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Henry de Groux

Henry de Groux
I see Henry de Groux again with his enigmatic face of a somewhat disturbing ecclesiastic, his sensual eyes drowned in dreams, his long flat hair topped with a large felt, his clergyman frock coat, his bangle with golden apple, his politeness refined, its brilliant charcoal which fixed in a few strokes, with a careless air, on the paper the soul of its model, such as the model was astonished and sometimes frightened by such a revelation. Beside him I see his wife, a mystic of Flanders, and his daughter with the appearance of a gypsy, who in the art of engraving had measured herself against the eagles she had observed in the zoological garden of Antwerp, ” the young girl who paints eagles ”as the poet Emile Sicard had called it.

How does Henry de Groux rest in the land of Provence? We must go back to 1892, we must evoke this Paris of then, all buzzing with aesthetic or pointillist quarrels, impressionist tachists, wild beasts of all kinds fought bitterly against the defenders of academic traditions. In the midst of this tumult suddenly appeared a candid young Belgian, the son of a great painter and a painter himself.

Henry de Groux, returning at once to the great compositions of yesteryear, without concern for the fashions of the schools, for the little Byzantine discussions, brought to the Parisians of 1892, an immense canvas, in which Christ was dying surrounded by a foul crowd, whose the horrible waves broke to his distress: “Christ in the insults”. Signaled in this way, Henry de Groux gradually mingled with the group of poets who tried, between 1892 and 1900, to renovate poetry, by a mixture of symbolism and naturalism. In those literary circles to which his art laden with thought and poetry was akin, Henry de Groux met Louis le Cardonnel, in search of an ideal which he would fulfill through the priesthood.

Christ in Outrage – Henry de Groux

Then Emile Sicard, poet of Provence had him come to him to work on a bust of Emmanuel Signoret and in 1914 the bust was ready, already posed on a place of Lançon in the middle of beautiful plane trees which dilated in ardor and the light of the Provençal summer.

One day, Henry de Groux in Avignon got the wrong door and knocked on Roure, this former hotel of the Baroncelli family acquired, on that date, not long ago, by Jeanne de Flandreysy. Henry de Groux explained his mistake, but he was invited to spend the day in this beautiful old house anyway: he spent the day and three more years there.

Henry de Groux
In this city where Petrarch had passed, loved, sung, Henry de Groux, a passionate pilgrim from Florence, found himself at ease, he begins there with a magnificent Petrarch all surrounded by the symbolic laurels he had sung and gathered for Laure; Dante followed, quite naturally, because of Dante, certainly Henry de Groux has been, in recent years, the most inspired, the most powerful, the most original performer.

Caron’s boat – Henry de Groux
The captives, the violent, the false prophets clench their tortured limbs, Beatrice shows paradise, Caron’s boat slices the heavy waters under the weight of the damned, the rain of fire devours them….

The rain of fire – Henry de Groux

Then he was able to settle in the Old Port of Marseille. Sun, mistral, smell of shells, cars, reflection of boats in blue water, amalgamation of colors, scents, sounds that penetrate into a luminous unity, and above all, in the azure, the smile gilded Notre Dame de la Garde, here is the famous setting, where for 5 years, Henry de Groux worked, at No. 15 of the quai de Rive-neuve. At that time a kind of interior joy seemed, under the influence of Provence to have animated his work, he made strange farandoles dance on his canvases, under the pines shaken by theMistral, in front of a sea flushed with the setting sun, all an intoxication of movements which went from men to the trees; he composed there, for this great theater which he did not content himself with living in, but he wanted to decorate, in two vast frescoes, a feast of Trimalcion all teeming with orgiastic life, evocative of this Petronius whom we are told he was from Massilia. There he painted many poems in oil or in charcoal by Marseilles and Marseillais, in whose eyes he inscribed all the languor of the Latin, Greek and already oriental South.

Henry de Groux loved Provence, he who had loved Italy so much; of this Italy, he rediscovered in Provence, horizons, monuments, good grace, caressing familiarity, he was loved by all those who, in Marseilles, Avignon, Aix, had had the happiness of approaching him; his conversation was simple, cordial, full of exquisite finesse, of quasi-ecclesiastical politeness, of abundant and precious anecdotes.

Notes by Emile Ripert about Henry de Groux

Emile RIPERT by Henry de Groux – 1927


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