Henri Joseph Harpignies
The landscape painter and graphic artist Henri Joseph Harpignies was born in Vallenciennes on July 28, 1819. He turned to art relatively late after a trip taken in 1838 through France awakened a desire to paint in him. Up until the year 1846, this expressed itself only in a dilettante’s exercises. At the age of 27, Harpignies became apprenticed to Jean-Alexis Achard (1807 - 84). Together with Achard, he then painted in 1847 in Crémieux in the Dauphiné. In this year he also began to experiment with copper engraving under the influence of Achard.
The following years, 1848/49, the artist was with Achard in Brussels and in 1849 published an album with 13 etched landscapes, views of the small Belgian village Roisin. These were largely clumsy in a technical sense. In 1850, Henri Joseph Harpignies took a trip through Germany, the Netherlands and Italy. In Rome he studied at the Académie de France. He stayed in Capri for six months. Generally, he was charmed by the large forms of the Italian landscape.
Back in Paris in 1852, the artist acquired his own studio. He met Jean-Leon Gerome (1824 – 1904) and Lean-Louis Hamon (1821 – 74). In the following year, he made his debut in the Salon with three paintings, among them "Chemin creux". In 1859, Henri Joseph Harpignies went to Nivernais. From now on, this area became the main field of his activity. Here he painted the shore of the Loire at Nevers and the shores of the Allier and the Nièvres. In the years 1863 to 1865, Harpignies took his second trip to Italy.
The artist came more and more under the spell of the French painter Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot (1796 – 1875), who also influenced him during the next years. The main work of these years was the painting "Evening in the Roman Campagna" (1866). After 1851, many watercolors appeared as well. Between 1864 and 1866, Henri Joseph Harpignies also exhibited watercolors with Italian landscapes. In 1875, he was named "Chevalier de la Legion d’honneur", later "Officier" (1883), "Commander" (1901) and finally "Grand Officier" (1911). Not until 1881 was Harpignies admitted to the Société des Aquarellistes Français. Meanwhile, he sought out the Yonne area as well as the Nivernais. Here the artist acquired an estate in Saint-Privé in 1878. Beginning in 1885, he spent winters on the Cote d’Azur, especially in Antibes and Menton.
At the beginning of the 20th century, a change in Henri Joseph Harpignies’s style occurred. His failing sight forced him to neglect the details and to simply bring the larger shapes into effect. In addition, a silvery tonality replaced the beaming colorfulness of earlier years. This style of his old age meant a return to the hero of his youth, Corot, with which the painter was linked by a strong relationship of a shared essence. This can be recognized in his lyrical-musical perception of nature. Henri Joseph Harpignies died in Saint-Privé on August 28, 1916.