Tag Archives: Henri Regnault

“The Future of French Art”: Henri Regnault (1843-1871)

To cite this article: Paquette, Lucy. ““The Future of French Art”: Henri Regnault (1843-1871).” The Hammock. https://thehammocknovel.wordpress.com/2013/03/25/the-future-of-french-art-henri-regnault-1843-1871/. <Date viewed.>


Regnault, Salome, Met, Open Access

Salomé, by Henri Regnault (1870).   Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY.  Open Access.

Henri-Alexandre-Georges Regnault (1843 – 1871), a Parisian, began his Salomé in Rome.  The model was Maria Latini, the fiancée of one of Regnault’s friends.  (She also posed for the female sculptor Marcello’s bronze Pythia,  1870, Opéra Garnier, Paris).  Regnault met Maria in Rome, and the painting began there in 1868 or 1869 as a portrait head.

He later enlarged the canvas at the bottom and right and painted his subject as Salomé, completing the work in Tangier in the spring of 1870.  Regnault sold the picture for between 12,000 and 14,000 francs to an art dealer who sold it in March 1870 to the young Paris dealer Paul DurandRuel (1831 – 1922) for 14,000 or 16,000 francs.

Durand-Ruel lent it for exhibition at the Salon in 1870 from May 1 through June 20, then sold it for between 35,000 and 36,000 francsSalomé won Regnault his second gold medal.  The acclaimed history painter and sculptor, Ernest Meissonier (1815 – 1891) considered Henri Regnault the future of French art.

English: Henri Victor Regnault Artist: Léon Cr...

Henri Victor Regnault (1810-1878), c. 1861-65.  Albumen silver print by Léon Crémière (1831 – 1872).  Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY.  Gift of A. Hyatt Mayor, 1967.  (Photo: Wikipedia)

Regnault began drawing zoo animals by the age of eight, and his father, Victor Regnault (1810 – 1878) – an eminent chemist and physicist — sent his precocious, well-educated second son at age 17 to the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, which taught drawing but not painting.  Like James Tissot, Regnault first attempted to study painting under Hippolyte Flandrin (1809 –1864), a student of Neoclassical master Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780 – 1867).  But Flandrin was busy painting frescoes at Saint Germain-des-Prés, and sent him (as he had sent James Tissot) to Louis Lamothe (1822 – 1869), another former student of Ingres.  Lamothe directed him to copy Italian Renaissance painter Raphael (1483 – 1520), French Baroque painter Poussin (1594 – 1665), and Ingres.  At the École des Beaux-Arts, Regnault studied with Alexandre Cabanel (1823 – 1889), drawing from nude models.

Regnault entered the prestigious Prix de Rome competition in 1863 but did not win, and at the Salon in 1864, he exhibited two unremarkable portraits.  But in 1866, almost giving up hope, he finally won the Prix de Rome, with Thetis Giving the Weapons of Vulcan to Achilles.  He was still 22.

Self-portrait with a maulstick, by Henri Regnault, c. 1863. Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio, USA. (Photo: Wikimedia.org)

Georges Clairin (Photo: Wikimedia.org)

A Parisian with an expansive dining room had commissioned six large canvases from Henri Regnault and two of his fellow students, Georges Clairin (1843 – 1919, who first exhibited at the 1866 Salon) and Édouard Blanchard (1844 – 1879, who also studied with Alexandre Cabanel at the École des Beaux-Arts, and who would win the Prix de Rome in 1868).  One of these paintings, Regnault’s Still Life with Pomegranates (c. 1865, now at the Chrysler Museum in Norfolk, Virginia), was exhibited at the Salon in 1867.

Winning the Prix de Rome entitled Regnault to a grant from the French government that funded his travel and living expenses for three years while he studied classical painting at the French Academy in Rome.  He left in March, 1867 with great freedom to learn and explore.  He only was required to send one history painting a year back to Paris.

Friends described Henri Regnault as demanding, arrogant and temperamental, but also fun, generous and compassionate.  He was a well-bred gentleman who enjoyed music, particularly Beethoven, and had a fine singing voice.  He also was athletic and enjoyed hiking, swimming, hunting, and horseback riding.

Regnault sent a portrait of a lady to the Salon in 1868, and he completed the enormous Automedon Taming the Horses of Achilles (1868, 124 by 129.5 in., Museum of Fine Arts, Boston) as the first history painting due in Paris by the terms of his prize.  In August, he and his friend Georges Clairin traveled to Madrid.  At his request, Regnault was permitted to continue to work in locations other than Rome while still funded by his Prix de Rome grant — the first prize winner to receive this special permission.  He studied Diego Velázquez (1599 – 1660, an individualistic painter in the court of King Philip IV) and Francisco de Goya (1746 – 1828, court painter to the Spanish Crown, known for his bold handling of paint) in the Prado Museum while painting portraits, including that of the liberal revolutionary General Juan Prim y Prats (1869, Musée d’Orsay, Paris).  Regnault loved to paint horses, and he was invited to select the horse from the royal stables for this equestrian portrait.  Although the General rejected it, his life-sized portrait (124 by 102 inches) won a gold medal at the Paris Salon in 1869 and was purchased by the French Government.

Regnault, photo of him

Henri Regnault c. 1865 (Wiki)

Regnault returned to Rome in the spring of 1869, writing his father in March, “Rome now seems to me lighted by a night-lamp.”  By August, he had moved to Spain.  He and Clairin  went to Alicante, then Granada.  But by December, Regnault was in Morocco, and Clairin joined him.  The two painters rented an ancient Moorish house in Tangier where they could work in solitude, waited on by a half-dozen devoted servants. They furnished the place richly with Oriental carpets, textiles and curiosities, and they kept horses and dogs.  Regnault loved his picturesque, sunny and tranquil life there so much that he purchased land and built a studio massive enough to accommodate his largest paintings.  He planned to construct his own house – “a little palace” with stables and dog kennels – there as well.

Under the terms of the Prix de Rome, Regnault was required to send one last history painting back to Paris.  He sent Execution without Judgment under the Moorish Kings (1870, Museé d’Orsay, Paris), to the Salon in 1870.

Execution without Judgment under the Moorish Kings of Granada (1870), by Henri Regnault. Musée d’Orsay. (Photo: Wikimedia.org)

And then France declared war against Prussia.

The Prix de Rome exempted winners from military duty, but at the outbreak of war between France and Prussia, Henri Regnault joined the ranks of the National Guard defending Paris because he felt he would be only a mediocre officer but a model foot soldier.  He served in the 69th infantry battalion, 4th company, and he prepared for death in combat by attaching to his clothing a card with his name, “Henri Regnault, painter, son of M. Victor Regnault, of the Institute [of France, a learned society],” and some letters and portraits for his Parisian fiancée, with her name and address.  On January 19, 1871, seven miles west of Paris during the Battle of Buzenval [in which James Tissot’s unit also fought], Regnault and Clairin were separated.  The retreat was sounded, and Clairin could not find Regnault.  He returned to Paris without him.


Henri Regnault dead on the battlefield, by Carolus-Duran. Palais des beaux-Arts de Lille. (Photo: Wikipedia)

It was reported in the New York Times on January 29, 1871 that Henri Regnault was a Franc-tireur, or sniper.  One of Regnault’s comrades saw Regnault stay behind after the retreat was sounded – to fire his last bullet – and this comrade believed he saw Regnault fall an instant later.  The sculptor Joseph Carlier (1849 – 1927), who himself took three bullets, said he saw Regnault drop.  A contemporary reporter noted, perhaps with a little flair for drama considering that Regnault was shot in the left temple by a Prussian bullet, “When they picked [Regnault] up, he had just strength to point to the address [of his fiancée], and then he was dead.” The painter Carolus-Duran (1837 – 1917) believed he saw Regnault dead on the battlefield, quickly producing an image of him in the same pose as Edouard Manet’s Dead Toreador (1864).

In the extensive research I conducted for my novel, The Hammock*, I happened on an eyewitness account from an American volunteer who was on the battlefield digging graves.   He stated that Regnault’s fiancée was there:

“We saw out there the young lady who was soon to have married Henri Regnault.  She was looking for his body among the dead, and found it during the day.  The memory of that sweet, brave girl in that awful scene has lent a pathos to the story of his life and death which I do not get out of the writers and painters who have since dwelt so much and so lovingly upon the subject.”

The distinguished painter and sculptor Ernest Meissonnier claimed to have personally retrieved Regnault’s corpse from the battlefield, but Regnault’s biographer writes that a medical volunteer had located his body the morning after the battle, and that it was moved the next day with two hundred others from the battlefield to the Père Lachaise Cemetery.

Henri Regnault’s funeral service at the new Church of St. Augustine was packed with hundreds of mourners – politicians, soldiers, poets and painters – and the crowd spilled outside the entrance.  Meissonnier delivered the oration at the funeral, held on Friday, January 27 – the day before France surrendered to Prussia.  It is said that Regnault’s fiancée, Mademoiselle Geneviève Bréton (1849 – 1918), set a small bouquet of white lilacs on his casket.

Only twenty-seven when he died, Regnault left sixty-five oil paintings, forty-five water colors, nearly two hundred sketches, and a reputation as a genius – the greatest French painter of his generation.

Henri Regnault (1871), by Louis-Ernest Barrias. Musée d’Orsay. (Photo: Wikimedia.org)

For years, Regnault’s friends met on the day and at the place that he was killed, where a monument was erected to his memory.  Among the other tributes to Regnault was Marche héroïque (1871), by his friend, the French Romantic composer Camille Saint-Saëns (1835 – 1921), who also had served in the National Guard.  Louis-Ernest Barrias (1841 – 1905) sculpted a bronze bust of Regnault, now at the Museé d’Orsay, in 1871.  Henri Chapu (1833 – 1891) sculpted a monument to the students of the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris who died defending Paris in 1870-71.  The monument, incorporating a bronze bust of Regnault by Charles Degeorge (1837 – 1888), in the courtyard of the École, was erected in 1872 by the pupils there at the time of a memorial exhibition for Regnault.  The French government bought Regnault’s Execution without Judgment from his heirs in 1872, to honor his memory.

The Siege of Paris, 1870-1871 (c. 1884), by Ernest Meissonier. Musée d’Orsay. (Photo: Wikimedia.org)

Meissonier completed his heroic painting, The Siege of Paris, 1870, around 1884; it features the fallen Regnault leaning against the pedestal in the center.

For years, Henri Regnault’s Salomé was considered a masterpiece of contemporary art.  When it was put up for sale by a private collector in 1912, Baron Henri de Rothschild tried to raise the funds necessary to keep the painting in France.  He was outbid for the purchase price of 528,000 francs, and Salomé was presented to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 1916, where it continues to shimmer with the youth and promise of its creator.

[*] In my book, The Hammock:  A novel based on the true story of French painter James Tissot, Henri Regnault is killed in the Battle of Malmaison on October 21, 1870 [in which he likely fought] rather than in the  Battle of Buzenval on January 19, 1871.  I included him in my opening chapter to depict the caliber of the artists fighting to defend Paris.

© 2013 Lucy Paquette.  All rights reserved.

The articles published on this blog are copyrighted by Lucy Paquette.  An article or any portion of it may not be reproduced in any medium or transmitted in any form, electronic or mechanical, without the author’s permission.  You are welcome to cite or quote from an article provided you give full acknowledgement to the author. 

Exhibition notes:

James Tissot: Painting the Victorian Woman

The Hepworth, Wakefield, U.K., March 28 to November 3, 2013

“Taking the much cherished painting On the Thames, 1876, from our collection as a starting point, this new collection display explores the representation of women in the work of French born artist, James Tissot (1836-1902).

The display will also feature loans from Tate and several regional art galleries, and will discuss the portrayal of Victorian femininity in relation to Tissot’s life-history and the contrasting roles of women in the region’s coal industry.”

For more information:   www.hepworthwakefield.org

CH377762The Hammock:  A novel based on the true story of French painter James Tissot, brings Tissot’s world from 1870 to 1879 alive in a story of war, art, Society glamour, love, scandal, and tragedy.

Illustrated with 17 stunning, high-resolution fine art images in full color

Courtesy of The Bridgeman Art Library  

(295 pages; ISBN (ePub):  978-0-615-68267-9).

See http://www.amazon.com/dp/B009P5RYVE.

NOTE:  If you do not have a Kindle e-reader, you may download free Kindle reading apps for PCs, Smartphones, tablets, and the Kindle Cloud Reader to read The Hammock:  A novel based on the true story of French painter James Tissot.  Read reviews.


Tissot’s last Salon: Paris, 1870

To cite this article: Paquette, Lucy. Tissot’s last Salon: Paris, 1870. The Hammock. https://thehammocknovel.wordpress.com/2013/02/05/tissots-last-salon-paris-1870/. <Date viewed.>


On January 2, 1870, the Comte de Nieuwerkerke – the former lover of Princess Mathilde Bonaparte – lost his position of complete control over the arts in France.  It was only due to the Princess’ reluctance to see him totally disgraced, after he abruptly ended their twenty-five-year liaison to marry a young girl, that he was not dismissed outright. Napoleon III’s reform-minded new deputy replaced him with a liberal Minister for the Fine Arts, and Nieuwerkerke was demoted from Superintendent of the Fine Arts to Superintendent of the Imperial Museums, under the young Minister.

For Manet, this was invigorating news.  Under new rules for the selection of the Salon jury, he campaigned for election but lost.  Two of his paintings, however, were accepted for exhibition, held May 1 through June 20, 1870:  The Music Lesson (modeled by his friend, the sculptor Zacharie Astruc, 1833 – 1907) and a portrait of his student, Eva Gonzalès.

Portrait of Eva Gonzalès, 1869-1870, by Édouar...

Portrait of Eva Gonzalès, 1869-1870, by Édouard Manet. The painting she is shown completing here demonstrates the mastery she had achieved at that age. However, this depiction of Gonzales is less than flattering in that her dress, her posture and technique are not actually those of a professional to painting. The painting that Gonzales is working on is not her own, but actually one of Manet’s. It is currently on display at the National Gallery in London. (Photo and caption: Wikipedia)

Manet’s portrait of Eva Gonzalès was called a “flat and abominable caricature in oils.”  Other critics said Manet’s paintings were “the most ridiculous things you could imagine,” that his work “provokes only laughter or pity,” and that he was painting “in defiance of art, the public and the critics.”  The only encouragement Manet received was, ironically (or perhaps not?) from the critic he had injured in a duel in February over an unflattering review.  Now he called Manet “one of the first painters of the age.”

Eva Gonzalès, not quite 21, made her Salon debut in 1870 with three paintings including her take on Manet’s The Fifer (rejected by the Salon jury in 1866).  One critic said of Gonzalès’ full-length Little Soldier, “It is an astoundingly strong statement from such a pretty little author” – summarizing the struggle she faced to be taken seriously.

Enfant de troupe, Musée Gaston Rapin, Villeneu...

Enfant de troupe (1870), by Eva Gonzalès.  Musée Gaston Rapin, Villeneuve-sur-Lot, France (Photo: Wikipedia)

Berthe Morisot, at 29, was extremely unhappy about the place Manet gave Eva in his life and art.  She wrote her sister, Edma, “Manet has been lecturing me and sets up that eternal Mademoiselle Gonzalès as an example to me.”  As Berthe’s mother was trying to marry her off, Berthe wrote, “I feel sad; I feel alone, disillusioned and old into the bargain.”


The Mother and Sister of the Artist by Berthe Morisot. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. Open Access.

Manet did not take her art as seriously as he took Eva’s.  Berthe had made her Salon début six years ago, in 1864; at the Salon this year she exhibited The Harbor at Lorient, and The Mother and Sister of the Artist (also called Reading).  When she completed Reading in March, she made the mistake of asking Manet’s opinion of it – whereupon he took her brushes and palette and spent hours redoing the mother’s face and black gown.  Her mother, standing by, was amused.  Berthe, very upset but unable to protest, watched “her” painting carted off to the Salon, where it met with admiration.  “The one exception is Degas, who has supreme contempt for everything I do,” Berthe wrote.  She, however, appreciated his work, and wrote to her sister Edma, “Degas sent a very pretty painting [Mme. Camus, a brilliant pianist who was the wife of his and Manet’s doctor] but his masterpiece is the portrait of Yves [the eldest Morisot sister] in pastel.”


Madame Camus in Red, by Edgar Degas. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. Open Access.

Degas’ oil portrait, Madame Camus in Red, received mixed reviews from the critics.  This would be the last year Degas exhibited in the Salon:  in April, his letter to the Paris- Journal was published, listing numerous specific, logical suggestions on how to improve the exhibition for artists and the viewing public.  Since Degas’ name was virtually unknown in the capital, his letter was prefaced by a friend, a sympathetic art critic – the same one whom Manet stabbed in their February duel.

Among the 3,000 canvases exhibited in the Salon of 1870 were paintings by artists well known to Degas and Manet:  Renoir, Pissarro, Sisley and the American Mary Cassatt submitted works that were accepted by the jury.  Pictures by Monet and Cézanne were rejected.  Frédéric Bazille had one painting rejected (La Toilette) and one accepted (Summer Scene (Bathers), 1869).

The Toilet

La Toilette, Bazille (Photo: Wikipedia)

Other artists, outside their immediate circle, won the prizes.  The top prize, the Grand Medal of Honor, went to Tony Robert-Fleury (1837 – 1912), 33, the son of the director of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts; his The Last Day of Corinth was, presciently, a brutal scene of the sacking of the Greek city of Corinth by the Romans in 146 B.C.

Paris 454

The Last Day of Corinth, by Tony Robert-Fleury (Photo: Bifford The Youngest, Flickr)

Twenty-seven year-old Henri Regnault (1843 – 1871), son of the famous chemist and physicist Victor Regnault (1810 – 1878), won the coveted Prix de Rome, for his Salomé, considered a masterpiece of contemporary art.

Salomé, by Henri Regnault (1870).

Salomé, by Henri Regnault (1870). (Photo: Wikipedia)

A great honor – peer adulation – was accorded to Manet, with Henri Fantin-Latour’s painting in the Salon of 1870, A Studio in the Batignolles (Homage to Manet), which was caricatured as Jesus Painting Among His Disciples.

English: Henri Fantin-Latour's art

A Studio in the Batignolles (Homage to Manet), 1870, by Henri Fantin-Latour (Photo: Wikipedia)

Clustered in admiration around Manet in this painting are the writer and art critic Zola, the young painters Renoir, Monet and Bazille, and the sculptor Astruc – but not the prosperous and accomplished artist James Tissot, whose Salon paintings this year were Young Lady in a Boat/Jeune femme en bateau and Partie carrée/The Foursome, a light-hearted and fully clothed eighteenth-century take on Manet’s Luncheon on the Grass (rejected by the Salon jury in 1863).

James Tissot, Young_Lady_in_a_Boat, oil

Young Lady in a Boat, 1870, by James Tissot. Private Collection.

Tissot surely enjoyed the fact that he was the sole painter among his peers from their student days who had achieved success.  He seemed to get along well with everyone while steering clear of controversy – a luxury he could not enjoy for much longer.

© 2013 Lucy Paquette.  All rights reserved.

The articles published on this blog are copyrighted by Lucy Paquette.  An article or any portion of it may not be reproduced in any medium or transmitted in any form, electronic or mechanical, without the author’s permission.  You are welcome to cite or quote from an article provided you give full acknowledgement to the author. 

Watch my new videos:

The Strange Career of James Tissot” (2:33 minutes)


Louise Jopling and James Tissot” (2:42 minutes)

James Tissot, La_Partie_carrée (1)

Partie carrée/The Foursome, 1870, by James Tissot. National Gallery of Canada. (Photo: Wiki)

Exhibition note:

Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Art and Design, 1848-1900
February 17–May 19, 2013 at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

The first major survey of the art of the Pre-Raphaelites to be shown in the United States features some 130 paintings, sculptures, works on paper, and decorative art objects.

For more information, visit http://www.nga.gov/exhibitions/preraphaelites.shtm


If you do not have a Kindle e-reader, you may download free Kindle reading apps for PCs, Smartphones, tablets, and the Kindle Cloud Reader to read The Hammock:  A novel based on the true story of French painter James Tissot.  Read reviews.

The Hammock:  A novel based on the true story of French painter James Tissot, brings Tissot’s world from 1870 to 1879 alive in a story of war, art, Society glamour, love, scandal, and tragedy.

Illustrated with 17 stunning, high-resolution fine art images in full color

Courtesy of The Bridgeman Art Library  

(295 pages; ISBN (ePub):  978-0-615-68267-9).  See http://www.amazon.com/dp/B009P5RYVE.