Toulouse-Lautrec’s Portrait of Henri Nocq (1897)

Artists often use other artists or craftsmen as substitutes for themselves. It is a simple way of communicating: “This is me.” Here Toulouse-Lautrec painted a jeweler and medallist , Henri Nocq, who was also the editor of an arts magazine. Dressed as a dandy, which he was probably not, Nocq the craftsman and critic becomes a patron too.

Emily Braun has noted that Nocq is leaning forward in the same stance as the matador in the painting in front of him.1 The logic of the pose is this: a craftsman as alter ego for Lautrec echoes the figure in Lautrec's “own” painting because, as the “artist in front of his painting”, Nocq has “painted”  or is “painting” himself.  One pose repeats the other. It is worth noting as well that matadors brandishing swords (ie. brushes) have often be used in art as symbols of  the mental and physical courage required of a great master. Manet's Mlle the Costume of an Espada is a prime example.

Lautrec, incidentally, took so many liberties with Nocq's actual persona, in order to convey his basic idea, that Nocq himself was said to have found the finished painting "merciless" and "spiteful in the extreme."2

Captions for image(s) above:

Toulouse-Lautrec, Portrait of Henri Nocq (1897) Oil on cardboard. Private Collection, ex-Hillman Family.

Click image to enlarge.

More Works by Toulouse-Lautrec


1. Emily Braun, Manet to Matisse: The Hillman Family Collection (University of Washington Press) 1994, p. 178

2. ibid., p.178

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