|116053. Mon Nov 13, 2006 8:21 am
|Q: What was quite interesting about Toulouse-Lautrec's fishing expeditions?
A: Instead of using a rod, he preferred to fish (in Normandy) with a cormorant tied to a piece of string.
Toulouse-Lautrec got the idea for cormorant fishing after reading that this was a common activity in Japan. At night, he would walk the cormorant on the local promenade and take it into pubs where the bird supposedly developed a penchant for real ale.
Despite being on of France's most famous artists, Lautrec's real passion lay with food.
He wanted to publish a recipe book, but died of syphilis and alcoholism aged 36 before he coud do so. His art dealer, Maurice Joyant, found his recipes and published them himself.
The artist's recipes included cooking whole sheep, coot en cocotte, fresh squirrel and heron, grilled over a vine-wood fire. He claimed squirrel was 'an exquisite taste'. He also had a taste for eel liver, dried octopus, and thrush en casserole, not to mention raw lamb with horse-radish.
Toulouse-Latrec had formalised ideas regarding the rituals of eating.
He would rarely invite more than ten guests (and no more than two women), enjoyed lunch more than dinner and loathed teetotalers. So much so, that he would put goldfish in the water jugs to discourage 'soft drinkers'.
At one infamous meal he created in honour of the painter Edouard Vuillard circa 1897, Lautrec invited his guests to leave the table after the cheese course and took them to a friend's apartment. Gesticulatiing to a freshly painted Degas on the wall, the artist exclaimed: "There is your dessert."
Lautrec's love of booze extended to making elaborate cocktails. His most notorious was The Earthquake, made from four parts absinthe, two parts red wine and a splash of cognac for good measure.
He loved to eat in London at The Criterion, Sweetings and the Cafe Royal in Regent Street with Oscar Wilde.
Toulouse-Lautrec, most famous for painting the Moulin Rouge, was very small after breaking his legs in his youth. The bones never healed properly and he reached adulthood with a normal body trunk but with tiny legs. He was only 4 1/2 feet tall.
Prince Charles aside, he is the highest born aristrocrat to make it as an artist.
He was distantly related to Richard The Lionheart and was christened 'HenrY' in honour of another ancester, Henry III (of England).
His family, the Toulouse-Lautrec-Montfas, were descended from the Counts of Toulouse, who owned most of the South of France.
Waldemar Januszczak: The Sunday Review, Independent on Sunday, 12 November 2006