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Lemonnier, Henry

    Full Name: Lemonnier, Henry

    Other Names:

    • Henry Lemonnier

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 08 August 1842

    Date Died: 17 May 1936

    Place Born: Saint-Prix, Île-de-France, France

    Place Died: Paris, Île-de-France, France

    Home Country/ies: France


    First professor of art history at the Sorbonne, University of Paris (1893). Lemonnier’s father, André Hippolyte Lemonnier (d. 1870), was an art collector and former secretary at the École française de Rome; his mother was Joséphine Antoinette Marie Angélique des Gallois de Latour. Lemonnier’s grandfather, Anicet Charles Gabriel Lemonnier (1743-1824), was a painter, draughtsman, and art collector. The young Lemonnier attended the Lycée Charlemagne and the Institution Verdot in Paris. After having earned the diploma of archivist-paleographer at the École des chartes (1865), he obtained a doctoral degree in Law (1866). He became a lawyer (avocat) at the Court of appeal (Cour d’appel) in Paris in 1869. In the same year he married Cécile Joséphine Lesage. As agrégé d’histoire et géographie (1872), he taught history and geography in several lycées in Paris. He also was appointed professor of general history at the École des Beaux-Arts in 1874. At the École normale supérieure de Sèvres (for girls) he became maître de conférences in 1881, the year of its foundation. In 1882 Lemonnier quit his positions at the Lycées to dedicate himself to his history studies. In 1887 he obtained the degree of docteur ès lettres with a prize-winning dissertation on the freed slaves of the early Roman empire, Étude historique sur la condition privée des affranchis aux trois premiers siècles de l’empire romain. In 1889 he began his career at the Sorbonne as suppléant under Ernest Lavisse (1842-1922), professor of modern history at the faculty of letters of the University of Paris. Lemonnier’s first courses dealt with the history of France and Italy during the Renaissance. In those years, Louis-Charles-Léon Courajod, professor at the École du Louvre, played a pioneering role in the introduction of higher art history education. Inspired by Courajod, Lemonnier began, in 1891, to include art history in his history courses at the Sorbonne. He focused on the various ways in which the seventeenth-century French institutions under Richelieu and Mazarin dealt with French art. This led to the publication, in 1893, of his prize-winning study, L’Art français au temps de Richelieu et de Mazarin. In this year Lemonnier was invited to create art history courses, and in 1899 he was appointed professor of art history, the first appointee for this field at the Sorbonne. Lemonnier built up an art library, a collection of engravings and photographs, and he created a small museum of plaster casts. With André Michel he edited, between 1899 and 1903, the art history courses previously taught by Courajod, between 1887 and 1896, at the École du Louvre, Leçons professées à l’École du Louvre (1887-1896). Lemonnier was a contributor to the fifth volume of Histoire de France depuis les origines jusqu’à la Révolution, edited by Lavisse between 1900 and 1911. His critical biography of the French painter Antoine-Jean Gros appeared in 1905, Gros: biographie critique. In 1911 a study on French art under Louis XIV followed, L’Art français au temps de Louis XIV (1661-1690). It is a revised version of his lectures which Lemonnier dedicated to Lavisse. In his capacity as member of the Société de l’Histoire de l’Art français Lemonnier edited the proceedings of the French Académie d’architecture in a ten-volume work, Procès-verbaux de l’Académie d’architecture (1671-1793). The first volume (1911) contains an essay on the history of the academy 1671-1793. Lemonnier was elected a member of the Académie des Beaux-Arts in 1913, soon after his retirement. His friends and students honored him with a volume of 33 articles, Mélanges offerts à M. Henry Lemonnier. He held his position at the École normale supérieure de Sèvres until 1919. In that year he succeeded Georges E. Lafenestre as curator of the Musée Condé à Chantilly (until 1933). He published several studies on the Chantilly castle and its collections. In 1921-1922 his essays on French art and architecture during the first and second half of the seventeenth century appeared in the pioneering Histoire de l’art depuis les premiers temps chrétiens jusqu’à nos jours, edited by Michel. Lemonnier was elected twice president of the Société de l’École des Chartes, and he was a member and former president of the Société d’histoire moderne. Lemonnier saw it as his task to uncover and trace the development of artistic ideas in a specific period. While he was particularly interested in understanding doctrines and ideologies imposed on art, he was aware of the possible tension between general theories and the creativity of the individual artist. (1911) [After the reorganization of the Sorbonne, inaugurated in 1889 by Ernest Lavisse, Lavisse asked Lemonnier, his friend and former classmate, to develop a course in art history in 1891. Lemonnier’s lectures where the first of that discipline at the Sorbonne. His students included Paul Vitry who called him a “spiritual father.” ]

    Selected Bibliography

    [dissertation:] Étude historique sur la condition privée des affranchis aux trois premiers siècles de l’empire romain. University of Paris, published, Paris: Hachette, 1887; L’Art français au temps de Richelieu et de Mazarin. Paris: Hachette, 1893 ; and Michel, André. (eds) Louis Courajod. Leçons professées à l’École du Louvre (1887-1896). 1. Origines de l’art roman et gothique (leçons éditées avec le concours du R.P. de la Croix, S.J.). 2. Origines de la renaissance. 3. Origines de l’art moderne. Paris: A. Picard et fils, 1899-1903 ; Gros : biographie critique. Paris: H. Laurens, 1905 ; L’Art français au temps de Louis XIV 1661-1690). Paris: Hachette, 1911 ; L’art moderne (1500-1800), essais et esquisses. Paris: Hachette, 1912; Procès-verbaux de l’Académie d’architecture (1671-1793). Paris: Jean Schemit, 1911- 1929.


    Lavisse, Ernest. “Préface” in Mélanges offerts à M. Henry Lemonnier par La Société de l’Histoire de l’Art français, ses amis et ses élèves. Paris: F. De Nobele, 1913; Marcel, Pierre. “La collection de dessins de Gabriel Lemonnier au Musée de Rouen” in Mélanges offerts à M. Henry Lemonnier par La Société de l’Histoire de l’Art français, ses amis et ses élèves, Paris: E. Champion, 1913, pp. 467-495; Charle, Christophe. Dictionnaire biographique des universitaires aux XIXe et XXe siècles. 1. La faculté des lettres de Paris (1809-1908). Paris: Institut National de Recherche Pédagogique, 1985, pp. 121-122; Bazin, Germain. Histoire de l’histoire de l’art de Vasari à nos jours. Paris: Albin Michel, 1986 pp. 468, 477; Therrien, Lyne. “Lemonnier, Henry” Dictionnaire critique des historiens de l’art (Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art (I.N.H.A); [obituary:] Lemoisne, P. -A. “Henry Lemonnier” Bibliothèque de l’École des Chartes 79 (1936): 450-453.


    "Lemonnier, Henry." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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