Most tourists never set foot into one of Paris' loveliest single-artist collections, the Musée Nationale Jean-Jacques Henner. This is a shame: not only does the museum house a sublime permanent exhibit of the French painter and portraitist's singular work; it's set in a 19th-century mansion that's one of the only privately owned houses open to the public in the French capital. In addition to admiring the classically inspired artworks of the under-appreciated Henner-- some 2,200 paintings, drawings, sketches, sculptures, and objects from his daily life--visitors can also visit the artist's onsite studio, learning more about how he worked.
Who Was Jean-Jacques Henner?
Born in the northern French (and periodically German) region of Alsace in 1829, Henner was a bit of an iconoclast: he can't be easily slotted into a single school of art or movement. He was at once a classicist who worked to revive, in his paintings, some of the techniques of Italian and Dutch masters of centuries past-- including chiaroscuro-- and a (fringe) contributor to the Impressionist movement, which most critics found deeply shocking and distasteful in its early years.
Having studied at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris before training as an apprentice in Rome, Henner had a deep interest in classical subjects such as Biblical scenes and realistic portraiture in the tradition of great Dutch masters like Rembrandt. But he also pushed the envelope of taste with sensual scenery and voluptuous nudes, such as the famed painting "The Chaste Susannah". His landscape paintings, including one of Mount Vesuvius in Italy, sometimes offered up a bold, impressionistic view of the world.
More renowned and well-known during his time than he is now, Henner won several awards and accolades from the French art establishment over his lifetime, including the Legion of Honor.
Museum Location and Contact Information
Situated in a quiet, lush corner of the residential 17th arrondissement (district) of Paris, the museum is well out of the way of the bustling city center, offering a getaway from noise, commotions, and crowds.
You can make an entire morning afternoon or afternoon of your visit by taking a stroll at the leafy Parc Monceau just down the street-- whose green lanes and formal gardens have, incidentally, inspired many painters and writers over the years.
43 avenue de Villiers, 17th arrondissement
Metro: Malesherbes (Line 3), Wagram (Line 3), or Monceau (Line 2); RER Line C (Pereire station)
Tel : +33 (0)1 47 63 42 73
Opening Hours and Tickets
The museum is open every day of the week except for Tuesday, from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm. It also closes its doors on major French public/bank holidays, including Christmas Day and Bastille Day (July 14th).
Admission Prices: Visitors can consult current ticket prices for this museum here. Admission is free for all visitors under 18, and for European Union passport-holders under the age of 26. For the rest of us, entry to the permanent collection is free on the first Sunday of every month-- and during the annual European Heritage Days event, held each September over two days.
Sights and Attractions Nearby to Explore
- Parc Monceau
- Exploring the Chic, Arty Passy Neighborhood
- The Batignolles District: An Impressionist Hotbed
The Permanent Collection: Highlights to Look Out For
The museum is home to the world's largest permanent collection of Henner's early work, from his youthful experiments to his increasingly ambitious works painted while he was an apprentice at the Villa Medici in Rome, Italy. It also includes works from his later period and his final Parisian years.
The collection offers visitors an intimate glimpse into the artist's complex techniques, showing how some of his most beautiful works evolved from out of sketches and drawings, as well as replicas.
Among some of the most beautiful works within the collection are ones depicting religious scenes, such as"Christ With Donors" (circa 1896-1902) which Henner created using classical techniques, stitching together three separate pieces of canvas to form the composition.
Scenes from history and from familiar Western myths are evident in sublime works such as "Andromeda" (1880), whose sumptuous golden palette and figurative rendering of the female body is reminiscent of Gustave Klimt;
Henner's gorgeous portraits, self-portraits, and nudes-- including a striking study for "Herodias", "The Lady With an Umbrella (Portrait of Madame X)" and a replica of a self-portrait held at the Uffizi Museum in Florence (pictured above) form a large part of the collection, as do landscapes of Italy and Alsace that fuse classical and Impressionist techniques to rare effect.
Finally, visitors can get a more intimate sense of the artist's daily life by viewing artifacts that belonged to Henner, including furniture, costumes, painting equipment, and other objects.
Where Else to See Henner's Works in Paris?
In addition to the extensive collection at the Henner Museum, several of the Alsatian artist's most iconic paintings are on permanent display at the Musée d'Orsay: these include "The Chaste Susannah", "The Reader", "Feminine Nudes", and "Jesus in his Tomb". In short: if you're a fan, there's more in store for you during your visit.