Henri Goovaerts

Henri Florimond Goovaerts

13 November 1865 – 23 August 1912

Henri Florimond Goovaerts was born in Maastricht, in the Dutch province of Limburg. According to his birth certificate, he was born at house nr 580 along the Maas River. He was the son of a house painter and used to help his father paint the ceiling ornaments from a young age. The oldest of his paintings, which dates back to 1881, shows that Henri Goovaerts, who was 16 at the time, showed a lot of talent at an early age. Against his father's wishes, he decided to become an artist and to study at the Academy at Mechelen in Belgium. From 1883 to 1885, he studied under the tutelage of Academy director, Willem Geets. In his first year, he won the first prize and the silver medal for drawing ancient busts and jewellery. In his second year, he won the first prize and the silver medal for drawing nature and ancient figures. In the higher categories of Painting and Landscapes, he also won the first prize and the silver medal. Thanks to the mediation of one of the professors at the Academy of Visual Arts in Amsterdam, Joseph Alberdingk Thijm, he was given the opportunity of taking lessons at this state academy at the age of 21. During his time here from 1887 to 1889, he took part in the Prix de Rome competition. In 1890 he won this coveted prize with his painting 'Dido' and was able to make a study tour through Italy and Spain where he was instructed to copy a number of works by the great masters. While he was working on a copy at the Prado in Madrid, he met Jozef Israëls who happened to be in Spain at the time. This meeting is mentioned in Jozef Israëls book, 'Spain: The Story of a Journey'. After his study tour, Henri Goovaerts returned to Maastricht in 1894 and opened a studio in a small chapel at the De Bosquetplein 7. It was here that he started painting portraits. He had a second studio on the market square in Maastricht where he made portraits of former mayors from old paintings and sketches, amongst other things. He also had other commissions from time to time, such as the commission for the 'Charitas' painting by the Municipality of Maastricht which was presented to Queen Wilhelmina when she visited the city. The painting is currently in the Royal House Archive at Noordeinde Palace in The Hague. Many portrait commissions followed, especially of local dignitaries. During his travels, Henri Goovaerts also met the Hamburg State Director Hermann Schmitz, who was a great art lover. He recognised Henri's talent and decided to support him. In this way, Henri received his first commissions in Essen and Mülheim an der Ruhr. While he was painting portraits of the Von Waldthausen family in Essen he met his future wife, Lily Meyer, who served as a governess at this residence. In 1897, Henri went back to Maastricht where he set up a drawing school at his own expense. The school was well attended, mainly by artisans. The Maastricht Board of Directors recognised that such a school was feasible and the city's municipality undertook to set one up. Henri was extremely disappointed when he was appointed as drawing master and his hopes of being the school's director were dashed. In 1898 he left for Düsseldorf and married Lily Meyer. He was soon commissioned to make a number of works. During a long stay in Hamburg, he painted a portrait of his patron, Hermann Schmitz. After his return to Düsseldorf, he received a number of commissions to paint copies of the great masters at the Louvre in Paris. In 1900, his first son, Hans, was born and he decided to take both his wife and son with him to Paris. Here he painted copies of Titian's 'Burial of Christ' and his 'Bacchanal'; Watteau's 'Embarkation for Cythera' and 'The Shepherds'; a portrait of Rembrandt and a Dutch interior by Pieter de Hoogh. He also visited the Académie Julian in Paris to make numerous studies in order to improve his portrait painting skills. In 1902, the family returned to Düsseldorf where his second son, Heinz, was born. Henri returned to Maastricht on several occasions to make portraits of a number of mayors. Thereafter, he received a number of commissions from Switzerland to carry out portraits of factory owners and their families. Henri moved his family to Rüti in Switzerland and took up residence in Hotel de la Poste. Later he was offered one of the Swiss families' country houses, 'Villa zur Palme' to live in. Here he set up a small studio. Henri returned to Maastricht in about 1905 where the family moved into a house in the Papenweg in the neighbourhood of St Pieter. During this time he was commissioned to paint a good number of portraits and sometimes needed to go to Hamburg for brief periods. In 1908, his third son, Frits, was born. During his life, Henri Goovaerts ran studios in Maastricht, Düsseldorf, Essen, Aken and Hamburg. He died of a heart attack on 23 August 1912 at the age of 46. He is buried at the municipal cemetery Tongerseweg in Maastricht. A memorial tomb for Henri Goovaerts by the sculptor Gerard Hack indicates where he was layed to rest. In 1933, a street was named after him, the Henri Goovaertsweg. It is located in St Pieter, to the south of the city on the left bank of the Maas River. Most of Henri Goovaerts' work is privately owned by individuals. A small part is in possession of domestic and foreign musea.

Photo: Herman Bopp
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