Henri DETURCK (Bailleul, 1858 – Coutances, 1898)
Oil on canvas
Signed lower right
53 x 50 cm
Exhibition: Salon des Beaux-Arts de Paris de 1895, under No 600
Born of a father weaver and a mother lacemaker (specialized in the “point of Valenciennes”), Henry Deturck grew up among six brothers and sisters. Thanks to a purse of 500 francs that he was given the city of Bailleul, he was able to follow the courses of the School of Fine Arts in Lille, and was then the pupil of Alexandre Cabanel.
He seems to have spent most of his career in Coutances, where he held the position of drawing teacher in the city’s high school, but there are traces of his passage in the Jura, with several views of Poligny, including one made in 1892.
The few other works known to him are scenes of regionalist genre, rather banal, even if they try to recall the atmosphere of the paintings of the brothers Le Nain.
Our painting is of a different interest; he demonstrates remarkable artistic qualities, and exudes an intense presence. Its expressive force is accentuated by the rather tight framing. The work was noticed and greeted by the press. “La Revue du Nord” thus spoke of “a superb head of study”, while another literary and artistic magazine, “Les Enfants du Nord”, underlined this “head of study vigorously removed where is revealed good qualities ” .
This work is an excellent illustration of social realism so popular in this last part of the nineteenth century; our figure is probably that of a vagabond or worker killed by the task, taken in situ at the morgue. The analysis of the pictorial layer reveals that the halo and the signature were added later by the artist, for a presentation at the Salon, to give a sacred dimension to his work, less difficult and more acceptable to the Show jury.
At the side of this man’s head (now Saint), Henry Deturck exhibited another painting at this salon of 1895, The convalescent.
In 1896, he exhibited an Old Norman.
Henri’s brother, Julien Deturck (1862-1941), was a talented engraver, also passed by Cabanel’s studio. In 1888, he won the Grand Prix de Rome intaglio engraving and won numerous awards and medals at the Salon and Universal Exhibitions.