Jeanne Wenz 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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Portrait of Jeanne Wenz is an 1886 painting by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec which is now owned by the Art Institute of Chicago. It is one of several artworks from his career to be found there, including paintings, drawings and lithographic prints.

The model is in side profile for this portrait. She glances upwards, whilst her chin is down. She sits upright on a wooden chair which has a high back. There is a table besides her with a thick top and the rest of the room seems fairly bare. The artist covers the wall behind with a mottled effect of blue tones, with grey, using colours from the figure's appearance elsewhere in the painting. The lady appears young, with red hair which has been styled short. Her facial features are angular, with a prominent nose and small, pursed lips. Her outfit reaches modestly right up to her neck, with a small ribbon offering just a touch of flair and interest. Her expression is somewhat stern, as if unhappy to sit for this piece, or uncomfortable in her mind about something.

The artist would only have been young at the time that he executed this portrait of Jeanne Wenz. Perhaps the model did not offer him quite the respect that he deserved because of his age, and the fact that he was still an art student at the time. The lady in this painting is believed to have been a lover of Frederic Wenz, with whom Henri was familiar. She would appear again in later portraits by the artist and so they were well known to each other. At that time, the social circles may have been fairly small, with artists, students and models spending time in each other's company fairly regularly. The artist here places strong lighting across her face, and the ribbon below, which draws your attention to those elements of the composition.

Portraits were an important part of this artist's oeuvre. He would regularly capture friends and family, essentially keeping a visual record of his own life over a period of several decades. In the early years it would be necessary to call upon these people to sit for him as he sought to build up a reputation and avoid having to spend too much money on professional models. As it turned out, these items would become amongst the most respected parts of his work and also offer us a great insight into his personal life.

Jeanne Wenz in Detail Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec