Henri Regnault - Encyclopedia

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HENRI REGNAULT (1843-1871), French painter, born at Paris on the 31st October 1843, was the son of Henri Victor Regnault. On leaving school he successively entered the studios of Montfort, Lamothe and Cabanel, was beaten for the Grand Prix (1863) by Layraud and Montchablon, and in 1864 exhibited two portraits in no wise remarkable at the Salon. In 1866, however, he carried off the Grand Prix with a work of unusual force and distinction - "Thetis bringing the Arms forged by Vulcan to Achilles" (School of the Fine Arts). The past in Italy did not touch him, but his illustrations to Wey's Rome show how observant he was of actual life and manners; even his "Automedon" (School of Fine Arts), executed in obedience to Academical regulations, was but a lively recollection of a carnival horse-race. At Rome, moreover, Regnault came into contact with the modern Hispano-Italian school, a school highly materialistic and inclined to regard even the human subject only as one amongst many sources whence to obtain amusement for the eye. The vital, if narrow, energy of this school told on Regnault with ever-increasing force during the few remaining years of his life. In 1868 he had sent to the Salon a life-size portrait of a lady in which he had made one of the first attempts to render the actual character of fashionable modern life. While making a tour in Spain, he saw Prim pass at the head of his troops, and received that lively image of a military demagogue which he afterwards put on canvas, somewhat to the displeasure of his subject. But this work made an appeal to the imagination of the public, whilst all the later productions of Regnault were addressed exclusively to the eye. After a further flight to Africa, abridged by the necessities of his position as a pensioner of the school of Rome, he painted "Judith," then (1870) "Salome," and, as a work due from the Roman school, despatched from Tangier the large canvas, "Execution without Hearing under the Moorish Kings," in which the painter had played with the blood of the victim as if he were a jeweller toying with rubies. The war arose, and found Regnault foremost in the devoted ranks of Buzenval, where he fell on the 19th of January 1871.

See Correspondance de H. Regnault; Duparc, H. Regnault, sa vie et son oeuvre; Cazalis, H. Regnault, 1843-1871; Bailliere, Les Artistes de mon temps; C. Blanc, H. Regnault; P. Mantz, Gazette des Beaux Arts (1872).

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