Monday, October 27, 2014

Henri-Joseph Harpignies: At the Far Edge of Impressionism

Henri-Joseph Harpignies (1819-1916) lived for nearly a century. In his youth, Academic painting was riding high and, by the time of his death, some artists were painting purely abstract works. Harpignies, however, stuck to a narrow stylistic range -- largely Barbizon, but sometimes with a touch of the Macchiaioli, a group of Italian proto-Impressionists. A biographical note is here.

Harpignies was primarily a landscape painter; Google Images-search of his works turn up only incidental people in the landscapes shown. His style varied from clearly Barbizon-like detailing to somewhat more simplified paintings featuring obvious brush strokes. Some of these latter paintings are pretty small, though I did recently notice one on display at the Seattle Art Museum that was large and featured bolder brushwork.

Perhaps I'm wrong, but I get the feeling that he was one of those artists who liked to use geometry as the basis for some of his compositions. I note a couple of instances below, but some of the other images seem to have the same feature.

Gallery

Le vieux chêne - 1895
This was painted when Harpignies was about 75 years old, yet it looks more Barbizon-like than some of his painting made years before, when Barbizon was more fashionable.

Cliffs Near Crémieu - 1847
An early work.  Solid, though I wonder about the  composition where the foreground zone is about as high as the sky above the butte.  Crazy me, I would have had less sky, because that's my usual choice when composing photos.

River and Hills - 1850s
I don't have dimensions for this painting, though it doesn't strike me a being very large.  Has a Macchiaioli feel to it.

Washing the Laundry - 1875
This is a small painting, about 13x16 inches (32x40cm), so visible brushwork can be expected.

The Village Church
Sorry about the slightly blurred image, but that was all I found of this painting.  Here the sky and remainder each take up about half the vertical distance.

Le pont canal à Briare - 1888
A nice, clean painting with very little fussy detail.  But note that the focal bridge support on the left side of the canal is approximately one-third of the vertical canvas dimension, the sky and foreground at that point each measuring close to another third each.  Were geometrical relationships (slightly disguised or fudged though they might have been) intentional or simply the way he intuitively painted?

The Big Tree

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