TOULOUSE-LAUTREC, Henri de
(b. 1864, Albi, d. 1901, Château Malromé, Langon)

Bareback Rider at the Cirque Fernando

1887-88
Oil on canvas, 100 x 161 cm
Art Institute, Chicago

The Fernando Circus had its pitch on the Boulevard Rochechouart. In 1894 it was redesigned as a theatre. Included among its regular guests were Lautrec, and also Degas, Renoir and Seurat, who decorated the rooms with their paintings.

This painting is the first undisputed masterpiece by Lautrec. It is innovatory in its choice of colours as in its organisation of space, with a diagonal line dividing the scene into two halves. As a composition it is equally remote from the Academy and from the Impressionists.

Lautrec's painting was exhibited in the foyer of the Moulin Rouge from October 1889, therefore it is likely that it inspired Seurat famous last painting, The Circus which also features a bareback rider from the Fernando.