Henri Gervex

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Henri Gervex

Henri Gervex (Paris 10 December 1852 – 7 June 1929) was a French painter who studied painting under Alexandre Cabanel, Pierre-Nicolas Brisset and Eugène Fromentin. [1][2]


"Rolla", 1878

His early work belonged almost exclusively to the mythological genre, which served as an excuse for the painting of the nude, but not always in the best of taste. His Rolla of 1878, based on a poem by Alfred de Musset, was rejected by the jury of the Salon de Paris for immorality, since it depicted a scene from the poem of a naked prostitute after having sex with her client.

Gervex was one of the famous courtesan Valtesse de La Bigne's many lovers. Their relationship was long and deep with Gervex including the golden haired beauty in his piece of art called the civil marriage of 1881. Valtesse De la Bigne is dressed from head to toe in blue, her favourite colour as it symbolises royalty, standing beside a dark haired man with a moustache in the painting.

Gervex afterwards devoted himself to representations of modern life and achieved signal success with his Dr Péan at the Salpétrière ("The Operation"), a modernized paraphrase, as it were, of Rembrandt's Anatomy Lesson.[3]


A Session of the Painting Jury, c. 1883. This painting was used as the cover art for the 1999 recording of Modest Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, recorded by Philharmonia Orchestra.

He was entrusted with several important official paintings and the decoration of public buildings. Among the first are The Distribution of Awards (1889) at the Palais de l'Industrie, The Coronation of Nicolas II, The Mayors' Banquet (1900), and the portrait group La République Française; and among the second, the ceiling for the Salle des Fêtes (ballroom) at the Hôtel de Ville, Paris, and the decorative panels painted in conjunction with Emile-Henri Blanchon for the mairie of the 19th arrondissement, Paris. He also painted, with Alfred Stevens, a panorama, The History of the Century (1889). The Musée du Luxembourg holds his painting Satyr Sporting with a Bacchante, as well as the large Members of the Jury of the Salon (1885). Other pictures of importance, besides numerous portraits in oils and pastel, are Communion at Trinity Church, Return from the Ball, Diana and Endymion, Job, Civil Marriage, At the Ambassadeurs, Yachting in the Archipelago, Nana and Maternity.[4]

In 1913 he was elected to the Académie des Beaux-Arts.



  1. ^ ´"Gervex, Henri". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
  2. ^ Benezit Dictionary of Artists
  3. ^ "Henri Gervex". www.artrenewal.org.
  4. ^ RKD


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