant to convey a message or sell a product. They use principles of design to create art so that their message will be noticed and will appeal to their intended audience.

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"4 Surefire Steps If You Want To Be A Graphic Designer – Welcome To Sharing Website". N. p., 2016. Web. 20 Apr. 2016.

Most designers work in publishing houses, design firms, or advertising agencies. Some are freelance, which means they don’t work for any one business but accept jobs from different clients.

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staff, WDD. "14 Essential Magazines For Graphic Designers". Webdesigner Depot. N. p., 2016. Web. 20 Apr. 2016.

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Graphic Design of the LA-based new wave band SimulatorStimfanagain

Ads in magazines and newspapers and on the web are all created by a graphic designer. Graphic designers design packaging, website art, and logos.

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Toulouse-Lautrec and graphic art (28)

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A logo is a symbol or a design that is adopted by an organization or business to identify its products, buildings, or other things associated with it.


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Our artwork of the week, Divan Japonais, is not only great art but is a successful poster telling a message. The Parisian singing-cafe, Divan Japonais, had just reopened after being closed for a while. The poster places the cafe name in big letters and at the top. The address is in smaller letters below the name. The poster gives the name of the owner of the singing-cafe. The lady is black stands out against the lighter background and attracts our attention. All three people in the poster were famous and easily recognized. The poster would attract people's attention and the famous people would make viewers think the Divan Japonais is a place with important people and entertainers.

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This Toulouse-Lautrec poster advertises an event with the singer Aristide Bruant at the Ambassadeurs nightclub in Paris, 1892. The phrase "dans son cabaret" means "at his cabaret". Toulouse-Lautrec's images and words work together.

This is an example of a poster that is not successful. The background is so busy with photos that the words are harder to see. The date and "Free Food" are the biggest word, but the whole point of the event is a Women's Rights event. Too many different fonts make for unpleasant reading.

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This poster, also, is unsuccessful. The text boxes are too many different sizes and there is way too many words on the poster. The black starry background makes the little images not show up very well. The heading in Star Wars script is nearly impossible to read. The message of this poster is too hard to figure out or to read.

Poster Creating Tips

ust as graphic designers create art with messages, students can, too, with a simple poster.To make an effective poster, there are some points to keep in mind.

Decide what your message is before beginning. Then think about what text is so important that it needs to be on the poster. For example, if the poster is advertising an event, not only the name of the event is needed but also the date, time, and place.

The message needs to be short and to the point. People won’t take the time to read a lot of words. You want a message that a viewer will see at a glance. Any hand-printed text should be neat and easy to read with no misspellings.

Choose fonts and font colors that are easy to read. Dark fonts against a light background show up well.

Make your graphics fit your poster’s theme or message. Don’t just use an image because you like it. Choose images that strengthen your message and that attract a viewer’s attention.

Too many pictures or drawings will make the words or message too hard to notice. A viewer won’t know what to focus on if the poster is cluttered. If using computer images or photos, make sure they are clear.

Decide if your poster would work better vertically or horizontally.

Remember that background or white space matters. Blank space helps set off what you want to be noticed.

Draw a sketch of your poster design before you make your actual poster. Do the sketch in pencil on a piece of paper. Edit and change the sketch until you get a good overall design. The sketch should include the whole layout of the poster, showing where words and images will be and also showing how big the words and images will be in relation to each other.

Decide on your media to use - computer program or drawing, painting, collage, markers, etc. What kind of background will you use? Poster board, cardboard, paper or something else?

Plan the colors you'll use. Will the background be white or a color?

Avoid using colors that clash together. Use colors that match your them or message if possible.

YouTube video - How to Design a Poster (1:20 min.)


"Ambassadeurs. Aristide Bruant Dans Son Cabaret | Toulouse-Lautrec, Henri De | V&A Search The Collections" N. p., 2016. Web. 21 Apr. 2016.

Color, Bright et al. "Bright Lights Big Color". design it.. N. p., 2016. Web. 21 Apr. 2016

"Designing Conference Posters - Colin Purrington". Colin Purrington. N. p., 2016. Web. 21 Apr. 2016.

"Difference Between Graphic Artist And Graphic Designer". KYGOS. N. p., 2015. Web. 20 Apr. 2016.

"Graphic Design". Wikipedia. N. p., 2016. Web. 18 Apr. 2016.

"Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec". Wikipedia. N. p., 2016. Web. 14 Apr. 2016.

Loop, Erica and Erica Loop. "How To Teach Kids To Make Posters | Ehow".eHow. N. p., 2016. Web. 21 Apr. 2016.

"Moma | Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec. Divan Japonais (Japanese Settee). 1893" N. p., 2016. Web. 14 Apr. 2016.

Pendergrass, Kimberly. "What Does A Graphic Designer Do? The Industry Revealed". Udemy Blog. N. p., 2016. Web. 20 Apr. 2016.

Rogers, Derek. "WHAT DOES A GRAPHIC DESIGNER DO? | Creative Pile". N. p., 2016. Web. 20 Apr. 2016.

staff, WDD. "14 Essential Magazines For Graphic Designers". Webdesigner Depot. N. p., 2016. Web. 20 Apr. 2016.

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