Along with Paul Gauguin, Paul Cézanne and Vincent van Gogh, Lautrec is one of the most renowned painter of the post-impressionist period. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec had enjoyed painting since his youth, and through his career he made innovations in lithograph style drawings. Influenced by impressionist Edgar Degas and Japanese styles, his work often featured marginalised people with kindness, such as his 1896 piece titled Elles, which depicted sex workers. Suffering from illness and a dependency on alcohol, he died in 1901, when he was just 36 years old.
Maurice Joyant was an art dealer and a writer, whom became friends with Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec at the Fontanes high school in Paris. The pair enjoyed travelling together and shared a taste for good food. Joyant was a great supporter and advocate of Lautrec’s work, helping to arrange his first exhibition and pushing to gain recognition for the artist through-out his career. After Lautrec’s death, Joyant was chosen to organise his work by the artist’s father, helping to open the Musée Toulouse-Lautrec in Albi, in 1922, where the painting can be found to this day.
Lautrec painted his friend shortly before his death. Joyant in the centre of this piece, duck hunting at the Bay of Somme. He is shown as an enormous figure standing aboard a yacht which is only sketched. Holding a shotgun and appearing braced and ready to fire. His stern face dominates the tone of the painting, and his sheer size emphasises his power. Lautrec recreated his friends' distinguished figure by using broad brushstrokes of yellow on wax for Joyant's bright oilskins. The background is formed by as a harmony between two colours.
For the ocean the artist used a diluted green hue, which is reflected in the warm, brown tone of the wooden panels of the deck. In places, the wood that the artist painted on can be seen showing through the paint. Lautrec made many sketches of his friend before the painting was complete, with Joyant having to model 65 times in total. Maurice Joyant's devoted biography of Lautrec remains a valuable source of information about the artist and his techniques. In it, he records Lautrec's tireless efforts to create his oil on wood paintings, which could take up to seventy-five sessions, contributing to the fatigue the artist felt in the last few years of his life.