The Clowness at the Moulin Rouge
La Clownesse au Moulin-Rouge
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, French, 1864–1901 French
Image: 41 x 32.1 cm (16 1/8 x 12 5/8 in.) (trimmed)
Medium or Technique
Not On View
The female clown with the mock Chinese name Cha-u-ka-o (short for the dance chahut-chaos, a wild version of the cancan) walks arm in arm with a companion, Gabrielle-la-danseuse (Gabrielle the Dancer), at the Moulin Rouge.
Lithography was invented in the late eighteenth century by Alois Senefelder, a German dramatist and actor, who hoped to find a cheaper method of reproducing his plays. The technique relies on the principal that grease attracts grease and water repels it. Artists and printmakers make designs with greasy crayons and inks on finely ground limestone slabs or on prepared metal plates. After a chemical process affixes the marks to the surface, the stone or plate is inked and then moistened. The wet areas repel the ink and the greasy marks attract it, becoming the areas which print when a sheet of paper is pressed against them. In color lithography, multiple stones are used to print the colors. The standard technique in Toulouse-Lautrec's day entailed the use of four stones, one for each of the primary colors and an additional stone for black. Secondary colors were created by superimposing one color atop another; blue over yellow, for example, would create green. Toulouse-Lautrec experimented with the juxtaposition of colors and the use of more stones, such that each color had its own stone. He also used a wide variety of techniques for the application of the greasy marks, using brushes and pens as well as crayons to apply lithographic ink, for example, or splattering lithographic ink across the surface to create a soft tonal effect.