Monsieur Boileau 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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Monsieur Boileau at the Café is an artwork from 1893 by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. It can now be found in the permanent collection of the Cleveland Museum of Art in the US.

This delightful scene captures the French cafe scene perfectly. We see many well dressed figures enjoying an evening out, with bold, formal hats and well suited individuals. A man stands at the bar with a white bow tie, drinking without a care in the world. In the foreground we find Monsieur Boileau himself. He looks towards us and sits back from the table to allow us to see more of his clothing. Several dominoes lie on the table in front of us, along with some glasses and a carafe. The cafe is busy and tightly packed, though the patrons appreciate this atmosphere and the mood is cordial. Many other figures are grouped just behind the main subject, deep in coversation. These would be well established figures who could afford leisure time in which they might continue to promote themselves or their business interests. The artist was highly interested in the night life of Paris and featured it many times during this part of his career. Sadly, he would become heavily reliant on drinking, and perhaps his work became an excuse to hang out in these environments.

There appears to be an open fireplace by the left hand side, in green, and the floor is tiled. Two bright lights hang from the ceiling whilst a mirror or painting hangs from the wall on the far right hand side. The drink found on the table nearest us is most likely to have been absinthe, an exciting and popular drink from that period. It would later become banned due to the apparent hallucinogenic properties found within it, though can today can still be purchased in some European countries. The artist would dedicate the painting to the subject which suggests that they were particularly well known to each other. The artwork was completed using gouache, rather than oils, and this helped to give it quite a different finish. The artist might have varied his mediums depending on where he was working, such as within a cafe such as this, or in the more comfortable surroundings of his studio.

Cafe scenes became the most common genre within this artist's career, and remain the content for which he is most famous. He helps us to better understand the atmosphere of these locations within Paris at the time, and it was a key period in the development of the middle classes. Leisure time was starting to be enjoyed by many for the first time, and this artist liked to capture some of that within his paintings. He also felt more welcomed in their environments and blended in with the other patrons, many of whom would become very familiar with him and sometimes pose for him as seen with Monsieur Boileau in this particular painting.