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Toulouse-Lautrec was a French painter who was immersed in the colorful and theatrical life of 19th c. Paris.
Born on November 24, 1864, in Albi, France, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec pursued painting as a youth and went on to create innovations in lithograph drawing. He became highly famed for his posters, influenced by Japanese styles and Impressionist Edgar Degas, and for imbuing marginalized populations with humanity in his art, including sex workers, as seen in his 1896 print series Elles. Other notable works include At the Moulin Rouge and The Streetwalker. Consumed by heavy drinking and suffering from various illnesses, he died on September 9, 1901, at the age of 36.
The Moulin Rouge had opened two years earlier, in 1889, and instantly established itself as a Montmartre landmark. It was renowned for the elasticity of its young dancers, both physically and morally; police officers made periodic checks to ensure that they were all wearing underwear. However, the poster by Jules Chéret advertising the club's delights, was relatively subdued, so the director Charles Zidler hired the young (only 27 years old) Toulouse-Lautrec to create a more vibrant poster.