Lot 668: Napoleon. 1895
October 30, 2016
New York, NY, USALive Auction
Description: Artist: HENRI DE TOULOUSE-LAUTREC (1864-1901) Size: 18 1/8 x 24 3/4 in./46 x 62.8 cm "In the summer of 1895 a competition was held by the art-dealers Boussard, Valadon et Cie. for a poster to advertise a biography of Napoleon by William Milligan Sloan, which was to be published in the Century Magazine in New York in 1896. No doubt encouraged by Maurice Joyant, a friend from his youth and director of Boussard and Valadon, Lautrec entered the competition . . . Although the handling of the motif should actually have appealed to the specially selected jury the successful society painters Detaille, Gérôme and Vibert, and the Napoleon scholar Frédéric Masson the design was not judged worthy of a prize. From the 21 entries, Lucien Métivet, a minor illustrator and former fellow student of Lautrec's in the Atelier Cormon, won the prize. The rejection of Lautrec's work is all the more astonishing since Lautrec, no doubt with the jury in mind, produced a composition in full sympathy with the elevated traditional image of the great man, and aimed to give an accurate representation of the historic facts, even down to the details of the uniforms. After vain attempts to sell the design elsewhere, the artist decided to have an edition printed at his own expense (Adriani, p. 190). "Lautrec's Napoleon occupies a distinctive place in his oeuvre as his only poster on a historical theme. Omitting any glorifying attributes, Lautrec presented his famous subject directly and humanly; there is dignity and restraint in the hint of Napoleon's pride and melancholy. Yet it was probably this very simplicity and absence of panoply that was responsible for Lautrec's failure to win first prize (Wagner, p. 28). From the hand-signed edition of 100 copies (#97).
Condition Report: A. Framed.
Dimensions: 18 1/8 x 24 3/4 in./46 x 62.8 cm
Artist or Maker: HENRI DE TOULOUSE-LAUTREC (1864-1901)