Henry Moret was a French artist, who although was a prolific painter in oils and watercolors, did not get full recognition for his Impressionist works until long after his death. He was a well-known participant of the Pont- Aven group headed by Paul Gauguin, yet he branched out on his own, discovering his own 'best' style in his later years. Although the main area of attraction for Gauguin’s artist friends was Pont-Aven, the group soon took up residence at times in Pouldu, following to where Moret had begun to frequent.
Moret was born on December 12, 1856, in the city of Cherbourg. His personal life before his time spent in the French military is completely devoid of details. Around the year 1875 he was based in Lorient, in Brittany, and due to the insight of his commander, Jules La Villette, his life changed. Villette noticed the potential Moret had as an artist and took it upon himself to introduce Moret to a marine artist and drawing instructor who had a studio in the town. Ernest Corroller was the artist’s name, and he spent a year with Moret teaching him the Realist and the Barbizon school en plein air methods of landscape painting based on works by French artists like Gustave Courbet and Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot , but very importantly, he introduced Moret to marine painting.
In 1876 Moret was ready to take on higher courses in art lessons in Paris, and so he enrolled in École des Beaux-Arts. There he studied under Jean-Léon Gérôme, Rudolf Lehmann and Jean-Paul Laurens, and he was able to participate in the 1880 Paris Salon with his The Beach at Locqueltas at Low Tide: Coast of Brittany. It wasn’t until 1888 that Monet decided to go to Pont-Aven, the artist colony, where he met several artists, including Paul Gauguin, who was the most important artist there due to his influence for encouraging bold use of colors and the use of Symbolism.
After Gauguin’s problems with Vincent van Gogh, Gauguin left France in 1891, and Moret was able to ease his way out from under that influence and develop his own natural artistic styles. By 1895 Moret had met and made an arrangement with art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel, a prominent and well-established international gallery owner. Impressionism paintings were very popular, and due to Moret’s exhibits in Durand-Ruel’s galleries and Moret’s ability to keep up with the demand, he did quite well. He supplied numerous artworks, as many as 600 completed oil paintings for Durand-Ruel, and there were additionally over 800 charcoal drawings and watercolors that he made as practice, or as studies, which he kept.
His style changed again somewhat after the 1900s, differing even more from the Pont-Aven artists whom he still met with in Brittany; he stopped using broad brush strokes and instead added small paint flecks for a more unique approach. His later works are described as a fusion of the methods of Impressionism and what can be called the ‘Pont-Aven Syntheticism’. What did not change was his love of the marine scenery off of the coast of Brittany. It is where Moret traveled regularly when not in Paris. His paintings after 1900 lost their small figures and concentrated more on the weather and seasons on the coast, especially the light effects due to the atmospheric events there.
Henry Moret continued to paint his marine scenes almost to the end of his life, participating often in the Salon d’Automne exhibitions between the years of 1903 and 1911. He passed away on May 5, 1913, not on his beloved coast of Brittany, but in Paris. He did not achieve the notoriety of some of the other artists that he’d started out with, but his many wonderful artworks are an achievement that will always continue to be well appreciated by art connoisseurs.