A woman wearing a white blouse is looking out the window. On the worktable lies laundries to iron. The painting that draws a laundress in the 19th century in Paris is an early representative work by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Born in wealthy and noble family, why did the artist draw a painting of a low-status working class woman?
Toulouse-Lautrec was born from a prestigious family in Albi, France. Although having been born with a silver spoon in his mouth, Lautrec had a congenital bone disease, which came from inbreeding that was common in royal and noble families seeking to maintain their lineage. Even worse, Lautrec was incapacitated by a series of injuries; his right thighbone was fractured when he was 13 years old, and the left leg was broken a year later. His legs never grew beyond those of a child. As his disability prohibited him from enjoying horseback riding or hunting, the hobbies of his peers, Lautrec was drawn to art, which he could do by himself, and went to Paris to study painting. This painting was drawn when Lautrec was 22 years old, while he was still studying. The model in the painting is a sex worker named Carmen Gaudin. At the time, many laundresses worked as a sex worker at night for extra money, because their day work as washerwomen did not bring them enough income to live on. Although Lautrec is known for his dry and objective representation of the subject of the paintings, without any prejudice or sensitivity, the painter expresses sympathy for the travails of the laundress. Godin is taking a break, looking out the window. The world outside the window may be the ideal future Godin envisions, which would never come.
Lautrec felt at home when he was surrounded by the working-class neighbors in Montmartre, rather than hypocritical and condescending nobles. He observed the lives of the brothels and sketched prostitutes and their clients. Despite a short career as an artist, Lautrec produced more than 5,000 paintings, including 737 oil paintings. However, as did most genius artists, Lautrec died at the age of 36 from complications due to alcoholism, syphilis, and confusion.