Grenier and Lautrec were fellow students in the Paris atelier of academic history painter Fernand Cormon during the 1880s and became fast friends: Lautrec even lived briefly with Grenier and his wife, Lili, an actress and model, and made several portrayals of the couple. An inscription on the verso of this portrait indicates that it was painted in Lautrec’s Montmartre studio in the rue Caulaincourt in 1887. He employed thin, watercolor-like washes of pigment, laid over a fine pencil underdrawing, to produce a sensitive character study of his comrade.
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Fig. 1. Inscription on back
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Title:Albert (René) Grenier (1858–1925)
Artist:Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (French, Albi 1864–1901 Saint-André-du-Bois)
Medium:Oil on wood
Dimensions:13 3/8 x 10 in. (34 x 25.4 cm)
Credit Line:Bequest of Mary Cushing Fosburgh, 1978
Inscription: Inscribed (verso): Mon portrait par / Toulouse Lautrec / en 1887 / atelier rue Caulaincourt / [Grenier?] (My portrait by Toulouse Lautrec in 1887 studio rue Caulaincourt)
Gustave Pellet; Pierre Decourcelle (by 1921–d. 1926; his sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, June 16, 1926, no. 75, for Fr 60,000 to Sanchez-Abreu); Pierre Sanchez-Abreu, Paris (1926–at least 1931); [André Weil, New York, until 1948; sold in November 1948 to Wildenstein]; [Wildenstein, New York, 1948–52; sold on December 8, 1952 to Astor]; Vincent Astor, New York (1952–about 1953; part of divorce settlement to his second wife, Mary Cushing Astor [later Mrs. James W. Fosburgh]); Mrs. James W. (Mary Cushing) Fosburgh (by 1955–d. 1978; cat., 1955, p. 94)
Paris. Galerie Manzi, Joyant. "Exposition rétrospective de l'œuvre de H. de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864–1901)," June 15–July 11, 1914, no. 202 (handwritten addendum to catalogue as "Portrait d'homme blond...").
Paris. Musée des Arts Décoratifs. "Exposition H. de Toulouse-Lautrec," April 9–May 17, 1931, no. 48 (as "Portrait du peintre Grenier," lent by Pierre Sanchez-Abreu).
Philadelphia Museum of Art. "Toulouse-Lautrec," October 29–December 11, 1955, no. 10 (as "René Grenier," lent by Mr. and Mrs. James W. Fosburgh).
Art Institute of Chicago. "Toulouse-Lautrec," January 2–February 15, 1956, no. 10.
New York. Museum of Modern Art. "Toulouse-Lautrec: Paintings, Drawings, Posters, and Lithographs," March 20–May 6, 1956, no. 9 (as "René Grenier," lent by Mr. and Mrs. James W. Fosburgh, New York).
New Haven. Yale University Art Gallery. "Pictures Collected by Yale Alumni," May 8–June 18, 1956, no. 95 (as "René Grenier," lent by Mr. and Mrs. James W. Fosburgh).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Toulouse-Lautrec in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," July 2–September 29, 1996, unnumbered cat. (fig. 27).
Denver Art Museum. "Toulouse-Lautrec from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," July 15–October 15, 1999, no catalogue.
Rome. Complesso del Vittoriano. "Toulouse-Lautrec: Uno sguardo dentro la vita," October 11, 2003–February 8, 2004, no. I.12 (as "Monsieur Grenier, artiste peintre").
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. "The Masterpieces of French Painting from The Metropolitan Museum of Art: 1800–1920," February 4–May 6, 2007, no. 114.
Berlin. Neue Nationalgalerie. "Französische Meisterwerke des 19. Jahrhunderts aus dem Metropolitan Museum of Art," June 1–October 7, 2007, unnumbered cat.
Canberra. National Gallery of Australia. "Toulouse-Lautrec: Paris & the Moulin Rouge," December 14, 2012–April 2, 2013, unnumbered cat. (ill. p. 49).
Paris. Galeries nationales du Grand Palais. "Toulouse-Lautrec: Résolument Moderne," October 9, 2019–January 27, 2020, no. 39.
Gustave Coquiot. Lautrec, ou quinze ans de mœurs parisiennes, 1885–1900. Paris, 1921, pp. 61, 121, identifies Grenier as a painter and friend of Lautrec; tentatively dates the picture 1887, and locates it in the collection of Pierre Decourcelle.
Maurice Joyant. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, 1864–1901. Vol. 1, Peintre. Paris, 1926, pp. 106, 264.
Maurice Joyant. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, 1864–1901. Vol. 2, Dessins - estampes - affiches. Paris, 1927, p. 8, compares it to a Cranach portrait in the Brussels museum.
Gerstle Mack. Toulouse-Lautrec. New York, 1938, p. 268, dates it 1888.
Achille Astre. H. de Toulouse-Lautrec. Paris, , p. 81.
François Gauzi. Lautrec et son temps. Paris, 1954, pp. 27, 58 n. 2, as "Portrait de M. Grenier, artiste peintre," in the collection of Mme P. Decourcelle [sic]; dates it 1888; gives biographical information on the sitter.
Everett Parker Lesley, ed. Catalogue of the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. James Fosburgh. 1955, p. 94.
Alfred Frankfurter. "Y art." Art News 55 (May 1956), p. 24, ill. p. 22.
Henri Perruchot. T-Lautrec. Cleveland, 1960, p. 129 [French ed., 1958, p. 146], notes that the artist painted portraits of Grenier in the winter of 1888.
M. G. Dortu. Toulouse-Lautrec et son œuvre. New York, 1971, vol. 1, p. 124; vol. 2, pp. 138–39, no. P.304, ill., reads the date inscribed on the reverse as 1888 rather than 1887.
G. M. Sugana inThe Complete Paintings of Toulouse-Lautrec. London, 1973, p. 100, no. 204, as "Portrait of the Artist Rene Grenier," in a private collection in France [sic].
Mary Sprinson inThe Metropolitan Museum of Art: Notable Acquisitions, 1979–1980. New York, 1980, pp. 44–45, ill., calls it "René Grenier" and dates it 1887.
Charles S. Moffett. Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1985, pp. 11, 232–33, ill. (color), discusses the influence of Holbein, Cranach, and their contemporaries on this picture; calls it a "sensitive character study," closely resembling works by Degas.
Anne Roquebert inToulouse-Lautrec. Exh. cat., Hayward Gallery. London, 1991, p. 72 n. 83, identifies the sitter as Albert Grenier.
Danièle Devynck. Toulouse-Lautrec & ses amis. Exh. cat., Musée Toulouse-Lautrec. Albi, 1992, pp. 36–37, ill., dates it 1888 and erroneously locates it in a private collection, New York.
Julia Frey. Toulouse-Lautrec: A Life. London, 1994, p. 248.
Katharine Baetjer. European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art by Artists Born Before 1865: A Summary Catalogue. New York, 1995, p. 503, ill.
Colta Ives. Toulouse-Lautrec in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1996, pp. 26, 61, fig. 27 (color), remarks that Lautrec and the sitter first became friends in the atelier of Léon Bonnat in 1882, and that later both were students of Fernand Cormon; notes that this portrait combines naturalism with "the loosened brushstrokes of Impressionism".
Eugenia Querci inToulouse-Lautrec: Uno sguardo dentro la vita. Ed. Julia Frey. Exh. cat., Complesso del Vittoriano, Rome. Milan, 2003, pp. 130–31, no. I.12, ill. (color), calls it "Monsieur Grenier, artiste peintre" and dates it 1888.
Susan Alyson Stein inThe Masterpieces of French Painting from The Metropolitan Museum of Art: 1800–1920. Exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. New York, 2007, pp. 154, 258–59, no. 114, ill. (color and black and white).
Jane Kinsman inToulouse-Lautrec: Paris & the Moulin Rouge. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Australia. Canberra, 2012, p. 48, ill. p. 49 (color), discusses the sitter's formal dress.
Toulouse-Lautrec: Résolument moderne. Ed. Stéphane Guégan. Exh. cat., Galeries nationales du Grand Palais. Paris, 2019, p. 330, no. 39, ill. p. 55 (color).
Lautrec and Grenier became friends in the studio of Léon Bonnat in 1882, and both were students of the painter Fernand Cormon in the early 1880s. Lautrec lived with Grenier and his wife, Lily (or Lili), for several months during 1885, and made a number of portraits of each of them over the years. Apart from The Met’s painting, four portraits of Grenier by Lautrec are known, all in private collections: a bust-length painting, with a straw hat (Dortu 1971, no. P.252), two drawings, both in profile (D.2838 and D.3027), and an erotic drawing (E.18).
The back of the picture is inscribed in pen and brown ink: Mon portrait par / Toulouse Lautrec / en 1887 / atelier rue Caulincourt / [Grenier?] (My portrait by Toulouse Lautrec in 1887 studio rue Caulincourt). The ink has faded considerably but the inscription remains partially legible when viewed under high magnification (April 2019). It can be seen in a photograph made soon after the painting entered The Met’s collection in 1979 (see fig. 1 above).
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