Henri Martin

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Biography of Henri Martin ( 1860-1943 )

French painter and prominent artist of Post-impressionism, Henri Martin showed very early talents for drawing. Following his parents whish, he worked with a draper but soon quit and joined the Fine Arts School of Toulouse, his hometown. He graduated at the age of 19 and received the Great Prize and a grant. He then continued his apprenticeship at the Beaux-Arts of Paris under the supervision of Jean-Paul Laurens. From 1880 to 1889, he exhibited his works at the French Salon of Art in a traditional mind and with a classical technique.

In 1885, he obtained a travel scholarship that enabled him to visit Italy and study Primitivism along with Edmond Aman-Jean. The discovery of the Mediterranean lights, the works of Giotto as well as Segantini will have great impact on his works. Thanks to his friend Aman-Jean – a close friend of Seurat -, Henri Martin soon became familiar with Divisionism art and radically changed his technique.

He displayed "The Federation celebration" at the 1889 French Salon of Art. The painting featured broken, intermittent and parallel layers of paint and depicts Lafayette oath on the altar of the Homeland. This work was the first occurrence of the artist’s attempt to light up his palette with several layers of colours. From now on, the painter used a bright and light painting, decomposing the shades in order to express the vibrations of light.

Henri Martin also became famous as a talented decorator for the city hall Hôtel de ville of Paris in 1892, as well as for the Toulouse Capitol, the city hall of Marseille, the Edmond Rostand’s villa and the prefecture of Cahors with a war memorial.

The six editions of the Rose Croix Salon featured his works, the first time at Durand Ruel’s and the last edition at the gallery of Georges Petit, together with his loyal friend Aman-Jean. He thus took part in the symbolist movement in late 19th century. While admiring his pieces, the great symbolist painter Pierre Puvis de Chavannes stated: “This painter will be my heir.” However, his allegories full of poetic characters, his heavenly subjects in otherworldly landscapes were soon replaced by modern topics of everyday life and numerous landscapes.

He discovered the Quercy countryside around 1890 and purchased a house at La Bastide-du-Vert, close to Cahors. He stayed there a long time and painted rustic and family scenes. He dedicated himself to the surrounding landscapes and loved the old houses as well as the small churches. In 1912 he purchased another house at Saint-Cir-Lapopie, in the Lot region. Then, in 1923, he settled in Collioure on the Mediterranean coast. This area inspired him numerous works.

Despite his prolific activity, partly dedicated to commissions, he continued travels and used to stay each year in Venice. Martin won many rewards during his career, such as the Golden medal at the Universal Exhibition of 1889 and the Grand Prix in 1900. He was appointed Commander of the Legion of honour in 1914, has been elected at the Fine Arts Academy in 1917 for the painting section, sitting on the Gabriel Ferrier’s seat. Each and every exhibition he carried out, especially at the Georges Petit gallery, was a true success.

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