Henri Edmond Cross

Henri Edmond Cross

Cross was born Henri-Edmond Delacroix, the child of an adventurer and failed businessman, Alcide Delacroix, and the English-born Fanny Woollett. He adopted the English version of his surname in 1881 to avoid working in the shadow of his famous namesake Eugène Delacroix. Cross studied with Alphonse Colas at the Ecoles Académiques de Dessin et d’Architecture in Lille from 1878-81 and in Paris with Emile Dupont-Zipcy in the early 1880s.

In 1884 Cross helped to found the Societé des Artistes Indépendants and became friends with many of the Neo-Impressionists. From the mid-1880s he lightened his palette, began to paint en plein air and concentrated on landscapes. In 1891 he showed his first Neo-Impressionist work at the Indépendants, a portrait of his future wife Mme HF (Musée d’Orsay, Paris). The same year he moved to the South of France, settling in Saint-Clair near St Tropez where he lived for the rest of his life; Signac moved there in 1892.

In the early and mid-1890s Cross painted seascapes and peasant scenes. Over a densely painted ground he placed round touches in rows and mixed colours with white to express the hot light of the Midi. The sinuous silhouettes of The farm, 1898 (private collection) reflect the influence of Art Nouveau and Japanese prints.

In the mid-1890s, working with Signac, Cross adopted larger, block-like strokes to create a mosaic-like surface. This ‘second’ Neo-Impressionist style inspired Matisse and the other Fauves to visit the South of France at the beginning of the twentieth century. Cross’s late seascapes introduced nymphs and fauns, mythological figures that haunted the Classical South.

Politically, Cross sympathized with the Anarchists and in the 1890s contributed illustrations to Jean Grave’s Anarchist publication Temps nouveaux. Eye problems and arthritis curtailed his work in the last decade of his life, but he had important one-man shows at Galerie Druet in 1905 and Bernheim-Jeune in 1907, leading to greater recognition both by buyers and critics. Poised to reap the fruits of his success, he alas died at Saint-Clair on 16th May 1910.