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Henri Le Sidaner – The Obscure French Artist That You Should Know

Unlike many other artists, Henri Le Sidaner did not associate himself with any of the emerging art movements of his time. His style of painting was influenced greatly by the impressionists but he was not an impressionist. He sometimes painted with dots but was not a pointillist. Even when used bold colors, he did not associate himself with the Fauves. When people asked Le Sidaner what art movement he belonged to, he replied:

‘None. But if you absolutely insist on categorising me, I am an intimist.’

Henri Le Sidaner neo-impressionism painting of Venice
Henri Le Sidaner Painting of Venice (using Pointillism technique)

Henri Le Sidaner’s Early Years in Paris

The French post-impressionist artist, Henri Le Sidaner was born in 1862, into a French family, in Port Louis, Mauritius. At the age of ten, his family left Mauritius and returned to France.

Like many emerging artists, Henri Le Sidaner made his way to Paris to study painting. The highly prestigious Parisian art school, the École des Beaux-Arts, accepted Le Sidaner and he studied classical and academic painting under the esteemed artist, Alexandre Cabanel.

However while living in Paris and being part of the art world, Henri Le Sidaner, could not help noticing the new style of the revolutionary impressionists. In particular, he loved the paintings of Eduoard Manet and the colorful en plein air landscapes of Claude Monet. After seeing their fresh approach to art, Le Sidaner lost interest in the academic and classical style of painting and dropped his studies at the École des Beaux-Arts.

Henri Le Sidaner Painting
Henri Le Sidaner Painting

Seeking Artistic Inspiration in the Étaples Artist Colony

Henri Le Sidaner was not overly fond of the chaotic life of Paris and in 1885, he left for the Étaples artist colony in Northern France. The coastal scenery and tranquil life of this region appealed to the young artist. The beautiful landscapes in the region provided Le Sidaner with endless artistic inspiration. It was the perfect place for him to experiment with new contemporary art styles, such as painting en plein air & using imprecise brushstrokes and pastel colors.

Henri Le Sidaner art
Henri Le Sidaner painting

Henri Le Sidaner remained in the Étaples artist colony until 1893. During his time here, he exhibited his landscape paintings of the region in various art exhibitions. His artworks were successful and he won awards & art trips to Italy and Holland in 1891.

A Successful Artist in His Lifetime

In 1897, Henri Le Sidaner, received his first solo exhibition at the Galerie Mancini in Paris, where he exhibited thirty-four paintings. It was a huge success and two years later, The Galerie Georges Petit in Paris, agreed to handle the sale of all of his paintings until the gallery’s closure in 1931.

As a successful artist, he began teaching at the Académie des Beaux-Arts and in 1937 became President. As an art teacher, his matra was similar to that of Eugene Boudin and Claude Monet. He taught his own art students that one must always focus on and depict how the natural light effects the landscape’s colors and shadows.

Henri Le Sidaner landscape

Henri Le Sidaner’s Later Years

In his later years, Le Sidaner moved to the small village of Gerberoy, about one hundred kilometers north of Paris & on the border of Normandy and Picardy. He lived and painted there until the end of his life. Most of his paintings from this later period are of his cottage and magnificent gardens in Gerberoy.

Maison Blanche, Gerberoy by Henri Le Sidaner
Maison Blanche, Gerberoy by Henri Le Sidaner

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Henri Le Sidaner’s Painting Style

Henri Le Sidaner was greatly influenced by the pointillists. However, unlike the pointillists, he preferred using pastel colors, making his paintings shimmer and blur. His favored time for painting was at the end of the day, capturing the dimming lights and shadows of the twilight moments.

Henri Le Sidaner was similar to the impressionists in that he enjoyed capturing the transient effects of light onto his landscapes and domestic scenes. However, as the years went on, he typically sketched the scene outside but preferred to paint the scene from his sketch & inside his studio.

For most of his artworks, Le Sidaner chose to paint the scene, without people, instilling a snapshot of tranquility and a moment of solitude.

Le Sidaner’s paintings and pastels were a huge success during his lifetime. By 1897, he frequently held solo exhibitions in Paris, London, Brussels and the United States.

Henri Le Sidaner painting of the Rectory & Church of Gerberoy
Henri Le Sidaner painting of the Rectory & Church of Gerberoy

Legacy & Memory

Henri Le Sidaner died in 1939 in Versailles, France, at the age of 76. His accomplishments & contributions in the art world were largely forgotten by art historians for quite a long time. One of the reasons for this is that he did not belong to any art movement & therefore his name never came up in academic discussions. He quickly fell into obscurity after his death.

However in the recent decades, Henri Le Sidaner’s name and paintings are now recognized for their true beauty and worth. His artworks are sought out by the most famous art museums around the world for the public to view & enjoy.

Henri Le Sidaner Painting
Henri Le Sidaner Gaslight, Blue Night (Le Bec de Gaz – Nuit bleue), 1906

Where You Can View Henri Le Sidaner’s Artworks

Today, you can view Henri Le Sidaner’s paintings in many prestigious art museums around the world. Below is a list of some of the museums where you can find his artworks:

In France:

Video about Henri Le Sidaner’s House & Gardens in Gerberoy

In the USA:

  • Art Institute of Chicago
  • the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
  • Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.
  • Detroit Institute of the Arts, Detroit, MI
  • Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City, OK
  • Phoenix Art Musem, Phoenix , AZ
  • Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco,CA

In Europe:

  • Tate Gallery, London
  • Ashmolean Musem, Oxford, UK
  • Museum of Modern Art, Rome, Italy
  • Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum, Madrid

See below for more articles about other obscure but wonderful French artists from the impressionism & post-impressionism periods.