Henry Moret was born in Cherbourg, Normandy, the son of a garrison officer. A gentle, thoughtful man and an indefatigable worker, Moret discovered Brittany during his military service in 1875. In 1876 Moret trained at the Ecole des Beaux Arts and in the studios of the leading academic painters of the day Jean-Leon Gérôme and Jean Paul Laurens in Paris, however he rejected the academic style for that of his modern contemporaries.In 1880 Moret made his first submission to the annual Paris Salon, which was a Breton costal view. Moret returned to Brittany in 1881, staying at Le Pouldu near Pont Aven.
For the rest of his life he divided his time between Paris and Brittany, painting the landscape and rugged coastline. In 1888, while living in Pont Aven, Moret met Gauguin and the circle of painters who gathered around him in L’Auberge Gloanec. Moret was influenced by Gauguin’s philosophy of Syntheticism, summarized in 1890 by Maurice Denis: ‘It is well to remember that a picture before being a battle horse, a nude woman, or some anecdote, is essentially a flat surface covered with colours assembled in a certain order’. Under Gauguin’s influence, Moret’s compositions became simpler, his picture surfaces flatter as his depiction of local Breton subjects gained a greater resonance and profundity. Moret’s Breton landscapes of the early 1890s have often been mistaken for those of Gauguin.
In 1893 Moret fell in love with Célina Chatenet, a dressmaker who later became his wife in 1910. She helped to support him financially until a contract with Durand-Ruel in 1895 freed Moret from money worries. It was in this period in the mid 1890s that Moret’s style began to embrace Impressionism. Under Durand-Ruel’s encouragement Moret re-explored the more naturalistic approach of the Impressionists, using a palette dominated by blues, greens and pinks. Moret developed a more feathery Impressionistic technique, strongly influenced by Claude Monet, that would come to define his work during the last two decades of his life.Moret exhibited at the Salon des Indépendants and the Salon d’Automne. In 1900 and 1902 Durand-Ruel showed his work in New York, along with that of Maufra and Loiseau. Following Moret’s death in 1913, Durand-Ruel held a number of posthumous exhibitions and in one catalogue Moret was described as having the ability ‘to express the Breton landscape exactly… he occupies a unique place in the evolution of art at the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century, as he has been able to fuse together two fundamentally opposing styles: the Syntheticism of Pont Aven and Impressionism’.
The work of Henry Moret is represented in the Musée d’Orsay, Paris; the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Quimper; Southampton City Art Gallery; the National Museums and Galleries of Wales, Cardiff; the Hermitage, St Petersburg; the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and Indianapolis Museum of Art.