Why an online catalogue raisonné of Henri Goovaerts?
'It is a pity that you have thrown yourself à tête perdue into the portraits and did not first design a composition and brush it in the genre of that of the Queen.¹ I admit that you have to earn money, but bear in mind that to be well-known one has to see something of your own brain and although portraits of your hand hang at ten German exhibitions and twenty Prussian aristocrats, we see nothing of it.' On January 2, 1897 Gerard Theodoor Lamoraal Baron von Geusau wrote the above to his friend Henri Goovaerts. In the preceding year Goovaerts had started to focus on painting portraits of the dignitaries and nobility of the Southern Netherlands and Germany and Von Geusau was worried. He feared that his friend did not utilize his talents enough to become a famous artist. Now, more than a hundred years later, this observation seems visionary, since the paintings of Henri Goovaerts are spread over numerous private collections in the Netherlands and abroad and there seems to be no coherent picture of his work. This online catalogue is both a family project and a work in progress. We as (great) grandchildren and the compilers of this catalogue, grew up with the sketches and paintings of our ancestor, Henri Goovaerts, hanging on the walls of our various homes. Some of them were family portraits, others were of strangers who observed us from their frames. We knew that there were other paintings besides the ones we saw daily, but we did not know where they were or what they depicted. The first serious attempt to record the life and work of Henri Goovaerts was done last century during the sixties by the Bonnefanten Museum in Maastricht, the Netherlands. However, this survey was never published. A copy of notes leading to this survey was given to us in 1983. These notes were stored in the family archive which already contained photographs, letters and other documents that reflected a romantic image of a traveling artist who earned a living painting portraits of the wealthy classes in the Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland. In order to establish just where he worked and what he achieved during his short life, we decided to set down what we knew about our (great) grandfather's work. Because portrait painting is something that is more often kept within family circles and mainly of personal value, we presume that most of his work has landed in private collections. This is why we have decided to present the catalogue of his work in the form of a website. Portrait owners can rely on discretion and, where requested, privacy, should they choose to include their sketch or painting in our online catalogue raisonné. Although we are still in the process of collecting information, we have decided to make our website available as of 2015 as it commemorates the 150th birthday of Henri Goovaerts. We do so with the launch of the first ten works. We will continue with the publication and description of the work we know about. So far, we have details about 300 of his works. We will release details about these sketches and paintings every month and hope to be able to add newly discovered work as we progress. In this way, we will be able to offer as complete a picture of the work of Henri Goovaerts as possible in order to create a starting point to characterize his work as an artist. ¹) Von Geusau refers to the painting Charitas (Charity) which Goovaerts made in 1895 and was presented to Queen Wilhelmina when she visited Maastricht in the same year.