The acclaimed stage performer Yvette Guilbert was one of Lautrec’s longtime muses. She created a look that was remarkably different from that of her contemporaries, eschewing the ruffles of petticoats in favor of hennaed hair, pale skin, a formfitting and low-cut gown, and the elbow-length black gloves that became Lautrec’s symbol for her. Her delivery was as unusual for the time as her appearance: she spoke more than sang, and stood stock-still without gesturing, winking, or mincing, thus conveying all the more plainly the often bawdy content of her material. In his illustrations for Gustave Geffroy’s 1894 book, Lautrec depicts Guilbert, both onstage and offstage, in a distinctive olive green that suggests the preferred color of her winter costume.
Gallery label from The Paris of Toulouse-Lautrec: Prints and Posters, July 26, 2014–March 22, 2015.