Art is divine

Beauty of fire

Alessandra Cenna





From January 30 to May 20, 2019 





Jean-Jacques Henner

Herodiade, around 1887

Oil on cardboard pasted on canvas,

109 × 68.5 cm

© RMN-Grand Palais / Franck Raux

Jean-Jacques Henner

The Liseuse, 1883

Oil on canvas, 94 × 123 cm

Paris, musée d’Orsay, on deposit at the museum

national Jean-Jacques Henner

© RMN-Grand Palais (Orsay Museum) / Hervé Lewandowski






The National Museum Jean-Jacques Henner, in its very private Parisian mansion, presents a superb exhibition devoted to red hair and its symbolism in art, literature and culture. A hundred works, some of them unpublished, trace a flamboyant journey through paintings, sketches, posters, photographs and toys.


Punctuated, accentuated, marked, this rare color is often associated with the imaginary and prejudices; it has always aroused ambiguous reactions between fascination and repulsion.


Mythical, the redhead is portrayed as a femme fatale, seductive with hot charms, sensual blood but also as a dangerous creature, witch treachery whose hair calls the flames of the stake.


Throughout history, redheads are magnificent and rebellious accursed.

Jean-Jacques Henner

  Madeleine, about 1885,

© RMN-Grand Palais / Franck Raux

Jean-Jacques Henner

Countess Kessler, about 1886

Oil on canvas, 109 × 69.5 cm

© RMN-Grand Palais / Franck Raux




Artists glorify the red; Courbet, Degas, Renoir and Pre-Raphaelite painters have often represented red figures in their paintings.


Writers such as Zola, Baudelaire, Maupassant or Verlaine with her «Princess Rhoukin» have written on her scrolls of flames that adorn their heroines with a halo of poisonous and hypnotic mystery.


This tint of setting sun inflamed the brushes of Jean-Jacques Henner (1829-1905) to adorn the forehead of the deceased Christ.


His canvas «Idyll» is his first portrait of a redhead whose naked skin with milky transparency is magnified by the orange of her hairstyle.


Since this first work, Jean-Jacques Henner will make his painting a hymn to this mesmerizing hue.


He thus paints the figures of classical mythology only adorned with their long incendiary wicks in languid and sensual poses.


An amazing staging, the museum exposes alongside these academic paintings masks of Papua and New Guinea whose red crests are the proud attributes of power.

Jean-Jacques Henner

The Truth  1899 - 1902

© RMN-Grand Palais / Franck Raux



Cannot evoke the red without thinking of the sulphureous Sonia Rykiel, as she has worn high her famous color as an icon of fashion.


Another image of this red sun, children’s literature with her heroes from Poil de Carotte to Spirou through Tintin, Obelix and Peter Pan displays playful characters, intrepid and independent, true free spirits in total anti-conformism.


Passion, fascination, fear, the red torches for millennia and ignites the sky when the sun glows, message of eternity beyond all lukewarm indifference, carries torch of difference...






From January 30 to May 20, 2019

National Museum Jean-Jacques Henner Paris 



Auguste Renoir

Young woman with a rose,

between 1918 and 1919

Oil on canvas, 41.5 × 33.5 cm

Paris, Petit Palais, Museum of Fine Arts

Arts of the City of Paris

© Petit Palais / Roger-Viollet

Jean-Jacques Henner

Female figures, between 1872 and 1879

Oil on cardboard, 30 × 29.5 cm

© RMN-Grand Palais / Tony Querrec