Louis Haghe (1806-1885) was a Belgian lithographer and watercolour painter. Born in Tournai in Belgium, both Hague’s father and grandfather were architects, and he was encouraged to draw before he could even write. Haghe was born with a deformity of his right hand, but he achieved immeasurable artistic prowess despite his disability. From the age of ten he was taught the skilful art of watercolour painting by Chevalier de la Barrière, a French exile living in Tournai. In the early nineteenth century lithography was emerging throughout Europe as the premier means of publishing art reproductions and Barrière and Antoine Dewasme-Pletinckx founded the first lithographic press in Tournai, with Haghe as their assistant.
In 1823 Haghe moved to England, where he remained for the rest of his life. He began working with the printer William Day and together in 1829 they formed the partnership Day & Haghe (which became Day & Son in 1945). They were pioneers in developing the medium of the coloured, or tinted, lithograph and would go on to become the most important Victorian firm of lithographic printing in London. In 1838 Day & Hague were honoured with being appointed lithographers to Queen Victoria and Price Albert.
Painting was Haghe’s first and great love. After establishing himself as one of the finest lithographic draughtsmen in Europe, Haghe left Day & Son in 1852 to concentrate exclusively on painting. He rapidly gained a phenomenal reputation for his architectural scenes of northern Europe and for his charming seventeenth century interior scenes and genre paintings of jovial Cavaliers and daily life in both oil and watercolours.
Haghe’s highly detailed genre scenes, such as The Geography Lesson, painted in 1846, recall the magnificent compositions of the Dutch Golden Age. In this painting a Vermeer-esque glowing light shines through the hand cut glass windows to illuminate the map which hangs in pride of place within the opulent dining room. The incredible detail, from the majolica on the delicately carved mantlepiece to the hand painted wallpaper with its curles edges reveals Hague’s incredible skill and deft touch of this medium.
Haghe was elected one of the founding members of the New Society of Painters in Water Colours, making his debut at their exhibition in 1835 and later become the president of the Society from 1873 to 1884. His paintings and lithographic prints are exhibited in the British Museum, the National Portrait Gallery and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.