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Born in Valenciennes, Henri Harpignies did not start to paint seriously until the age of 27 when he became a student of the landscapist, Jean Achard. Under Achard’s tutelage he travelled to Holland, Brussels and Flanders to study the Northern landscape painters of the 17th century.

In 1852 he returned to France to establish his own studio in Paris and met the artists Gerome, Hamon and Corot. A year later he moved outside of Paris to continue his outdoor painting. It was also in 1853 that he made his Salon debut. From 1853 to 1856, influenced by the Barbizon painters and Constant Troyon in particular, Harpignies experimented with figurative compositions, but after that time he devoted himself to landscapes. He made one last trip to Italy and then returned to Paris where he continued to exhibit at the Salon. Between 1869 and 1879 he spent his summers at Herisson, where he led a group known as the Ecole d’Herisson.

Continually travelling throughout France during his long career, Henri Harpignies was never exclusively a member of one group. He died in Saint-Privie having won the Legion d'Honneur and the Grand Prix at the Exposition Universelle of 1900.

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