Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, À Batignolles, 1888,
Oil on canvas, 92,2 x 65,2 cm
This portrait of a young woman is bursting with content: although her dress is dull and buttoned right up, her bright red mop of hair is unruly, her head is tilted back in a cheeky manner, the gaze is one of defiance, and her hands are most immodestly positioned in a suggestive triangle on her lap. All in all, it looks like this young lady can hardly keep her urges under control. This impression is reinforced by the wildly criss-crossing paint strokes, which juxtapose the colours of the bushes and trees almost unmerged. This lends the rather static background a great dynamic that also appears to be springing over to the woman.
Henri Toulouse-Lautrec was 24 years old when he painted this portrait of an unknown woman in 1888. The title only reveals the location: Batignolles, a newly incorporated district of Paris bordering on Montmartre. From the end of the 1860s, Batignolles was home to a number of artists, including Camille Pissarro, Edgar Degas and Edouard Manet – the first generation of Impressionists. Toulouse-Lautrec moved to Montmartre when he was 20. He used to paint in a park in neighbouring Batignolles. The models for his portraits of women and girls, were often prostitutes.
In the works of post-impressionists such as Toulouse-Lautrec the emphasis was on the expert and aesthetically pleasing use of form and colour. They alone were meant to convey the artist's sensations to the observer. In his work “A Batignolles” Toulouse-Lautrec has succeeding in doing justice to his artistic aspirations as well as the personality of his model.