The Clownesse Cha-u-Kao at the Moulin Rouge Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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Toulouse-Lautrec created many portraits of clowness cha u kao, making her one of his favourite models. The piece covered here was a particularly upbeat work and was titled clowness Cha-u-Kao at the Moulin Rouge.

She was an entertainer in local Parisien cabaret clubs, having made the transition to dance once her body was unable to handle the rigours of gymnastics any longer. She was also just as deeply embedded in the community of late night Paris as her friend, Henri. They shared much in common in that regard as well as having many mutual friends built up of the years of frequenting such establishments. The artist makes use of his skills in depicting drapery in this scene as well as capturing the glamorous lives of the performers. He would always capture what he saw, good or bad, and several other portraits that he produced of clowness cha u kao put her in a much more sombre setting. No artist has been as good as Toulouse Lautrec in bringing the Parisien theatre community to life within art, and much of his success was due to his own deep immersion within this exciting group of people.

This composition features the clowness standing directly in front of us, whilst leaning slightly to one side. She wears an elaborate, fun outfit, which is also seen again in a number of other portraits of her produced by Toulouse Lautrec. She wears a yellow decoration fron her hair, and a bright yellow frill around the top of her outfit. The rest is black, but with stylist pleating which brings together the character perfectly. Her posture is confident and also confident in the presence of the artist, with these two being well known to each other. To the clown's right is an older woman walking across the scene, with a large number of other figures behind. The ground and background are relatively simple, with Toulouse Lautrec gifting most attention to Cha u Kao for this particular piece. He loved to capture her in different settings, and in different moods, whilst working and also when resting between acts - see also The Clown Cha U Kao.

This artist and the French cabaret can never be separated, as this content was so common within his career. He specialised in scenes from theatre in Paris and truly immersed himself in the community to such a degree that many even forget he was there when he worked. He was also able to get in positions that other artists would never be allowed, because of his personal relationships and how every seemed to like and trust him. Familiarity allowed Toulouse Lautrec to capture all manner of different elements of the cabaret scene, many of which the public themselves would never have the chance to see. Whilst he addressed other genres within his career, and was also closely linked to the style of the Impressionists, it is the cabaret which remains the signature story of this artist's highly regarded and innovative oeuvre.

The Clownesse Cha-u-Kao at the Moulin Rouge in Detail Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec