Frontispiece of the series Elles

1896 Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864 - 1901)

lithograph in three colours on wove paper, 52.2 cm x 40.4 cm
Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation)

The print series Elles shows scenes from Parisian maisons closes – brothels tolerated and inspected by the French state. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec was a regular visitor, and even lodged in them at times. His series of prints explores the daily life of the prostitutes.

We see the women in their private rooms, sleeping, eating breakfast, washing or waiting for clients. By modern standards, these intimate scenes do not have an explicitly erotic character, but prints like this were considered scandalous and immoral in Lautrec’s time.

Lithography was an immensely popular technique among nineteenth-century artists, and it is clear from this series that Lautrec was a master of it. Some of his lithographs comprise large expanses of colour and leap from the paper. In others, he used a single colour, building up the image purely from subtle lines. He also made use of the crachis or spatter technique. The exclusive character of this famous series is emphasized by the deluxe paper on which it has been printed and by the limited print run.

What is it?
What can you see?
exhibition location

Object data

Object number
52.2 cm x 40.4 cm, 52.2 cm x 40.4 cm
Catalogue raisonné
Wittrock 155 III, Delteil 179, Adriani 171, Adhémar 200 II


H T L by Toulouse-Lautrec, Henri de
Serie No 58 GP by Pellet, Gustave


  • Riva Castleman, Toulouse-Lautrec : posters and prints from the collection of Irene and Howard Stein, 1998, p. 114-115
  • By Wolfgang Wittrock ; edited and translated by Catherine E. Kuehn, Toulouse-Lautrec : the complete prints, 1985, p. 376-377
  • Götz Adriani, Toulouse-Lautrec : das gesamte graphische werk : Sammlung Gerstenberg, 1986, p. 222-225
  • Phillip Dennis Cate, Gale B. Muray, Richard Thomson, Prints abound : Paris in the 1890s, from the collections of Virginia and Ira Jackson and the National Gallery of Art, 2000, p. 50-51
  • ed. by Pat Gilmour, Lasting Impressions : lithography as art, cop. 1988, p.134
  • By Frances Carey and Antony Griffiths, From Manet to Toulouse-Lautrec : French lithographs 1860-1900, 1978, p. 72-91
  • Rita E. Täuber, Der häßliche Eros : Darstellungen zur Prostitution in der Malerei und Grafik 1855-1930, 1997, p. 35-37
  • Hervé Manéglier, Les artistes au bordel, 1997, p. 265-268
  • Susan Hollis Clayson, Representations of prostitution in early third republic France, 1985, p. 79-176
  • Edited by The Society for the Study of Japonisme, Japonisme in art : an international symposium, 1980, p. 239-260