Henri Gervex


Henri Gervex (1852-1929)
[Henry Gervex]
Pupil of:   Pierre Nicholas Brisset, Fromentin, and Alexandre Cabanel

The sensation of the Paris salon for 1878 was, paradoxical as it may seem, a painting which was not there. It was a canvas by Henry Gervex, and was founded on the last lines of Alfred de Musset's famous poem, "Rolla." It was a masterpiece, one of the few real great works of modern art. Artists and critics alike loaded it with applause, and hailed the painter with acclamations as he took his afternoon promenade. But the Administration of the salon, happened to be in a particularly censorious mood that spring, and excluded the picture. The artist then exhibited it in the gallery of a dealer in the Rue de la Chaussee-d'Antin, where all Paris flocked to see it. It was probably the most successful private exhibition ever made in Paris, and it laid a secure foundation for the artist's fortune.

Henri Gervex was born in Paris in 1852. He commenced to study art under the venerable master Pierre Nicholas Brisset, then studied under Fromentin, and finally concluded his course under Cabanel. In 1873 he exhibited for the first time "A Bather Sleeping," a remarkable study of the nude. The next year he took a medal of the second class, with the "Satyr Sporting with a Bacchante," a picture which was purchased by the State for the Luxembourg. In 1876 he was medalled again, for a powerful realistic picture, representing the surgeons holding an autopsy on the body of a patient in the Hotel Dieu hospital. In 1877 the state purchased another of his pictures, a communion scene in a village church which is now in the Government collection. All this while his fame had been rising steadily, but th struggle was still severe when the sensation caused by "Rolla" brought it to a climax, and added a new master to the roll of honor of French art. Commissions for portraits rolled in, his pictures were sold from the easel, he received so many orders for the decoration of private houses that he was compelled to refuse a portion of them, and two years after the State had rejected his "Rolla" it annointed the wound with balm by appointing him to paint the great decorative panels for the Mayor's Office of the Nineteenth Arrondissement. This engagement secured him also admission into the Legion of Honor. When "The Masked Model" appeared at the Salon, it created a sensation second only to that of the picture which did not appear. It became popularly rumored that the original was a great lady, who had consented to pose for the artist under condition that her face should be covered so as to prevent her from being identified, and this added piquant interest to the magnificent art displayed in the picture. As a matter of fact, however, it was only the figure of a professional model. While posing for Gervex she had, in a spirit of fun, put on a ball mask which was hanging to the wall, and the effect was so original that the artist used it for his finished picture.

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Lots of Prints
Another source of Lots of Prints
Before the Operation
Young Girl
Emile Zola critique of Gervex
Museum hanging Rolla
Au temps de Marcel Proust
Classic Encyclopedia
3 paintings and photo of artist
Book by Gervex
Fine Art Photo Library

Antique Reproductions

young girl
woman in white
Birth of Venus


About Gervex

Gervex Painting
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Gervex Painting
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Master Paintings



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