Friday, September 3, 2010

Models & Muses--Carmen Gaudin, Another Laundress/Model Employed by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901)

Often the portraits of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901) take a back seat to his popular poster art. As we saw with his portraits of Suzanne Valadon, he created serious paintings of those he encountered in Montmartre. One of his favorite models, in addition to Suzanne Valadon, was another laundress named Carmen Gaudin (1866?–1920).

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901) Carmen Gaudin , 1885
My favorites of his portraits, by far, are his early paintings of Carmen Gaudin.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901) Carmen Gaudin Red-Headed Woman in a White Blouse in the Artist's Studio

The model for this series of Lautrec paintings Carmen Gaudin apparently made her living as a laundress, model, and prostitute.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901) Carmen Gaudin

It is reported that Lautrec spotted Carmen, as she was leaving a Montmartre restaurant sometime in the summer of 1885.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901) Carmen Gaudin The Red-Headed Woman

Lautrec was reportedly infatuated with red-headed women. He seemed to be attracted to Carmen both for her beauty & her tawdriness. He had been born into a traditional, well-to-do family.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901) Carmen Gaudin

It is said that he exclaimed to his friend, "what an air of spoiled meat she has" apparently referring to his assumption that like many laundrymaids, she probably worked as a part-time prostitute.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901) Carmen Gaudin Lowered Head 1885
Lautrec is supposed to have intended to improve her lot in life by making her his model, but it appears that she had already posed for the Belgian painter Alfred Stevens, and later worked as a model for artist Fernand Cormon as well. Cormon was Lautrec's art teacher.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901) Carmen Gaudin At Montrouge. 1886-87.

In autumn 1885, Lautrec wrote to his aristocratic mother, that he was "painting a woman whose hair is absolute gold," referring to Carmen. Tucked deep into the artist's community at Montmartre was the garden of Monsieur Pere Foret, where Toulouse-Lautrec executed a series of pleasant plein-air paintings of Carmen Gaudin

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901) Carmen Gaudin Red-Headed Woman in the Garden of M. Foret, Summer 1887

Despite his “spoiled meat” comment, if Carmen was a prostitute, as well as a laundress, Lautrec seemed to portray on canvas no particular disdain for women in this profession. He was able to portray Carmen in realistic poses and situations which he would not have been able to do with client friends from his family.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901) Carmen Gaudin 1889

Throughout his voluminous body of work his models were often prostitutes, commonly the only source of female models willing to bare more than their face or hands.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901) Carmen Gaudin Woman in a Garden 1889

Lautrec did not portray his models in a demeaning way, he seemed to want to capture the spirit of his models without injecting his "red meat" moral judgment into the compositions. And, with them, he could play with light and shadows, as he could not with traditional portraits.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901) Carmen Gaudin as The Laundress. 1889, although some say that the model for this particular painting, and perhaps the following portrait, was Suzanne Valadon, during a period when her hair was dyed red.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901) Carmen Gaudin Red-Haired Woman The Toilette. 1889.
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2 comments:

  1. Carmen Gaudin's wariness, or perhaps even anger, make her a fascinating subject.

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  2. Compared to his other non-theatrical portraits she is almost modern in her looks and in her clothing. I am sure she was wary of men with good reason...

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