Who was Henri Pinta?

GO HERE for the WIKIPEDIA Entry . ( This seems to be the only source I can trace of the basic details of his life and work.)

Those of us who are interested in Henri  Pinta are greatly indebted to to Suzanne Arzoumanian-Soulé, whose research is absolutely invaluable for understanding this painter. See   Henri Pinta (Marseille 1856-Paris 1944) : Vie et œuvre, mémoire de maîtrise soutenu en 2002 à Aix-en-Provence.  Sadly, I have yet to obtain a copy to read. 


Henri Marius Ludovic Pinta was born in Marseille in 1856 and lived a long life - dying in Paris in 1944 aged 88.

Pinta achieved fame initially by winning the Prix de Rome in 1884.  He was to become best known as an artist who specialised in religious works of art - including paintings, stained glass windows and mosaics.

Between 1885- 1888 he  was resident at the Villa Medici in Rome.

 In 1886 he was lucky enough to be resident at the Medici at the same time as Claude Debussy.  And his portrait is perhaps one of the most well-known images of the composer.

Early on in his career he got a
 reputation as someone
 with a rather unconventional approach to religious art. One painting - Le Christ pleurant sur l’inutilité de son sacrifice - was actually considered to be somewhat heretical.    I have yet to see a copy of this painting, but it is evident from the title that he is stepping outside the artistic conventions.  Despite these criticisms he later went on to paint another picture which challenged the accepted modes of representation.   In 1887 Sainte Marthe et La Tarasque was criticised for the way in which it departed from the conventional way in which the story was portrayed in  religious art.   If  we look at his painting alongside the standard image of the subject we can quickly understand why it was considered to be somewhat irreligious.  Typically these portray the Saint protecting the people or town by restraining the beast ( the Tarasque).  However, the monster has a rather marginal role in Pinta's painting: the central focus of the picture is a beautifully painted nude who is being embraced by the Saint.    So we can see from this that Pinta was not afraid to depart from the accepted conventions of religious art.   We are to see this again in his unconventional portrayal of the Sacred Heart after the first world war.  But it is obvious that this rather unconventional approach to religious art was hardly likely to get him commissions, so his later works tend to work within conventions rather than outside them.

As we can see also from the painting of St Marthe, Pinta was a very talented painter of the female form.  We can see this in a later picture,  'Naissance du Jour', completed in 1903.  This, along with his portrait of Debussy, is one of his most widely reproduced work and is still being sold as a print. Another 'best seller' is his picture of L'Ange Musicien -  painted in 1892 - which again shows his gift as a figure painter.

Pinta was also  a  talented landscape artist, as well as a portrait painter.   But his best work was to be art inspired by religious themes.  For the most part Pinta's religious art  accepted the prevailing conventions and modes of representation.  However,  Sainte Marthe et La Tarasque in many ways anticipates the image which found its way onto Teilhard's desk.  As in his early Sainte Marthe picture, Pinta later  shows himself able to be far more unconventional in representing the most important image of French Catholicism: le Sacre Coeur!