In the summer of 1895 Lautrec embarked on a voyage from Le Havre to Bordeaux with Maurice Guibert, on the steamer Le Chili. During the voyage he discovered a young woman, one of his fellow passengers, in cabin No. 54, who was on her way to join her husband, a colonial official in Senegal. He was so fascinated by her beauty that, despite protests from Guibert, he determined to stay on board once the ship reached Bordeaux and continue south with the vessel. It was not until they reached Lisbon that his friend succeeded in getting Lautrec — who was determined to carry on as far as Dakar — off the ship. Guibert then took the artist via Madrid and Toledo to the spa of Taussat, and the trip ended in late summer near Bordeaux, at the Château de Malromé, the main residence of Lautrec’s mother. This is how La Passagère du 54 – Promenade en Yacht by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec was inspired and created! A fascinating story… http://www.maitres-des-arts-graphiques.com/Toulouse-Lautrec,%20Passagere.html
Back in Paris, Toulouse-Lautrec carefully and swiftly developed his, now-famous, lithograph La passagère du 54 – Promenade en Yacht. The stylish young, red-haired woman of the lithograph was apparently unaware of the artist’s presence, the two were never introduced, and her name is unknown. What apparently captured the artist’s eye was the way the young woman leisurely reclined in a striped chair on the yacht’s deck. What captivated his soul was her air of nonchalance, the way she gazed at the sea and the ships sailing by… her dreamlike demeanor that beautifully captured the essence of opulent living.
Working with a few scant references… his memory, a photograph secretly taken on board by his friend, the photographer Maurice Guibert, and sketches he did, based on the photograph, Toulouse-Lautrec finished his coloured lithograph by the end of autumn 1895. The lithograph skillfully depicted the casual and fleeting nature of a quick glance, reflecting a style that Lautrec had honed in his paintings and prints during the 1890s. He executed the work with a keen and swift hand, using graphite for precise touches. The focus was on the figure, delicately outlining details such as the upper edge of the straw boater hat, the swept-back hair, the contours of the shirt and jacket lapel, the seam and fold in the puffed shoulder of the sleeve, the meticulous upturn of the glove cuff, the graceful curves of the deck chair, and the smooth shading on the cover of the open book. These adjustments appear to correspond to the red highlights that were included in the coloured version.
The warm, yellowish tones of the deck, chair, and the woman’s hair harmoniously blend with the vibrant blues of the sea and the text (in the later, poster version), showcasing the artist’s masterful understanding and application of colour. This skillful use of colour invites the viewers to immerse themselves in the private world of the young woman, allowing them to intimately experience the cozy and tranquil atmosphere depicted in the artwork.
Maurice Joyant, gallerist, and biographer of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec wrote for the poster of the beautiful passagère… Chose exquise de ton, d’élégance, d’expression de laisser-aller, de la douceur de vivre, le regard errant, par beau temps. http://www.maitres-des-arts-graphiques.com/Toulouse-Lautrec,%20Passagere.html
For a Student Activity titled Exploring Toulouse-Lautrec’s Iconic Posters, please… Check HERE!
A short Video of La Passagère du 54 – Promenade en Yacht, created by NGA of Australia, is recommended… https://searchthecollection.nga.gov.au/object/168065
Memories steeped in dream, The Art of the Multiple, from the Collection of the Basil & Εlise Goulandris Foundation (05.08 – 03.12 2023) is an upcoming Exhibition in the B&E Goulandris Foundation, in Athens, Greece. Artworks by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Aristide Maillol, Henri Matisse, Fernand Léger, Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Joan Miró, and Balthus will be presented. The lithograph of La Passagère will be among the Stars of the Exhibition! https://goulandris.gr/en/exhibition/memories-steeped-in-dream#
Photo Credits: https://goulandris.gr/el/exhibition/memories-steeped-in-dream and https://static.artmuseum.princeton.edu/mirador3/?manifest=https://data.artmuseum.princeton.edu/iiif/objects/10362&canvas=https://data.artmuseum.princeton.edu/iiif/objects/10362/canvas/10362-canvas-121774 and https://www.sothebys.com/en/auctions/ecatalogue/2014/prints-n09138/lot.139.html and http://www.maitres-des-arts-graphiques.com/Toulouse-Lautrec,%20Passagere.html