It Speaks to Me: Clayton Brothers on Toulouse-Lautrec’s ‘Touc, Seated on a Table,’ c. 1881, at the Hammer Museum
Animals have always been important in our own paintings—we’ve used dogs and birds and all kinds of hybrids where one animal starts to morph into something else. They’re a gateway for us to gain empathy from viewers. That’s one of the powerful things about this painting: you get involved to the point where you start to wonder about the dog. Maybe the dog was a shop dog, or belonged to a café owner, seeing that he’s on the table and looks like he belongs there. He doesn’t look scared; he has attitude. It’s all in the eyes, which the painter captures very easily, as though he painted it on the spot. There’s something else curious: a little mark right in front of the dog that looks like a cigarette, just enough to give you the idea that there are people around. It alludes to a bigger picture, a human side of the Moulin Rouge, the Parisian cabaret that Toulouse-Lautrec was haunting and that shows up in so many of his other pictures.
-- Rob and Christian Clayton, as told to Jori Finkel
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec's "Touc, Seated on a Table," c. 1879-1881. Oil on panel.
The Armand Hammer Collection. Gift of the Armand Hammer Foundation.