Jean-Jacques who?

In the ‘Quarter of the Monceau Plain’, one of the four quarters of the 17th arrondissement in Paris, there is an entire ‘national’ museum devoted to the painter Jean-Jacques Henner (1829-1905), who is described in the museum’s brochure as “an ‘official’ painter in the epoch of impressionism.”

What this means is that he was famous and successful in his lifetime, while the impressionists were starving in garrets or at least struggling to obtain recognition. Now, of course, the opposite is true: the impressionists are world-famous while the once-proud ‘official’ artists have been more or less forgotten.

Paintings and bas-reliefs by Jean-Jacques Henner

Going to this museum probably won’t change your mind, at least it didn’t change mine, but I still found it interesting to see what this ‘official’ establishment artist was painting in the second half of the nineteenth century. He got lots of commissions to paint people’s portraits, for example, and he painted lots of nudes that look a bit out of focus but not at all impressionistic. (I had the impression that these nudes didn’t really interest him very much. Or, to put a more positive spin on it, his motivation for painting them seemed free of voyeurism.)

L’Alsace. Elle attend. (1871)

Henner was born and grew up in the Alsace region, and his most famous painting was this portrait of an Alsatian woman from the year 1871, entitled L’Alsace. Elle attend. (The Alsace. She waits.) The point of this was that the Alsace and Lorraine regions had been annexed by Germany after the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871, so she was waiting (and hoping) to be returned to France.

In the Henner museum

The Henner museum is in a house at 43 avenue de Villiers that was once the home and atelier of a different artist, Guillaume Dubufe (1853-1909). Henner himself never lived here, but in 1921 Marie Henner, his nephew’s widow, bought the house for use as a museum of her husband’s uncle’s paintings.

Henner’s own atelier was two km east of here, at Place Pigalle.

In the winter garden of the Henner museum

The neighborhood around the museum, the ‘Quarter of the Monceau Plain’, is currently reputed to be rather bourgeois and boring (is this true?), but in the second half of the 19th century it was a neighborhood of rapid development, rampant real estate speculation and newly-built houses that were popular with successful artists, writers and actors — but only the affluent ones who could afford to live here. In the dining room of the museum there is a large map showing which famous people used to live at which addresses in this quarter.

My photos and text in this post are from 2018.

See also: my post on the three Dumas monuments in this quarter of Paris.

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