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Title Charles Conder - Sketch for Aux Ambassadeurs: Gens Chics
Collection Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museums
Artist Toulouse-Lautrec, Henri de (French painter, printmaker, and draftsman, 1864-1901)
Date 1893 (dated)
Signed yes
Description The sitter is Charles Conder, with his head facing three-quarters left. With great economy of means Toulouse- Lautrec has captured the essential lines of both his sitter's physiognomy and his character. Using only a few significant strokes he delineates his haughty pose, with left arm akimbo (a pose Sargent too utilised at the time in order to suggest the confidence of his sitters). The face is deftly sculpted, and Toulouse-Lautrec uses brave cross-hatching, which gives form and pattern to the extremely bold composition.
Current Accession Number ABDAG003036
Former Accession Number 49.12.7
Inscription front ll 'A Ch. Conder T-Lautrec 93'
Subject portrait (Conder, Charles)
Measurements 47.3 x 36.3 cm cm (estimate)
Material oil on cardboard
Acquisition Details Purchased 1949.
Provenance Given by Toulouse-Lautrec to Conder; given by Conder to Mrs Llewellyn Hacon (who became Mrs E. G. Robichaud by her second marriage).
Principal Exhibitions Toulouse-Lautrec, London, Matthieson Gallery, 1951, cat. no. 15; Charles Conder, Sheffield, Graves Art Gallery, 1967, cat. no. 9 and cover plate; Toulouse-Lautrec, Montreal, Institute of Fine Arts, 1968; Brussels, Musee d'Ixelles, 1973 ; St Andrews, Crawford Arts Centre, 1974; Toulouse-Lautrec Retrospective, Chicago, Art Institute Of Chicago, 1979; Development of 19th Century Art, Japan, Tokyo Shimbun (touring), 1994, cat. no. 62; Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec, London, Hayward Gallery, and Paris, Grand Palais, 1991-1992; Impressionism in Britain London, Barbican Art Gallery, and Dublin, 1995; British Impressionism in Japan, Tokyo, Daimaru Museum (touring), 1997, cat. no. 86; A Scottish Collection - Treasures from Aberdeen Art Gallery, Nagasaki (touring), 2000-2001, cat. no. 55; Charles Conder Sydney, Art Gallery of New South Wales and Melbourne, National Gallery of Victoria, 2003, cat. no. 106.
Publications 'Carter, Charles', Apollo, February 1950, p. 47;Illustrated London News, September 2, 1967; Apollo, September 1967; Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec Exhibition Catalogue, Musee D'Ixelles, 1973; Film Australia/Hemisphere, Sydney, Conder and Australian Impressionists, 1974; Development of 19th-Century French Art exhibition catalogue, 1994, p. 90; Loveday D., Impressionism in Britain exhibition catalogue, Barbican Art Centre, London, 1995; University Gallery, British Impressionism in Japan exhibition catalogue, University of Northumbria, 1996; The Queensland Art Gallery, Australian Art Collection, Queensland, 1997; Musees de Rouen, Jacques-Emile, Blanche-Rouen exhibition catalogue, Paris, 1997; Aberdeen Art Gallery and Japan Association of Art Museums, A Scottish Collection-Treasures from Aberdeen Art Gallery, Tokyo, 2000, pp. 156-157, cat. no. 55; Aberdeen Art Gallery, French Connections, Aberdeen, 2001, pp. 52-53, cat. no. 26; Galbally, A., Charles Conder - The Last Bohemian, Melbourne University Publishing, 2002, p. 84 and illus. front cover; Humphries, B., 'Fans and Fancy Dress - The Decadence and Delicacy of the Forgotten Charles Conder', Times Literary Supplement, 21 February 2003, London, front cover, pp. 3-4; MacGregor, N., 'Britain's Paintings-The Story of Art Through Masterpieces in British Collections', Part 4, Daily Telegraph Supplement, London, 2002, p. 30; MacGregor, N., (in Association with the National Gallery and the Daily Telegraph), Britain's Paintings-The Story of Art Through Masterpieces in British Collections, Octopus Publishing, London, 2003, p. 177; Galbally, A., and Pearce, B., Charles Conder, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2003, p. 42, cat. no. 106; Greutzner Robins, A. and Thomson, R., Degas, Sickert, Toulouse-Lautrec, Tate, London, 2005, p 112.

The sitter, Charles Conder, was a painter who had recently returned from Australia, where he had spent much of his youth. He came to Europe to complete his art education and in Paris became a pupil at the Académie Julian. In Paris he was soon introduced to the exotic world of Montmartre and to Toulouse-Lautrec, for whom he became a favoured model. When in turn, Toulouse-Lautrec visited London, Conder introduced him to the circle of aesthetes who revolved around Oscar Wilde, whom Lautrec sketched at his trial in 1895.

Appearing in numerous paintings and lithographs by Toulouse-Lautrec, Conder's tall figure and lank, blonde hair became almost as characteristic an image of the café-concerts as was Toulouse- Lautrec's stunted figure and satyr-like countenance. This portrait is a sketch for the large Aux Ambassadeurs: Gens Chics of 1893 (National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.) which had been commissioned to illustrate an article entitled Le Plaisir à Paris - Les restaurants et les Café-concerts des Champs Élysées by Gustave Geffroy. In this article, which appeared in the July 1893 issue of Figaro Illustré (No 4), Geffroy details the 'blasé taste' and 'rampant vanity' of the rich clientèle of the cafés-concerts on the Champs Élysées, such as Aux Ambassadeurs. With his regal demeaner, elegant dress and heavily lidded eyes, Toulouse-Lautrec's depiction of Conder illustrates perfectly this description.

The emphasis on flat patterning, flowing rhythmical outline, strong silhouette and subtle, asymmetrical composition recalling Japanese prints strongly transformed Toulouse-Lautrec's poster designs but he was equally happy to use them, as here, in this sketch for an illustration.

The sketch is painted in peinture d'essence, a thinly-diluted oil paint, which Toulouse-Lautrec used with the fluidity of ink, allowing full freedom to his expressive drawing. Chinese white has been used for the highlights on Conder's shirt-front which stands in stark contrast to the purple-blue of his evening jacket. The spirit-based medium has been applied to cheap brown card which, in its untouched state, acts as a background and in parts of the figure serves to give subtle colour to the half-tones.

Some time after it was painted, Charles Conder gave this sketch later to his friend Mrs Llewellyn Hacon (later Edith 'Amaryllis' Robichaud). Her husband, Llewellyn Hacon was a barrister and a partner of Charles Ricketts at the Vale Press. She had provided Conder with somewhere to stay when he was in London at her home at 'The Vale', Chelsea. He also joined her on holiday in Dieppe and, in 1896 at Dornoch, a coastal town north of Aberdeen. There Conder painted Mrs Llewyllyn Hacon on the beach and wrote of his stay, 'We are having a good time ...but the populations (sic) are essentially golfers, and take little interest in anything else'.

Rights Owner Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museums
Author Jennifer Melville



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