Toulouse-Lautrec and the Red-Haired Woman

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901), La passagère du 54 - Promendae en Yacht (The Passenger in 54 - On a Cruise), 1896. Lithograph. Third state. Graphic Arts French Prints.

In 1895, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and his friend, the photographer Maurice Guibert (1856-1913), took a vacation on a steamship, intending to sail from Le Havre to Bordeaux. While on board, Lautrec became infatuated with a red-haired woman. He never spoke to her or learned her name; he only knew that she slept in cabin number fifty-four. At his friend’s request, Guibert secretly took a photograph of her while she was relaxing on a deck chair.

Lautrec learned that she was traveling on to Dakar, Africa. Rather than disembark at Bordeaux, he remained on board hoping to speak to her. It was not until Lisbon that Guibert is said to have dragged the artist off the ship and back to Paris.

The Parisian magazine La Plume, under the leadership of Léon Deschamps, sponsored a series of exhibitions from 1894 to 1900 called Le Salon des Cent, because the shows were limited to 100 artists. Lautrec was commissioned to create a poster for the 1896 exhibition and used Guibert’s photograph to draw the red-haired woman. His lithograph became known as La passagère du 54 - Promendae en Yacht (The Passenger in 54 - On a Cruise).

See also La Plume. No 1-426 (15 avril 1889-1 jan. 1914). Firestone Recap 0904.726