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 Henry Bacon  (1839 - 1912)

About: Henry Bacon
 

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Lived/Active: Massachusetts / France      Known for: genre, figure, portrait and landscape painting, illustration

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Henry Bacon
from Auction House Records.
Beach at Etretat
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:

HENRY BACON

Known for both his accurately painted genre scenes and his watercolor renderings of views of Normandy and Egypt, Henry Bacon was born in Haverhill, Massachusetts in 1839.  He served in the Union Army during the Civil War, was badly wounded, and discharged so that he and his wife were able to travel to Paris in 1864.  That October the two stayed in Brittany.  Robert Wylie spotted the couple two years later in a restaurant and described Bacon as “a handsome fellow of about our age of twenty with long, dark hair and a generally artistic aspect.”  Bacon must have been well versed in the French language, history and culture, for he was admitted to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts; one of his teachers there was Alexandre Cabanel.  Moreover, he rubbed shoulders with Thomas Eakins in Gérôme’s atelier.  At that time, Bacon earned money by writing “penny-a-liners” for Boston newspapers.  In 1866 he was in Ecouen, studying with Edouard Frère.  Bacon exhibited no fewer than thirty-one paintings at the Paris Salon between 1867 and 1896.  These include genre works, historical scenes and shipboard subjects.  One example of the latter is an accident at sea: Steamer Taking a Pilot from 1885 (location unknown). Bacon also exhibited at the National Academy of Design (1872-83). The Quilting Party (Jo Ann and Julian Ganz, Jr.), which Bacon shipped from Paris, was part of the NAD’s 1872 show.

One popular work in the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition of 1876 was Bacon’s Boston Boys and General Gage, 1775 (Dimock Gallery, George Washington University), in which American children protest the encroachment of British soldiers upon their sledding areas.  Dwyer and Miller (1995) explain that “the children’s plight [was] a metaphor for the larger struggle of the colonists.”  In 1878 Bacon’s Land! Land! (perhaps the picture in the collection of John I. H. Baur) was on view at the Exposition Universelle in Paris.  When the French impressionists came upon the scene, Bacon assumed they were “afflicted with some hitherto unknown disease of the eye; for they neither see form nor color as other painters have given them to us, or as nature appears to all who do not belong to this association.”  Such a sober, meticulously accurate painter as Bacon could not understand “green or violet flesh,” purple trees and blue lawns.  Starting in 1895 Bacon limited his activity to the watercolor medium and he began to visit exotic locales, such as Egypt, Ceylon and Greece.  An example of this genre is Bacon’s A Street in Cairo (1905; Worcester Art Museum). Around 1900 the Bacons moved to London.  Mrs. Bacon published Our Houseboat on the Nile in 1902 and her husband died in Cairo in 1912.
   
Sources:
Bacon, [Laurie] Lee Bacon. Our Houseboat on the Nile. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1902; Smithsonian Institution, National Gallery of Art. Catalogue of a Memorial Exhibition of Water Colors by Henry Bacon. Washington, DC, 1931; Williams, Hermann Warner. Mirror to the American Past: A Survey of American Genre Painting: 1750-1900. Greenwich, CT: New York Graphic Society, 1973, pp. 210-212; Hoopes, Donelson F. and Nancy Wall Moure. American Narrative Painting. Los Angeles, CA: Los Angeles County Museum, in association with Praeger Publishers, 1974, pp. 154-155; American Genre Painting in the Victorian Era: Winslow Homer, Eastman Johnson and Their Contemporaries. New York: Hirschl and Adler, 1978, cat. no. 2.; Junkin, Sarah Caldwell. “The Europeanization of Henry Bacon (1839-1912),” Diss., Boston University, 1986; American Traditions in Watercolor. The Worcester Art Museum Collections. Ed. Susan E. Strickler. New York: Abbeville, Press, 1987, pp. 118-125; Zellman, Michael David. 300 Years of American Art. Secaucus, NJ: Wellfleet Press, 1987, p. 301; Holzer, Harold and Mark E. Neely, Jr. Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory: The Civil War in Art. New York: Orion Books, 1993, pp. 262-264, 294-295; Ackerman, Gerald. Les orientalistes de l’école américaine. Paris: ACR Edition Internationale, 1994, pp. 14-15; Dwyer, Margaret Swallow and Lenore D. Miller. “Henry Bacon: Victorian Sentiment and American History Painting.” American Art Review 7 (1995): 82-85.

Submitted by Michael Preston Worley, Ph.D.


This biography from the Archives of AskART:
A figure painter in the conservative tradition of the late 19th century French, Henry Bacon is associated primarily with watercolors of scenes of Normandy and Egypt.  Many of his landscapes have figures, well drawn and often romanticized bucolic, peasant types.

He was also one of the first Americans to be admitted to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris and became a promoter of the use of watercolor in pure washes, without opaque coloration. He also showed his genius for Impressionist effects of weather and light, particularly on reflective surfaces such as water.

Not much is known from his early life except that he was born in Haverhill, Massachusetts, and enlisted in the United States Army to serve in the Civil War where he was also a field artist for Leslie's Weekly.

Wounded quite severely, he left the War in 1864 and went to Paris with his wife Lizzie. He studied under Alexandre Cabanel and in 1866, Edouard Frère took Bacon on as his student.  From these men, both conservative academics, Bacon learned to paint in oils with a highly smooth finish with softly outlined figures and rich colors.  But in 1895, he turned almost exclusively to watercolor for which he earned much acclaim.

In Ecouen, Bacon and Frere painted many scenes of the French countryside together.  In his lucid and virtuoso watercolors, Bacon showed his stylistic affinities to Winslow Homer and Pierre-Auguste Renoir.  For many years, he exhibited paintings at the salons of Paris and at the National Academy of Design of which he was a member.

Sources:
Website of Comenos Fine Art and 300 Years of American Art by Michael David Zellman.


Biography from VALLEJO GALLERY, LLC, Marine Art Specialists:
A well-traveled artist, painter Henry Bacon is best known for his watercolor depictions of life on the French coast of Normandie.  He is also noted for his varied figure paintings composed at the locales of London, Italy, Ceylon, Greece and Egypt.

Bacon did not start with a brush in hand.  Born in Haverhill, Massachusetts in 1839, history records him as U.S. army soldier during the civil war.  On the battlefields he fashioned his first known artistry, doing sketches for Leslie’s Weekly.  Wounded seriously in the war, Bacon left the military and America, journeying with his wife Lizzie to Paris in 1864.

One of the first Americans admitted to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, he was instructed by Alexander Cabanel and, later, by Edouard Frere.  Taught in the conservative French academic tradition to work with oils, he soon began to experiment with cropping effects, oblique angles and unusual compositions.  He followed this with his advanced explorations with watercolors.  Added to his preferred inclination to paint detailed human subjects involved with their environs, Bacon helped to popularize the idea of the shipboard subject.  These images were favored within his exhibitions in Paris salons and New York city’s National Academy of Design.

Biography from Boca Raton Museum of Art:
Henry Bacon (American 1939-1912)
Expatriate American artist

A figure painter in the tradition of the late 19th century French tradition, Henry Bacon is associated primarily with watercolors of scenes of Normandy and Egyptian.  Many of his landscapes have figures, well drawn and often romanticized bucolic, peasant types.

He was also one of the first Americans to be admitted to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris and became a promoter of the use of watercolor in pure washes, without opaque coloration.  He also showed his genius for Impressionist effects of weather and light, particularly on reflective surfaces such as water.

Not much is known from his early life except that he was born in Haverhill, Massachusetts, and enlisted in the United States Army to serve in the Civil War where he was also a field artist for Leslie's Weekly.

Wounded quite severely, he left the War in 1864 and went to Paris with his wife Lizzie.  He studied under Alexandre Cabanel and in 1866, Edouard Frere took Bacon on as his student.  From these men, both conservative academics, Bacon learned to paint in oils with a highly smooth finish with softly outlined figures and rich colors.  But in 1895, he turned almost exclusively to watercolor for which he earned much acclaim.

In Ecouen, Bacon and Frere painted many scenes of the French countryside together.  In his lucid and virtuoso watercolors, Bacon showed his stylistic affinities to Winslow Homer and Pierre-Auguste Renoir.  For many years, he exhibited paintings at the salons of Paris and at the National Academy of Design of which he was a member.

His paintings are amongst the holdings of major museums across the U.S., including Bostons Museum of Fine Arts., 11 Bacons in the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

By The Boca Raton Museum of Art
Catalina Torres (Intern)

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