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Henry Bismuth

(b. 1961)

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Biography

In 1964, at the age of three, Henry Bismuth began drawing. Recognizing and encouraging his interest, his Father took him regularly to the Louvre where he became familiar with the work of European artists as well as Egyptian, Greek and other of the ancients. At the age of twelve, he was given a book on Japanese blockprints. Becoming fascinated with the subject, he began to collect related books and catalogues.

In 1979, he visited the United States for the first time and spent considerable time atmuseums in New York City and Washington, DC. It was in the National Gallery in Washington, DC, that he fell in love with Rubens’ “Daniel in the Lions’ Den.” When he returned home to France, he began studying on his own the work of Rubens, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Velasquez, Gericault, and Delacroix.

From 1979 to 1986, he was a student at the Faculte de Medecine Xavier Bichat, Paris VII, France. Coming from a family of medical doctors, it was understood that he would undertake medical studies.

In 1985, he married and his first son was born.

In 1986, at the end of his next to final year, Henry Bismuth left medical school realizing that medicine was not his path. He, then, dedicated his life to his passion, painting and drawing. From then to 1988, he studied art extensively on his own. He discovered different artistic traditions and pictorial worlds. It was during this period that his life was forever changed. It was impacted by the discovery over a six-month period in New York City of the paintings of American artists: John Singer Sargent, Thomas Eakins, Robert Henri, Georgia O’Keeffe, Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, Robert Motherwell, and Andrew Wyeth. Shortly after this, his interest expanded to modern and contemporary art although in his first paintings the influence of Japan remained dominant.

In December, 1988, his first two one-man shows were held. One was in Paris, the other in Brussels. His interest in Kabuki – one form of Japanese theater – served as a base to present his vision of life. Thereafter, he took part in collective exhibitions in France, Russia, Spain, Japan, and Denmark. Also, during this period, he began his exploration into different mediums – oil and watercolor – and started to work extensively on assemblages.

In the Spring of 1990, Galerie Ariane in Paris held a major exhibition of his new paintings and assemblages.

In 1992, two years later, Galerie Ariane presented a new body of his work which showed his ability to experiment and innovate. As Japanese references began to shed their importance, everyday life assumed precedence. Whatever he encountered became art and part of his painting.

In 1994, Galerie Ariane exhibited his first paintings of corvids surprising his audience and patrons alike. Corvids had intertwined with his life and become the seed of an important theme shortly after the conclusion of his prior show when they invaded and over populated his neighborhood.

In 1994, he received an award in recognition of his excellence at the Salon des Artistes Naturaliste in Brysur Marne, France.

One year later, in 1995, “The Raven,” the largest of his paintings on corvids, was selected to be exhibited in the Woodson Art Museum in Wausau, Wisconsin as part of their twenty-fifth anniversary celebration of Birds in Art, which is held annually. “The Raven” subsequently became part of their permanent collection. With this show, his exhibitions in the United States began.

By the end of 1995, he completed a painting of magpies commissioned by the Newcastle Football Club in the United Kingdom.

In April, 1996, he was invited by the Woodson Art Museum to show in what became the final edition of their biennial exhibition, “Wildlife: The Artist’s View.” This trip to the United States influenced his future direction initiating an intense period of reflection. He changed his way of doing and seeing things. His choices became different. His interests were in the transformation of what is living, the transmutation of matter. He became aware of the passage of time, of what was lasting and what was ephemeral. He began an intense period of drawing from the figure using various models. He painted birds and unusual still-lifes.

In the Fall of 1996, the Musee Histoire de Naturelle in Paris organized their first exhibition of “Contemporary Naturalism.” Three of his largest corvid paintings were shown for the occasion and a detail of one of them served as the image for both the invitation and the show’s poster.

From December, 1997 through January, 1998, he had his first one-man show entitled “Crows and Flying Pumpkins” at Galerie 23 in Barbizon, France. This exhibition was his first personal show since Galerie Ariane in 1994 and reflected the new direction of his work.

From September, 1995, when he had his first show at the Woodson Art Museum in Wisconsin and the end of 1998, he had sixteen group shows in various United States museums including in Wyoming, Florida, Illinois, Maine, Minnesota, Texas, Ohio, and one in Canada.

From the international exhibition, “Ocean and Other Images,” at the Gallery Petronas inKuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 1999, through Spring, 2001, his time was devoted to his studies. He was interested in how we think and translating that juxtaposition of ideas and images into his paintings. He noticed how recurrent images were entering his work and realized how interesting it became to link all the different themes together even though there was no apparent connection. This resulted in his production of unique individual paintings composed of multiple images.

From then till the end of 2007, his work became increasingly autobiographical. Rather than painting linearly one series after another of the same subject, he worked spirally with one series simultaneously enriching another. In October, 2007, he was awarded second place at the 21st Prix de Peinture in Saint Grégoire, France, for two of his paintings.

After several years’ absence, in the Spring of 2008, on a visit to New York City, he reconnected with past and contemporary American art. He felt rejuvenated just as he had when he first experienced it fourteen years prior.

During the next two-year period, he commuted between Paris and New York City, where he was spending increasingly more time. His focus was less on painting than on conceptualization. His work was undergoing a major shift. We now see emerging something new as the means became at his disposal to attain his purpose. The combination of painterly conceptual and poetic maneuvering was what shaped his process now.

In 2009, he started to exhibit his paintings with Gerald Peters Gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico. By the end of that year, he had had thirty-five group shows at museums in the United States.

From November 30th through December 5th, 2010, he exhibited at “Arts for a Better World,” Art Basel Miami Week.

In late 2010, he created Turtles & Ravens, a business partnership with Susan C. Beer.