• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 1984

    19th Century European Art

    8 April 2008, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 48

    Henri Joseph Harpignies (French, 1819-1916)

    A Wooded Landscape with a View of the Mediterranean Sea beyond

    Price Realised  


    Henri Joseph Harpignies (French, 1819-1916)
    A Wooded Landscape with a View of the Mediterranean Sea beyond
    signed 'h. harpignies,' indistincly inscribed and dated '96' (lower right)
    oil on canvas
    23½ x 32¼ in. (59.7 x 82 cm.)
    Painted in 1896.

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    Born in Valenciennes, Harpignies did not begin painting seriously until the age of 27 when he became a student of Jean Achard, a landscape painter. Under Achard's tutelage, he travelled to Holland, Brussels, and Flanders to study the Northern landscapists of the 17th Century. Shortly after returning to France, he left again - this time for Italy where he met many of the artist of the Villa Medici in Rome. It was during this time that he began experimenting in watercolor and became interested in the work of Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot.

    In 1852 he returned to France to establish his own studio in Paris and met the artists Jean-Léon Gérôme and Corot. He then moved to the outskirts of Paris and began painting in the outdoors.

    In 1853, he made his Salon debut and from that point until 1856, Harpignies, influenced by the Barbizon painters, particularly Constant Troyon, experimented with figural compositions. However after 1856, he devoted himself completely to landscapes.

    As a later composition, the present lot exhibits both Harpignies' affinity for the Barbizon ideal and the memory of his travels along the coast of Italy. The cool and calm light of the sea is harmoniously juxtoposted against the deep and rich textures of the wooded landscape. Harpignies' ability to capture nature's appeal outside the Barbizon tradition is testiment to his continuous travels, his long career, and his ever-changing style.

    This work has been authenticated by Mme. Hellebranth and will be included in her forthcoming Harpignies catalogue raisonné.


    Anonymous sale; Christie's, New York, 22 May 1990, lot 183.

    Pre-Lot Text

    The artists of the Barbizon enclave near the Forest of Fontainebleau introduced a new way of examining nature. The Barbizon painters were predominantly landscape artists who rebelled against the classical and academic traditions of the Academy and the Salon and looked at nature in a new way. They were the first to paint out-of-doors, often on a small scale that was portable which enabled them to catch, with a new sensitivity, the effects of light that was impossible when working within the confines of a studio. Outdoor sketching in oil was standard practice for most Barbizon artists, and the forests and meadows of Barbizon provided myriad opportunities for capturing the beauty and changeability of the landscape. From this tradition, particularly the work of Corot and Courbet, sprouted the seeds that would eventually nurture the Impressionist movement and change the course of artistic perception at the end of the 19th Century.

    Christie's is once again at the forefront in presenting for sale a selection of works by the leading artists of the Barbizon School. Examples by Corot, Courbet, Harpignies, Rousseau, Millet and Daubigny highlight this group dedicated to the genius and perception that define the Barbizon School.