Henri Edmond Cross

Born to a French adventurer and failed businessman, and a British mother, he was encouraged as a youth to develop his artistic talent by his father’s cousin, Dr Auguste Soins. He enrolled in 1878 at the Ecoles Académiques de Dessin et d’Architecture in Lille, where he remained for three years under the guidance of Alphonse Colas. He then moved to Paris and studied with Emile Dupont-Zipcy.

In 1884 Cross helped to found the Société des Artistes Indépendants and through it became friends with many of the Neo-Impressionists. He lightened his palette and began painting figures en plein air in the mid-1880s. Towards the end of the decade, when he was increasingly influenced by Monet and Pissarro, he began to paint pure landscapes. Cross’s career took a decisive turn in 1891, when he adopted the Neo-Impressionist technique and showed his first large work in this style at the Salon des Indépendants exhibition – a portrait of Mme Cross. Also in this year, he moved to the South of France, staying first at Cabasson and then settling in Saint-Clair, a small hamlet near St Tropez where Signac also took up residence in 1892. Cross lived in Saint-Clair for the rest of his life, travelling twice to Italy (1903 and 1908) and annually to Paris for the Indépendants shows.

In the early and mid-1890s, as he developed the Neo-Impressionist method, Cross concentrated on seascapes and scenes of peasants at work. After the mid-1890s Cross ceased to depict peasants but continued to paint seascapes while exploring new subjects, like the everyday dances shown in Village Dance. Working with his neighbour Signac, he gradually abandoned the dot of earlier Neo-Impressionism and began to employ large and blocky strokes.

The comparatively small size of Cross’s oeuvre can be partly attributed to his ill health. Nonetheless, during the last decade of his life he mounted important one-man shows in Paris and as a result began to find a market and enthusiastic critical response.