Henri-Joseph Harpignies Biography

Henri-Joseph Harpignies




Painter and printmaker Henri-Joseph Harpignies was born on June 28, 1819, in Valenciennes, France, to Belgian immigrant parents who founded a sugar beet factory in Famars when Harpigniers was a child. Primary schooling introduced the young Harpigniers to arts, the only subjects aside from geography that he excelled in, winning contests by the age of fourteen for his drawings. Following graduation from high school he traveled throughout France to visit major museums and galleries in major French cities and was further inspired to pursue art. However, at the behest of his parents, upon his return he took a position in his father's firm as a sales representative in Belgium, with the goal of taking over for his father in the future.

His interest and aptitutde in art remained, however, and at age twenty seven he was granted entrance into the atelier of painter Jean Achard. After two years of training with Achard he traveled to Italy to study the Old Masters, which proved to be a boon of inspiration for the artist who would continue to visit Italy throughout his career.

He began to establish a name for himself in the French art scene, first for his oil paintings and then for engraving, which he discovered in 1847. In 1851 he also took up watercolors, which would prove to be a commercial success in America and England. Harpignies debuted at the Paris Salon in 1853 at the age of thirty-four, having started pursuing art relatively later than most of his contemporaries. Further travels took him to the Pyrenees and the Forest of Fontainbleu. In 1861 he won a gold medal at the Paris Salon for his painting <i>Lisiere de bois sur les bords de l'Allier</i>, and began to exhibit in the Salon regularly thereafter. In 1863 he met the painter Jean Baptiste Camille Corot, who introduced Harpignies to the world of the Barbizon school, and with whom he would travel to Italy to study on numerous occasions. 

Harpignies' career came to fruition in the 1870s when he began selling works internationally, with paintings and etchings in London and New York. It was around this time that he opened a teaching studio in rural Saint-Prive to much acclaim, with students from throughout Europe and abroad hoping for the chance to study with the greatly respected artist. Awards included the Medal of Honor, Paris Salon, 1897, and the Grand Prix, Exposition Universelle, 1900, among many others. In 1875 he was named Chevalier de la Legion d'Honneur, and was later promoted to Grand Officier. He continued to exhibit until 1913. 

Harpigniers died in Saint-Prive on August 28, 1916.