I was asked by a student to do a slide show on Toulouse Lautrec, who's an artist I confess I'd never paid all that much attention to. His most frequently reproduced images are commercial lithographs with mostly all flat shapes and no natural lighting. So I'd usually tended to graze at the other end of the meadow looking at the work of artists closer to my own way of seeing.
But I was pleasantly surprised at some images that were new too me. Here's one above that's down right steamy. I like the way Lautrec covers the whole canvas with a deep red hue and then has a white blouse and some distant white sheets literally pop out of the composition. The artist first creates an all-enveloping darkly romantic, atmosphere for this amorous couple. Now that I've seen such a rich environment, anything less sensuous would be a terrible let down.
The second painting couldn't be more different in mood, even though the bed seems to have the same red comforter on it. Has any bed ever looked more cozy? It's amazing how much feeling Lautrec puts into his figures while only showing us part of their heads. Notice how much expression he milks out of the carefully drawn silhouettes of the woman's and the man's hair. With you hand block out the triangle of red comforter in the lower right corner of the picture and see how the form of the white sheets becomes mushy and dull without it. Lautrec has a fantastic eye for the expressive potential of shapes. He could tell us a lot with very little.