Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (French, 1864–1901)
Oil on cardboard
24 3/4 x 31 7/8 in. (62.9 x 81 cm)
Rogers Fund, 1951 (51.33.2)
An inveterate chronicler of the colorful and tawdry nightlife of fin-de-siècle Montmatre, Lautrec set out to document the lives of prostitutes in a series of pictures made between 1892 and 1896. He seems to have found the artistic license in Degas's monotypes of brothel scenes and in erotic Japanese shunga prints to create images of like candor and graphic verve but in large-format, remarkably uninhibited works. Lautrec appreciated the naturalness of prostitutes "who stretched themselves out on the divans...entirely without pretensions." The Sofa is related to three other paintings of the mid-1890s that focus on the intimacies exchanged between lesbian couples.