Yvette Guilbert in the Song 'Essima', plate 3 from Yvette Guilbert (Série anglaise [The English Series])
49.8 cm x 37.5 cm (19 5/8 in. x 14 3/4 in.)
Bliss & Sands
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
(Albi, 1864 - 1901, Langon)
Medium and Support:
Lithograph with tint-stone
Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, Transfer from the General Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin, 1979
Yvette Guilbert was a star of the café-concerts of the 1890s. A London print publisher and dealer suggested that Toulouse-Lautrec produce a series of drawings and lithographs of the singer to sell during her visit to London in 1898. Guilbert’s appearance was canceled, but the dealer published Lautrec’s eight lithographs and frontispiece later that year.
Breaking with tradition, Toulouse-Lautrec did not present Guilbert as an idealized beauty. Rather, he exaggerated her unique features: a distinct thin silhouette (not the preferred standard at the time), pale skin, flaming red hair, and signature long black gloves. Guilbert not only looked unusual but also had a unique performance style, standing still and moving only her arms while she sang outrageously bawdy songs.