Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864 - 1901), 1887
chalk on paper,
54.2 cm x 46 cm
Credits (obliged to state): Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation)
According to the artist Paul Signac, Vincent van Gogh rounded off every day in the bar, where the ‘absinthes and brandies would follow each other in quick succession’. Van Gogh himself later [admitted(http://vangoghletters.org/vg/letters/let694/letter.html) that he was ‘almost an alcoholic’ by the time he left for Arles. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec had good reason, therefore, for sketching his friend at a table with a glass of absinthe.
The French painter met Van Gogh, who was eleven years older than him, at Fernand Cormon’s studio, where they were both taking lessons. They probably worked together intensively for a while, as the style and technique of their paintings in this period look very similar.
Toulouse-Lautrec sprang to his friend’s defence at the exhibition of ‘Les Vingt’ in Brussels in early 1890. Van Gogh had submitted six paintings, which caused a furore during the opening. Toulouse-Lautrec was so angry about some of the negative comments he heard about Vincent’s work that he almost got into a fight with another artist. The two painters might saw each other one last time a few months later, when Van Gogh visited his brother Theo in Paris from Auvers-sur-Oise. Little else is known about their friendship.