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Henri Rouart (1833-1912) – a French Impressionism Painter

Strangely Henri Rouart is far more obscure than the other French impressionism painters. He was an active member and participated in seven out of the eight impressionism art exhibitions. This was more than Monet, Renoir or Sisley. He was also closely involved in the inner circle of the French Impressionists. So why have we hardly heard of him??

Unlike many of the other impressionism artists, Henri Rouart exhibited paintings at the Paris Salon in 1868, 1869,1870 and 1872. In 1873, when the Paris Salon rejected his paintings, Rouart started exhibiting with the impressionists at the Salon des Refusés. From this point on, he no longer tried to exhibit with the Salon. He felt far more akin with the Impressionists!

Henri Rouart Painting - Flowers in a garden
Henri Rouart Painting

A Family Man & A Wealthy Industrialist

Rouart was born in Paris in 1833 and died in Paris. He married in 1861 to Hélène Jacob-Desmalter and they had six children. His son Ernest, also a painter, eventually married Julie Manet, the daughter of Berthe Morisot and Eugène Manet and niece of Edouard Manet.

Rouart studied engineering at the École polytechnique. He worked as an engineer, mechanic designer and was a very wealthy factory owner.

Rouart Painted as a Hobby

Since Henri Rouart was an industrialist, it seems that painting was more of a hobby & that he painted during his holidays and on weekends. He painted landscapes and city scenes, portraits, nudes and still lives. Rouart did not sign many pictures so identifying which paintings are his is difficult. He also didn’t date many of his paintings. This may be one of the reasons for his obscurity.

Banks of the Seine - Henri Rouart Painting
Banks of the Seine at Melun – Henri Rouart Painting

Rouart loved traveling

Henri Rouart enjoyed traveling. During his travels he painted the places he went to. These countries include travels to Egypt, Holland and Italy. He also traveled throughout France, capturing the beautiful landscapes and seascapes onto his canvases. He painted scenes of the the French Riviera, Brittany, the Pyrenees and Melun.

Venice Landscape by Henri Rouart
Venice Landscape by Henri Rouart

The Lifelong Friendship of Edgar Degas & Rouart

From school days, Henri Rouart & his brother Alexis were Lycée classmates with Edgar Degas. They in fact remained close friends throughout their entire lives . Edgar Degas never married and considered the Rouart family as the closest thing he had to family in France. Degas came as a regular guest to many dinners at the Rouart family home in their mansion near Parc Monceau. Over the years, Degas painted Rouart and his family several times.

Edgar Degas Painting of Rouart
Edgar Degas Portrait of Henri Rouart

Henri Rouart enjoyed painting with the Barbizon painters such as Tillot, Rousseau, Millet and Corot near the Fontainebleau forests not far from Paris.

A Major Art Collector ( 576 paintings in total)

Rouart also was an art collector. Like Gustave Caillebotte, he bought paintings from his impressionism friends, which was a huge help for them financially. He had a discerning eye for art and Degas often asked for Rouart’s advise on art purchases.

When Rouart died, his art collection of 576 paintings were sold. Included in his massive art collection were paintings by Velázquez, Goya, Ingres, Delacroix, Cézanne, Fragonard, El Greco, Courbet, and 56 paintings by Corot!

Edgar Degas refused to sell his paintings to his close friend. He often tried to give Rouart paintings as gifts. However Rouart refused as he wanted to pay! As a result, Rouart only owned five Degas paintings. One was a portrait of Henri Rouart and the other “Danseuses à la Barre,” which sold for a record amount. “Danseuses à la Barre” now hangs on the walls of the world famous Metropolitan museum in New York.

Dancers Practicing at the Bar - Painting by Edgar Degas
“Danseuses à la Barre” Edgar Degas Painting, once owned by Henri Rouart

Henri Rouart is buried in the beautiful Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris along with other notable impressionism painters such as:

Where to view Rouart’s Paintings in Paris: