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Art & Design

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, At the Circus: Bareback, 1899, Gift of Mrs. Murray S. Danforth

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Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

gallery location RA304.PhotoGallery

At the Circus: Bareback

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec French, 1864-1901
At the Circus: Bareback, 1899
Crayon, ink and pastel on paper
50.8 x 34 cm (20 x 13 3/8 inches) (sheet)
Gift of Mrs. Murray S. Danforth 34.003

In 1899, while confined to a clinic outside Paris for his alcoholism, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec created several drawings of the circus from memory. Performers appealed to Lautrec, perhaps because he identified with their outsider status in society. In At the Circus: Bareback, bold passages of black delineate the female rider perched precariously on her enormous horse. The curved diagonal of the circus ring destabilizes the entire composition and seems to force the horse askew. Lautrec’s dynamic contour lines and unusual sense of scale create spatial ambiguity between the horse and the ringmaster, and between the viewer and the scene. His strong black lines introduce energetic motion and tension into a scene of superficial gaiety.

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