Thursday, 21 November 2013

Henri Guerard, French pioneer printmaker

Henri-Charles Guérard


French painter etcher and printmaker.

As a result of my on going interest in prints and printmakers this French artist emerged from the past and I hope sharing my personal research laced with a choice of  Guérards work will be of interest to readers of this Blog.

Le Palais de Justice, vu du Pont Notre-Dame (1889) edition of 6 prints by August Leperè dedicated to his friend Guérard.

Henri Guerard was born three years before August Lepère (1849-1918), considered the godfather of French and possibly European Modern Printmakers. They were of course acquainted Lepère encouraging Guérard to create prints the new way. (Read here*)

And Guérard became befriended with Éduard Manet (1832-1883) who’s pupil (Manet’s only one), impressionist model and painter Eva Gonzalès (1849-1883) he would marry in 1879. The couple moved to Honfleur in Brittany meeting many of the impressionist painters and etchers. 

I always assumed (dangerous !) the Paris World Exhibition of 1889 was the start of rising interest and influence in and popularity of Japanese printmaking in Europe. 
In 1890 the Ecole des Beaux Arts held an exhibition leaving Felix Valloton (1865-1925) involved in Japonism. His cygnes (swans) a very popular item in the 1890’s and 1910’s dating from 1892 and in next posting I intend hurdling them all together. Guérards swans, below, dated a few years later: 1895.
But well before 1890 I learned Leon Gonse (1846-1921), art historian and director of la Gazette des Beaux Arts, organized exhibitions on Japan art and in 1883 published his most important and influential 2 volume book “ L’Art Japonais” (edition of 1400) and illustrated by his friend Guérard.

Manet considered Guérard the best French aquatint etcher of his time. With Felix Bracquemond (1833-1914) Guérard founded the Societé des Peintres Graveurs in 1890. 

Portraits of Éduard Manet, Whistler and 
Whistler's mother (after the painting) 

Guérard died young dating all his known work before 1897, about the year the first  British, Austrian and German examples were conceived by printmakers like Frank Morley Fletcher (who had studied in Paris), Otto Eckmann, Emil Orlik and of course many others. 

Honfleur harbour.
It is from 1905 onwards a steadily growing stream of prints by a growing number of artists influenced by and/or printing in "the Japanese way' can be traced but in that last decade of the 19th century there obviously was much more going on in this field then I’d imagined before.
 Tiger head and print of a monkey's hand 

Eva Gonzalès died from an embolism giving birth to their sun Jean, six days after her teacher and friend Manet passed away. This lovely painting “le Chignon” (the Bun) is by her. Guérard married her sister Jeanne a few years later. Left little Jean Guérard's portrait  by his father.

Guérard with Jean Francois Raffaelli (1850-1924) are considered the pioneers of aquatint etching. 

Etching by Guérard of Hokusai's chess players

With Lepère, Guérard preceded and stood at the very beginning of the first “generation” of French Modern Printmakers: Felix Valloton, Henri Rivière (1864-1951), Jacques Beltrand (1874-1977), Amadee Joyau (1873-1913), Jules Chadel (1870-1942), Henri Amedee-Wetter (1869-1929 and Prosper Alphonse Isaac (1858-1924)
Guérard at work. 

Read here* and here* in "Adventures in the print trade" on Lepère, Raffaelli and Guérard.

All pictures borrowed freely from the Internet for friendly, educational and non commercial use only. 


  1. So pleased to see Henri Guérard getting due attention - a wonderful etcher and a modest man. Besides his own original work, he was a very sensitive interpretative etcher, including some fine etchings after Manet. Guérard's etching after Hokusai always makes me laugh.

    1. Neil, I stumbled over the swans woodblock and was amazed about the date of creation. My internet "research" leading me, as often before, to your postings. Of course. He's an etcher to go looking out for (I will !) It's great fun putting all these facts, bits and pieces together, creating more understanding. I learn so much this way.

    2. Guerard is one of the most creative and avant gardist french artist of 19em century

    3. Thank you for leaving a comment but: according to, or says, whom ?

  2. I find Henry Guerard awe-inspiring. Its incredible the beauty that came from the artist. For Whistler to allow him the honor to do several plates - signifies his presences in the Art World. See his beautiful Le Printemps after Sandro Boccelli simply spectacular

    Enjoy link