The man in the red scarf
The singer-comedian-entrepreneur Aristide Bruant was one of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec's first friends in Montmarte. When Bruant opened his own club, Le Mirliton, Lautrec was one of its first regular patrons.
Ambassadeurs: Aristide Bruant
by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
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Bruant was famous for wittily insulting and degrading his audiences, to their great amusement. His customers were regularly greeted as "scoundrel," "prostitute," "sonofabitch," and "pig." They were warned. The sign at the door read: "For people who like to be told off."
Lautrec was the only patron consistently treated with respect. When Lautrec entered, Bruant would silence the house and proclaim, "Here comes the great painter Toulouse-Lautrec with one of his friends ... and a punk I don't know."
When Bruant performed at the club les Ambassadeurs, he asked Lautrec to paint an imposing portrait of him for the poster. At Bruant's insistence, "Ambassadeurs: Aristide Bruant" was posted all over the cabaret, and all over the streets of Paris, drawing considerable attention not just to Bruant but also to the young painter who had so accurately and strikingly portrayed him. It remains one of Lautrec's most famous paintings.
Lautrec would do much more work for Bruant, creating the paintings "Aristide Bruant" and "El Dorado" and illustrating books of Bruant's original music.
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