Studio: international art — 69.1916

Page: 132
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Henri Harpignies: In Memoriam


Like one of those forest giants whose stately rugged
forms he loved so well to depict, Henri Harpignies
lived on until well-nigh a century old. He had
just completed his ninety-seventh year when, in
August, he passed away at St. Prive, in the
Yonne. Wholly absorbed in his life's work until
the very end, no more noble or more inspiring
example of steadfastness in art and a love of
Nature can be found than that of the landscape
painter who, among his fellow-artists in France,
came to be familiarly known as the "Old Oak."
For whatever the outside world might be thinking
or doing, he hardly ever (apart from his occasional
divagations into the realm of music) paused in his
labours—his loving task of interpreting the rustic
beauties of Auvergne and the Haut-Bourbonnais,
the elusive morning and evening effects on the
banks of the rivers of Touraine, or the subtle
Italianesque atmosphere and colour of Provence.

Harpignies, who was the doyen of French painters,'
and in the writing of whose life it would be neces-

sary to retrace the whole history of French land-
scape art in the nineteenth century, was born in
1819 at Valenciennes. Like many other artists
who attained celebrity, he met with little encourage-
ment from his father (a man of commerce with
interests in iron and sugar at Anzin and Denain)
when, as a youth, he showed a disposition to follow
the profession of art. At the age of fifteen he
expressed a wish to become an artist, and, his
school-days over, he kept this object ever in view.
Whilst travelling for his father from village to
village, he is said to have spent his leisure hours
in noting, in a pocket sketch-book, the landscapes
which charmed him. " These first essays in art,"
says M. Thiebault-Sisson, "were wholly unlike,
both in feeling and in execution, the vignettes
which then delighted the public, and in which
artists thought they were always obliged, not to
interpret Nature literally, but to dwarf and deform
it, so as to make it acceptable." Submission to
parental authority brought its reward in time : his
father at first allowed him to follow the advice
of an old local artist and finally—some say on the
recommendation of a M. Lachaise, others on that
of an influential friend, the chemist Jean Baptiste
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