Of all the artists through the ages who have made Paris their home, I’ve always been curious to know how a certain number ended up with their own museums. From Moreau and Rodin to Zadkine and Bourdelle, it seems such an immense feat to take an artist’s studio home and to transform it, along with a sizable collection that somehow hasn’t been sold or lost over time, into a museum that endures to this day.
The volatility of the art world, the demand for Paris real estate and the general passage of time all thwart potential artist museums in one way or another. So it’s always a pleasure to come across a specialised individual museum like the Musée National Jean-Jacques Henner, intact and thriving in the heart of Paris.
Jean-Jacques Henner was a 19th-century French painter who specialised in dramatic, brooding portraits using chiarascuro techniques that contrast light and shadow. His works feature many nudes and close-up portraits, in hues of deep blue, green and red. The museum dedicated to his work is a tranquil space in a quiet part of the 17th arrondissement, near Monceau.
But the Musée National Jean-Jacques Henner doesn’t just exist thanks to a series of fortunate events; there was no luck involved in the collection and mansion surviving together through the 20th and 21st centuries to become the museum we see today. Rather, the museum was a long-term passion project of Henner’s niece by marriage, Marie Henner. In 1921, Marie purchased the home of another former painter, Guillaume Dubufe, and set about converting the mansion on the avenue de Villiers into a museum filled with Henner’s portraits.
The passion and dedicated required from Marie Henner to create such a museum makes the Musée Henner all the more charming to behold. If only every artist who made Paris their home had a devoted relative who could do the same.