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.