Passagère du 54 of 1896 illustrates an incident from Toulouse-Lautrec’s own life. On a cruise he undertook in 1895 from Le Havre to Bordeaux he became infatuated with the beautiful occupant of cabin 54.
He failed, however, in his efforts to be introduced to her. The work shows us the partially obscured object of his desire. She is not particularly attractive and sits prosaically in a deckchair; serene, absent, quietly oblivious to his tortured longing. Passagère thus documents for all of us our own failures of courage, our universal nostalgia for moments that are irretrievably lost, unacted upon.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra