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Thomas Henri Joseph

1878 – Brussels – 1972

Belgian Painter

Lady with a Blue Hat

Signature: signed top right 'Henri Thomas'
Medium: oil on canvas
Dimensions: image 71 x 48 cm, frame size 93 x 70,5 cm

Henri Joseph Thomas was a distinguished Belgian artist known for his contributions to genre, portrait, and still life painting, as well as sculpture and etching. A prominent figure of the Belgian School, Thomas’s work reflects the elegance and complexity of the Belle Époque and the interbellum periods.

Born in Sint-Jans-Molenbeek in June 1878, Thomas demonstrated an early affinity for the arts. His formal education began at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, where he studied from 1895 until 1898. Upon completing his studies, Thomas established his studio in Brussels and initially gained recognition as an illustrator of avant-garde books. His artistic repertoire expanded to include marine paintings, floral still lifes, and portraits of elegant ladies, marked by his distinct style and thematic depth.

Thomas’s career took a significant turn with the presentation of “Vénus de bar” at the Godecharle contest in 1909, a pivotal moment that showcased his talent to a broader audience. Throughout the Belle Époque, he exhibited his works at prestigious venues such as the Cercle Artistique et Littéraire in Brussels (1906, 1909, and 1921) and the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts in Paris (1906-1910). His affiliation with the Labeur society for fine artists further established his presence in the art community, with annual exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Arts in Brussels between 1898 and 1907.

Thomas’s artistic oeuvre is characterized by his vivid depictions of nightlife scenes and portraits of women. His work often explored themes of decadence, temptation, adultery, and prostitution, echoing the provocative style of Belgian painter and etcher Félicien Rops. His painting “The Star (l’Etoile)” was notably exhibited at the Museum of Ixelles and the Triennale of Liège in 1928, further cementing his reputation. His palette is dominated by rich tones of green and warm reds, enhancing the emotional and visual impact of his subjects.

In addition to painting, Thomas was an accomplished illustrator. His collaboration with authors such as Louis Didier (under the pseudonym Luis d’Herdy) for “L’Homme-sirène” in 1898 marked the beginning of his illustrative career. He continued to create memorable illustrations for works like “La muse” in 1909, “La toison de Phryné” in 1913 by Théodore Hannon, “Du coeur aux lèvres” by Lucien Solvay, and “Les Diaboliques” by Jules Barbey d’Aurevilly. His engravings also featured in the acclaimed series “La Gravure Originale Belge,” which included portfolios of original engravings published between 1924 and 1939.

Henri Thomas’s work can easily be seen as an ode to womanhood. His depictions of women are imbued with a sense of admiration and complexity, capturing their elegance, allure, and multifaceted nature. Through his art, he celebrated the beauty and mystery of women, making them the central figures of his creative expression.

Throughout his life, Thomas resided in Brussels, living at Rue Hydraulique 44 around 1907 before moving to Rue du Berceau 28 during the interbellum period. Henri Joseph Thomas passed away in Brussels on November 22, 1972, leaving behind a legacy of artistic innovation and a body of work that continues to be celebrated for its beauty and complexity.

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