© President and Fellows of Harvard College
Identification and Creation
Object Number
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, French (Albi 1864 - 1901 Malromé)
Published by Gustave Pellet, French (1859 - 1919)
The Seated Clowness (Mademoiselle Cha-u-Kao)
Other Titles
Series/Book Title: Elles
Original Language Title: La clownesse assise
Work Type
Physical Descriptions
Lithograph in three colors on wove paper
sheet: 51.8 x 40.3 cm (20 3/8 x 15 7/8 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • collector's mark: lower right corner, red ink, stamp: GP [in circle; mark of Gustave Pellet, publisher of this print, Lugt 1193]
  • inscription: lower right corner, to left of collector's mark, pale gray ink, handwritten [?]: 97
State, Edition, Standard Reference Number
Standard Reference Number
Delteil 180, Adr. 172, Witt. 156
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Program for Harvard College Fund
Object Number
European and American Art
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Label Text: 32Q: 2700 Impressionism , written 2015
Toulouse-Lautrec, Elles

Elles is an album of 12 lithographs commissioned and published by Gustave Pellet in 1896. Pellet specialized in erotic prints, and had presumably hoped that Toulouse-Lautrec’s images of women in the demimonde would appeal to his usual clientele. However, rather than focusing on voyeuristic aspects of the brothel, the artist chose to depict the prosaic activities of his subjects, who are shown resting, bathing, or combing their hair.

Toulouse-Lautrec used this series to explore the graphic and expressive possibilities of lithography. Along with Edouard Vuillard and Pierre Bonnard, he was one of the most innovative printmakers of the fin de siècle. He was an avid collector of Japanese woodblock prints, and their influence on his style can be seen in the pitched ground planes, flat colors, and clear outlines he has employed in the selected works from Elles on display. In The Seated Clowness and Woman with a Tub, for example, his use of bold, graphic outlines and flat areas of color create nearly abstract patterns of interlocking forms that anticipate Munch and later expressionist developments. These areas are tempered by his use of splattering, in which he used a straw to blow pigment across the lithographic stone, creating softer, more modulated areas of color, as in the pitcher, tub, and fireplace in Woman with a Tub.

Along with albums such as Elles, Toulouse-Lautrec’s broadsides, brochures, and posters for the dance halls, cabarets, and nightclubs
of Montmartre helped introduce the avant-garde art of the 1890s to an increasingly broad public, which was often ready to embrace new artistic currents in print and advertising long before those same trends were accepted in paint.

[M13498, M13499, M13501, M13502, M13506]

Publication History

Kristin A. Mortimer, Harvard University Art Museums: A Guide to the Collections, Harvard University Art Museums/Abbeville Press (Cambridge, MA; New York, NY, 1985), no. 327, p. 280, repr.

Stephan Wolohojian, ed., Harvard Art Museum/ Handbook, Harvard Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 2008), p. 173, repr.

Exhibition History

Lithography in France, 1848-1900, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, 05/01/1981 - 06/14/1981; Art Gallery of Windsor, Windsor, 09/08/1981 - 10/15/1981

32Q: 2700 Impressionism, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 10/15/2015 - 04/12/2016

Subjects and Contexts

Collection Highlights

Google Art Project

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of European and American Art at am_europeanamerican@harvard.edu