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Lautrec’s Legacy: Manifestations of Deformity & Synecdochical Depictions of Legs

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Title: Lautrec’s Legacy: Manifestations of Deformity & Synecdochical Depictions of Legs
Author: Trufanova, N.
Department: Bryn Mawr College. Dept. of Art
Type: Thesis (B.A.)
Running Time: 1511596 bytes117340 bytes
Issue Date: 2005
Abstract: When seeking a comprehensive reading of a given work of art, it is not unusual to turn to the artist’s biography for clues into his intent and a specific perspective on his subject. The image of the artist, whether carefully cultivated or acquired by circumstance, often plays as important a role in the study of his work as does the work itself. The life and work of fin-de-siècle French painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901) demonstrate that such a connection can be made effectively, casting a new light on an artist’s expression and allowing for a work to reveal a fuller meaning with respect to its creator’s personal experience. A reading which takes an artist’s biography, or one significant aspect of it, into account, however, must refrain from being reductive, and recognize the nuances of an artist’s motivations and choices. It is not my intent to present Lautrec’s physical deformity as the single motivating element in his work, nor to argue that representations of legs are central to the compositions which developed under the artist’s brush. Rather, I have examined the trends in Lautrec’s modes of representation only to find that a common predilection for movement and physicality of gesture consistently surfaces throughout his oeuvre, whether studied chronologically, by media, or by subject matter. Couching my readings of Lautrec’s work in his biography and his handicap, I hope to illustrate the ways through which frenetic activity and physical mobility are much more central to his work than to the world of his colleagues. Lautrec did not invent legs on stage, nor legs in painting, but perhaps he had to invent them for himself and paint them to experience the world on horseback or on two healthy legs vicariously.
Subject: Human figure in art
Subject: Toulouse-Lautrec, Henri de, 1864-1901 -- Criticism and interpretation
Subject: Leg -- Pictorial works
Subject: Toulouse-Lautrec, Henri de, 1864-1901
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2005TrufanovaN.pdf Complete Thesis (Haverford & Bryn Mawr users only) 1.441Mb PDF
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Trufanova, N.. "Lautrec’s Legacy: Manifestations of Deformity & Synecdochical Depictions of Legs". 2005. Available electronically from

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