Henri Joseph Harpignies was an influential landscape painter who had an aptitude for drawing from an early age. In 1846, he decided to devote himself totally to painting and became a student of the esteemed painter Jean-Alexis Achard. Under his tutelage, Harpignies traveled to Holland, Brussels, and Flanders to study the northern landscapists of the 17th century.
Shortly after returning to France he left again this time for Italy, where he met many of the artists of the Villa Medici in Rome. During this time, he began experimenting in watercolor and became interested in the work of Corot. In 1859 he returned to France to establish his own studio in Paris and met the artists Gerome, Hamon, and Corot. A year later he moved outside of Paris to continue his outdoor painting. His work was closely aligned to that off the Barbizon School and stressed the permanent rather than transitory aspects of nature. Trees were particularly important to the artist, who focused on them extensively in his compositions. In fact, one important critic of the day referred to him as the “Michangelo of Trees”.
Harpignies made his Salon debut in 1853 and continued to exhibit for many years. Between 1869 and 1879 he spent his summers at Herisson where he led a group known at the Ecole d’Herisson. Continually traveling throughout France during his long career, Harpignies was never exclusively a member of one group. He died in Saint-Privie having won the Legion d’honneur and the Grand Prix at the Exposition Universelle of 1900.
Museum collections include: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg, National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., Cleveland Museum of Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, Tate Gallery, London, Fitzwilliam Musem, Cambridge.