Henri-Edmond Cross

Henri-Edmond Cross
Born Henri-Edmond-Joseph Delacroix
May 20, 1856
Douai, Nord, France
Died May 16, 1910 (at age 53)
Saint-Clair, Var, France
Nationality French
Movement Neo-Impressionism, Pointillism
Field Painting

Henri-Edmond-Joseph Delacroix, known in the art world as Henri-Edmond Cross, was a French artist, printmaker, and acclaimed master of Neo-Impressionism. Henri-Edmond’s art played a very important role in the evolution of Neo-impressionism. His work was also influenced the development of the Fauvism art movement. Plagued with poor eyesight and arthritis, Cross was not a prolific painter, but the changing styles and techniques in his later works were very influential to other French artists and the art movements that followed.

Henri-Edmond Cross: The Developmental Years

Henri-Edmond was born in Douai, northern France. Roughly ten years later, in 1865, his family moved to Lille, France, an area that was close to the Belgium border. There, Dr. Auguste Soins, a family relative, recognized and supported Henri-Edmond’s artistic talents. In 1866, he paid for Henri-Edmond to get private instruction with the painter Carolus-Duran. After spending a year with Carolus-Duran, Cross went to Paris to continue his studies with Francois Bonvin.

Cross returned to Lille in 1878 to attend the Ecoles Academiques de Dessin et d’Architecture, where he studied for the next three years with the artist Alphonse Colas. Cross changed his name in 1881 to avoid getting confused with other artists of the time. He had his first art exhibit at the Salon des Artistes Francais.

In 1883, a Mediterranean trip turned into a very productive art experience for Cross. He painted several landscapes while there, including a portrait of Dr. Soins, who accompanied his family on the trip. The portrait was shown at the Exposition Universelle in Nice later that year where Cross met and became friends with Paul Signac, who would later become a strong artistic influence on his work.

A New Movement Inspired By Henri-Edmond Cross

Landscape, c. 1896–1899

Cross co-founded the Societe des Aristes Independants, a group of artists who were not pleased with official Salon in Paris. He came to know the artists Georges Seurat, Charles Angrand, and Albert Dubois-Pillet. It wasn’t until 1891 that Cross’s art began to shift towards the Neo-Impressionist movement. His first large pointillist oil painting was titled Madame Hector France. It was a portrait of a woman he met in 1888 and later married in 1893.

In 1896, Cross created the lithograph L’Errant-The Wanderer, it was featured in an anarchist journal. Cross believed and hoped for a peaceful society. This belief was a great influence on his work and affected what he chose to paint , he often chose to paint scenes that represented a utopian world. Cross held his first solo exhibition in 1905 at Paris’ Galerie Druet, which featured thirty watercolors and thirty of his oil paintings. His exhibition was very successful, resulting in a high number of sales and positive reviews from art critics.

Henri-Edmond Cross: Development and Style Change

La baie à Cavalière, 1906–1907

Cross’ early works consisted of still-lifes and portraits, they were contained in the dark colors of Realism, however they were still characteristically Pointillist. In 1881, his work was influenced by Edouard Manet, Jules Bastien-Lepage, as well as other Impressionists. His work evolved from somber realism to having lighter color palettes. He also began painting en plein air, or outdoors. It was a gradual change and towards the end of the 1880’s, Cross focused only on producing landscape paintings. He was inspired by the works of Camille Pissarro and Claude Monet.

Neo-Impressionism painting uses a science-based interpretation of lines and colors. Pointillism was the dominant technique in this movement’s beginning. Subjects were often urban scenes, seashores, and landscapes. Color and light were central to this style of painting and individual strokes of primary colors were often used. Stippling, or creating a pattern showing varying degrees of object solidity, was used by making colored dots of single colors with the brush. The more dots painted in an area, the darker the shape became.

In 1895, Cross gradually shifted brushstrokes, and instead of broad, blocky strokes, he began leaving portions of bare canvas between his strokes, which began to resemble mosaics. This was a precursor to the Cubism and Fauvism movements, which would develop in later years. The Neo-Impressionist strategy of keeping colors separated resulted in very vibrant, contrast-heavy paintings, which made them interesting to viewers.

Henri-Edmond Cross Legacy to the Art World

In 1909, Henri-Edmond was treated for cancer at a hospital in Paris. In 1910, Cross went back to Saint-Clair, where he died just days before his fifty-fourth birthday. Cross painted with a sense of emotion, using rich harmonies and luxuriant visions which were both lighthearted and charming. He was a master of creating pure color harmonies. His vision of happy people in a utopian society is a prevalent theme throughout his works and he was a central figure of change in the world of art.

Some paintings of Henri-Edmond Cross are Iles d’Or (1892), Evening Breeze (1894), The Washerwoman (1896), The Choppy Sea (1903), A Venetian Canal (1905), Afternoon at Pardigon (1907), Cypresses at Cagnes (1908), and Antibes (1908). His paintings can be seen today in United States art museums and European art museums.

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