8 September 2015

In the final footsteps of Toulouse-Lautrec

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (Painter-Lithographer-Poster designer, below) died on 9 September 1901 at the age of 36. He spent his last days at his mother’s home, Château Malromé, (Gironde, South West France) and is buried in the cemetery at Verdelais (above) nearby.

There was considerable intermarriage between his parents’ aristocratic families - they were cousins and his grandmothers were sisters. Toulouse-Lautrec’s extensive congenital health problems were aggravated by alcoholism and syphilis, both developed during his bohemian life in Monmartre.

Lautrec’s mother, Comtesse Adele, a devout Catholic, had bought Malromé in 1883 because of its proximity to the pilgrimage site at Verdelais, rather than for its viticulture. The Château and Lautrec’s portrait of his mother were mentioned in a post here in 2011.

Malromé was bought in 2013 by the Malaysian DCHL group who have restored the house and are upgrading the winery. The public can visit from May to October and at other times by arrangement. As well as an opportunity to taste the wine, there is a guided tour of the major rooms which have been hung with good reproductions of some of Lautrec’s major works (below). A very knowledgeable description (in French) of these and of the artist’s career is the main feature of the tour. There was an interesting emphasis on the Japanese influence on Lautrec‘s work, apparently as important as it was for van Gogh in Paris.

Unlike the furnishings and decoration, the works have been selected to describe the artist rather than recreate what would have been hung in the Comtesse’s day. The lithographs now in the bathroom which Henri and his mother used (below) would probably not have been to her taste, any more than Rue des Moulins, l’inspection médicale (1894), downstairs. 

Admiral Viaud (1901, below) was new to me as were some of the lithographs and posters. There is one Lautrec original, a drawing he made on one of the walls.

Malromé is definitely worth a visit, as is François Mauriac’s home at Château Malagar nearby.

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