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Henri-Edmond Cross

French Painter and Printmaker

Henri-Edmond Cross Photo
Movement: Neo-Impressionism

Born: May 20, 1856 - Douai, Nord, France

Died: May 16, 1910 - Saint-Clair, Var, France

"Oh! What I saw in a split second while riding my bike tonight! I just had to jot down these fleeting things ... a rapid notation in watercolor and pencil: an informal daubing of contrasting colors, tones, and hues, all packed with information to make a lovely watercolor the next day in the quiet leisure of the studio."

Henri-Edmond Cross Signature

Summary of Henri-Edmond Cross

One of the foremost practitioners of Neo-Impressionism, Henri-Edmond Cross produced an array of work in the final two decades of his life that played a pivotal role in the development of early twentieth century modernist painting. Initially drawn to naturalism and then Impressionism, he eventually adoped the Pointillist technique pioneered by his friend Georges Seurat, the leader of the Neo-Impressionists. However, the strict precepts of Pointillism did not appeal to Cross's predisposition for individual expression and, alongside Paul Signac, he began to develop a Neo-Impressionist technique that was more intensely colorful and varied in its application. The abstracted forms and dazzling colors that the artist displays in these paintings promptly paved the way for Fauvism.

Key Ideas

Cross initiated a second phase of Neo-Impressionism in the 1890s, replacing the Pointillist technique of small dots with larger, square-like brushstrokes that produce a greater intensity of color on the canvas. Not only did this provide the artists with the scope to develop their own expressive styles (Neo-Impressionists such as Paul Signac had become weary of the lack of individuality in Pointillist pictures), but it also placed more emphasis on the decorative qualities of the image.
Cross's use of non-local color and distorted forms produces images that are dreamlike and poetic rather than naturalistic. The rich, intense hues of his elongated brushstrokes, a technique that treats color as an entity in its own right, greatly influenced the Fauvist paintings of Henri Matisse, thus contributing to the development of twentieth-century modernist painting.
Utopian anarchist ideology contributed to the imagery and iconography Cross used in his work throughout his career. The depiction in his early paintings of peasants co-existing in sparse and unspoiled rural settings devoid of urban trappings reflects a sentimental anarchist vision of life in the countryside where people live together in harmony away from the corruption of the city. These themes continued in his subsequent Neo-Impressionist paintings with his use of colorful decorative forms and classical motifs, encouraging the viewer to identify such poetic beauty with an idyllic anarchist society.
Henri-Edmond Cross Photo

Born in the commune of Douai in northern France, Henri-Edmond Cross (nee Henri-Edmond-Joseph Delacroix) was the only child of Alcide Delacroix and Fanny Woollett. The family lived in Douai until 1865, when they moved to city of Lille, near the Belgian border in northern France. While there, Dr. Auguste Soins, a cousin of his father, noticed Cross's artistic talent and helped finance drawing lessons with Carolus-Duran, a Realist painter who lived nearby and who had taught John Singer Sargent. Cross studied under Duran for only a year before moving to Paris in 1875 to study briefly with François Bonvin, before returning again to Lille to study under Alphonse Colas at the Écoles Académiques de Dessin et d'Architecture in 1878. By 1881 he had moved back to Paris, where he enrolled at the École des Beaux-Arts to work with Emile Dupont-Zipcy, another artist who originally came from Lille.

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