Portrait of a woman
Signed upper left: J J Henner
Henner was from Alsace and received a solid academic training first at Altkirk, and then in Strasbourg before moving to Paris in 1846. There he studied with Drolling and later with Picot. He won the Prix de Rome in 1858, which allowed him to spend six years in Italy, where he perfected his painting of the nude and studied the Italian Masters who would most greatly influence his work: the Venetian painters Giorgione and Titian and, most particularly, the Paduan painter Correggio. From these Italian masters, Henner developed his approach to the nude, which figured so prominently in his oeuvre, and the strong chiaroscuro and the sfumato, or soft, misty effects that made his figures seem to approach from a mythical haze.
Henner made his debut at the Salon of 1863, where he won a third class medal. In 1864 he returned to Paris from Italy and moved into a house at 43, rue de Villiers, which, after his death, became the Musée Henner. He continued to exhibit at the Salon after his return and won medals In 1865 and 66, and was made a member of the Academy in 1889.
Henner’s work occupies a position that is both traditional and modern. He looked to the Venetian Old Masters, but equally admired Corot—indeed certain contemporaries called him “the Corot of the human figure.” He was also on intimate terms with Gérôme, as well as Moreau, Manet and Degas. His female sitters and nudes can equally be compared to Prud’hon’s chaste figures and the erotic femme fatales of Moreau, Levy Dhurmer and the Symbolist Painters.
D’Argencourt, Louise and Douglas Druick, eds. The Other Nineteenth Century: Paintings and Sculpture in the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph M. Tanenbaum, 1978, The National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa.
Zafran, Eric, French Salon Paintings from Southern Collections, exh. cat. 21 Jan – 3 Mar 1983, High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA.
The Second Empire, Art in France under Napoleon III, exh. cat. 1 Oct – 26 Nov 1978, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA.