Copy Famous Paintings – Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

Toulouse Lautrec In Bed the Kiss


What is it?

Painting In Bed the Kiss, 1892 by French painter, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

How was it done?

Toulouse-Lautrec, despite being a dwarf, was a physical and athletic person who enjoyed horse riding in his youth .  He gave this up to focus on art and the sinuous lines in this painting show his physical energy transposed into his art.

The artist used a brilliant colour scheme with shades of red and yellow subdued by grey, green and blue in this painting.  He uses dabs and quick strokes of paint in the late stages of the painting.  This technique shows an influence of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism.

Why should we care?

As a dwarf and known party animal, Toulouse-Lautrec was able to disappear into the crowd to observe and sketch people he found interesting.  These people were usually outsiders living on the margins of society and he considered them his equals.  Thankfully, Toulouse-Lautrec became a visual historian.  With his paintings, he preserved the swirl of energy, mix of classes and cultures and the lows and highs of urban life in Paris in the 19th century.

Where can I find more paintings like this?

Similarities can be seen in the work of Henri Matisse, particularly in this portrait of “The Young Sailor II“,  1906.  Here the colours are bright and contrasting and there is a sharp edge and flatness to the figure.  A playfulness similar to the cabaret work of Toulouse-Lautrec is evident.

The artist was influenced by Japonisme particularly the woodcuts of Katsushika Hokusai and the Japanese style of the ukiyo-e prints.

Meditate, relax and enjoy

If you wish to create this painting at home, it helps to remember there can be no mistakes.  Everything ends up as it should be. Otherwise, you may prefer to copy Toulouse-Lautrec’s playful cabaret works as a fun exercise. Take the luxury of “time out” to recreate this fabulous painting in acrylics yourself, here’s how:

You will need

  • a small canvas, 30cm x 40cm is a good size
  • tubes of primary acrylic colours, blue, red and yellow plus white
  • a dark watercolour crayon
  • 3 soft nylon paint brushes, (small, medium and a little larger)
  • water in an old container
  • a rag or disposable cloth
  • an hour or two

Tips on the Process

  • prime the canvas first, otherwise, just a wash and dry with a towel
  • print the photo you want to work from, measure and cut into quarters to make your drawing in a grid
  • turn the original photo upside down to make the drawing
  • use a dark coloured water colour crayon for your drawing
  • correct drawing right-side up from the original
  • erase crayon easily with a damp cloth
  • it is okay for the watercolour crayon mark to bleed into the painting
  • everything is easily painted over with acrylics
  • paint in the background first
  • try not to use paint directly from the tube; experiment with how to mix colours
  • create a perfect skin tone by blending warm yellow, warm red, a dot of cool blue and lots of white, experiment first
  • acrylics dry darker than the mixed colour

The Drawing Process

Turn your photo upside down and draw the space around the drawing first.  This is just a framework to place the figures on the page and you can easily correct right-side up with the dampened cloth as I have done below.

Otherwise, you may use my drawing below.  I suggest you ask your copy shop to print the PDF below onto a canvas and proceed to make your own unique painting.  Otherwise, you can print the copy on to good quality paper, paint the picture and frame it.  It’s your painting after all!


Photo: accessed 28/08/2016.

1 thought on “Copy Famous Paintings – Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

  1. Pingback: 21 is your lucky number! 21 famous paintings for you to copy… | Zen School for Creative People

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