henri goetz - portrait artist

Henri Goetz


The artist Henri Goetz is born in New York in a French family. He settled permanently in Paris in 1930. His painting brings together both the lessons of Surrealism and the influences of lyrical Abstraction. Henri Goetz, an engineer by training, invented a technique for engraving and a new pastel.


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henri goetz - Untitled 1944

Untitled – 1944

Oil on paper laid down on canvas
24,5 x 34,5 cm / 9.6 x 13.5 in.
Signed and dated “goetz 44” lower right


the 1940 s - exhibition catalog cover

THE 1940s
An abstract renaissance inspired by surrealist practices
Exhibition catalog

Henri Goetz’s early life in New York

Henri Goetz was born in New York into a family of French origin on 29 September 1909. His father ran an electrical equipment company and naturally encouraged his son to pursue engineering. In 1927, Goetz moved to Boston to study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). It was at this time that he began to take an interest in art and decided to take drawing classes. After enrolling at Harvard University to study Art History in 1929, Goetz left just a year later to take painting classes at the Grand Central School of Art in New York. It was there that his fellow students told him about their experiences in Paris, inspiring the young artist to move to France.

Henri Goetz in Paris

After arriving in Paris in 1930, Henri Goetz attended the Académie Julian art school and then frequented the studio of the painter Amédée Ozenfant. He mainly painted portraits: “At first I devoted myself solely to portraits, because the human figure seemed to me to contain a warmth that I had not found during my studies, when I was preparing for a career as an electrical engineer. During those six years, the painting I learned in the academies helped me to create likenesses and to delve deeper into the intimacy of the gaze of others.” [1] The artist conveyed the characters of his models through a style of painting that was expressionist and colourful.

In 1934, Goetz met the painter Victor Bauer who introduced him to surrealist painting, Freudianism and the primitive arts. The following year, he married the painter Christine Boumeester, whom he had met at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière. It was during this period that Goetz discovered the paintings of Picasso, Paul Klee, Fernand Léger and Kandinsky. The couple also became closely acquainted with Hans Hartung—their neighbour at 19 Rue Daguerre—who introduced them to the abstract painting circle. The three painters exhibited together at the Salon des Surindépendants in that year.

In 1936, Goetz’s work shifted to a non-figurative style of painting with a surrealist slant. The artist explained: “If I choose the non-figurative world, it is because I believe that it is larger than the other. I believe that there is more to discover in the unknown than in the known. If the limit of the known is the unknown, the opposite does not seem to me to be true.” [2] The following year, Goetz held his first solo exhibition at the Galerie Bonaparte (Van Leer) on Rue Bonaparte in Paris. The painter befriended the artists César Domela, Luis Fernandez, Julio Gonzales, Maria Helena Vieira da Silva and her husband Árpád Szenes, as well as Gérard Vulliamy and Gérard Schneider.

Henri Goetz and surrealism

In 1938, Henri Goetz painted with tempera and an egg-based painting technique on photographic reproductions of historic masterpieces, as if in a posthumous collaboration with the masters. André Breton discovered the works in 1939 and called them “corrected masterpieces”. These paintings were not exhibited until 1975, when they were shown for the first time at the Galerie Jean-Claude Bellier in Paris. The painter Henri Goetz was caught between surrealism and abstraction: “I believed I could create forms wherein my unconscious would join those of others. This approach was not unrelated to that of the surrealists, but it was carried out in a universe of forms that were abstract for me, and yet evocative of known objects, sometimes organic. This resemblance hardly interested me, which distanced me from the surrealists. The space of my paintings resembled that of classical works. I was not considered an abstract artist and yet I felt closer to them.” [3]

The Second World War broke out in 1939. As an American, Henri Goetz could not be conscripted because the United States had not yet entered the conflict. He became a member of the Resistance and went underground. Goetz and his wife left Paris for Carcassonne where they joined the Belgian painters Raoul Ubac and René Magritte. Back in Paris in the summer of 1940, Henri Goetz, Raoul Ubac and the painter Christian Dotremont founded the surrealist journal La Main à la plume. Goetz painted watercolour illustrations for the writers Paul Éluard and Georges Hugnet. In 1942, Hugnet’s La Femme Facile, illustrated by Goetz, was published by Jeanne Bucher publications. The Galerie Jeanne Bucher exhibited Henri Goetz and Christine Boumeester together in the same year, and the two artists met Picasso.

[1]  Mes démarches, a handwritten letter by Goetz dated 10 June 1975, reproduced in a brochure published by the Galerie La Pochade for a touring exhibition that travelled around cultural centres.

[2] Galpérine, Goetz, Paris, Musée de Poche, 1972.

[3] Mes démarches, a handwritten letter by Goetz dated 10 June 1975, reproduced in a brochure published by the Galerie La Pochade for a touring exhibition that travelled around cultural centres.

Henri Goetz in the south of France

The United States entered the war in 1942 and Goetz and his wife took refuge in the South of France where they met Jean Arp, Alberto Magnelli and Nicolas de Staël. The couple then left Nice for Cannes where they met the Picabias. In 1943, Goetz created lithographs for Explorations, which was written by Francis Picabia and published in 1945 by Vrille publications. The art critic Maria Lluïsa Borràs i González published a monograph on Francis Picabia in 1985 in which she stated that: “Picabia’s return to abstraction was due to conversations with this young couple of painters, Christine Boumeester and Henri Goetz […]. Open and cordial, they were friends with many artists of their generation—Hartung, Vieira da Silva, Domela, Atlan and Raoul Ubac—with whom they had founded La Main à plume, considered the voice of the second surrealist wave.” [4]

In 1944, the couple returned to Paris. The following year, the journalist René Guilly invited Henri Goetz to present the weekly programme Le Domaine de Paris—a series devoted to modern and contemporary painting—on Radio Diffusion. At that time, Goetz was close to Brancusi, Braque, Hartung, Kandinsky, Picabia, Picasso, Schneider and Soulages. In 1946, the painter took part in the group exhibition 10 ans de peinture at the Galerie Breteau in Paris. In 1947, the director Alain Resnais made Portrait d’Henri Goetz for the Musée d’Art Moderne in Paris, a short 16 mm film in which a painter created a work in front of the camera. Henri Goetz and his wife Christine Boumeester became naturalised French citizens in 1949.

Henri Goetz and engraving

Engraving was an important part of Henri Goetz’s work, to which he devoted a great deal of time from 1940 onwards. In 1948, Goetz published an album of engravings with the publishing company Les Nourritures Terrestres, and then founded his own publishing house—the “Graphies” group—with his wife, the engraver Albert Flocon and the artist Raoul Ubac.

The total body of his engraved work is estimated at around 650 prints. The Department of Prints and Photography at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France (“National Library of France”) has the largest collection of such works with a total of 425 prints made using various techniques—burin engravings, etching, lithography and serigraphy. [5]

In addition to mastering traditional engraving techniques, Goetz invented the carborundum printmaking process, also known as the “Goetz process”, in 1968. [6] The artist used this process exclusively from 1969 onwards. His extensive research work is documented in the book La Gravure au carborundum, which was published by the Galerie Maeght with a preface by the painter Joan Miró. The artist taught the technique to his friends—the painters Antoni Clavé, James Coignard, André Masson and Max Papart.

Goetz was trained as an engineer and had a natural curiosity for the sciences. It was during an experiment that he discovered that carborundum was resistant to heat and pressure. Silicon carbide (SiC), also known as carborundum, is an artificial abrasive obtained by heating powdered coal with silica at high temperatures until the mixture crystallises. For printmaking, these abrasive grains are mixed with glues or varnishes that bind them to the plate. The plate is then inked, and as the carborundum grains are rough, they retain the ink and create a multitude of black dots. This makes it the perfect material for creating halftones.

[4] Maria Lluïsa Borràs i González, PICABIA, Barcelona, Ediciones Poligrafa, 1985

[5] Josimov, Stanko, L’Œuvre gravé de Goetz, research paper, Paris IV-Sorbonne, 2009

[6] Ariel no. 1, for the exhibition Goetz, 13 years of painting 1952-1965, Galerie Ariel, 1966

Henri Goetz and pastels

Meanwhile, Henri Goetz was also beginning to investigate pastel techniques. In 1949, he asked the colour dealer Henri Sennelier to create a technique combining pastel and paint for his friend Picasso. This collaboration between the two inventors led to the creation of Sennelier oil pastels, inspired by the oil paint sticks developed by the painter Jean-François Raffaëlli in around 1890. In 1979, Goetz developed the concept of heating the paper before applying the pastel stick, which caused the latter to melt. This enabled him to paint directly with the colour, without using any intermediary tools. Henri Goetz also learned the technique of papyrus making and made his own drawing materials from 1979 onwards.

Henri Goetz and teaching

From 1950 to 1955, Henri Goetz taught painting at the Académie Ranson—an art school founded in Paris in 1908 by the painter Paul-Élie Ranson. Then, between 1955 and 1964, the artist taught painting at the following art schools: the Académie de la Grande Chaumière (until 1960) and the Notre-Dame-des-Champs, Raspail, Fréchet and Malebranche art academies, as well as at the American Conservatory in Fontainebleau. Goetz founded his own academy in 1965 in the premises of the former Académie d’André Lhote (at 18 Rue d’Odessa, also known as the “Passage du Départ”) where he taught on a voluntary basis until 1984. In the artist’s own words: “This teaching brings me at least as much as it brings to others and I like to say that I am among the best students in my workshops, because the more one knows, the more one is able to learn.” [7]

Henri Goetz’s legacy

Henri Goetz was made a Chevalier of the Ordre des Arts et Lettres in 1967. In 1970, Goetz became a member of the “1% commission” in favour of the decoration of public buildings. The Musée Goetz-Boumeester was created in 1983 in Villefranche-sur-Mer, France. The museum houses a donation of some fifty works by Christine Boumeester and as many by Henri Goetz, as well as some works from their collection created by their friends—Picasso, Picabia, Miró and Hartung.

Christine Boumeester died in Paris on 10 January 1971 and Henri Goetz died in Nice on 12 August 1989.

[7] Ariel no. 1, for the exhibition Goetz, 13 years of painting 1952-1965, Galerie Ariel, 1966

© Diane de Polignac Gallery / Mathilde Gubanski

henri goetz - portrait photography hans hartung

Henri Goetz with his dog Luc (Photo: Hans Hartung)

Selected collections

Selected collections

Akron (OH), Akron Art Museum

Antibes (France), Musée Picasso

Brussels (Belgium), National Museum of Modern Art in Brussels

Fontevraud (France), Fontevraud Modern Art Museum – Martine & Leon Cligman Collection

Grenoble (France), Musée de Grenoble

Jerusalem (Israel), Israel Museum

Middelburg (Netherlands), Zeeuws Museum

Newark (NJ), Newark Museum

New Orleans (LA), New Orleans Museum of Art – NOMA

Paris (France), Musée National d’Art Moderne – Centre Georges Pompidou

Paris (France), Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris

Paris (France), Centre National des Arts Plastiques

Phoenix (AZ), Phoenix Art Museum

Rome (Italy), Museo di Arte contemporanea di Roma – MACRO

Saint-Étienne (France), Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain in Saint-Étienne

San Diego (CA), San Diego Museum of Art – SDMA

San Francisco (CA), San Francisco Museum of Modern Art – SFMOMA

Santa Fe (NM), New Mexico Museum of Art

Strasbourg (France), Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain

Toulouse (France), Les Abattoirs

Vilafamés (Spain), Museo de Arte Contemporáneo

Villefranche-sur-Mer (France), Musée Goetz-Boumeester

West Palm Beach (FL), Norton Museum of Art

Barcelona (Spain), Fundació Joan Miró

Selected exhibitions

Selected exhibitions

Salon des Surindépendants, from 1935 to 1952

Galerie Bonaparte (Galerie Van Leer), Paris, 1937

Galerie Jeanne Bucher, Paris, 1942, 1945

Galerie l’Esquisse, Paris, 1943

Galerie Breteau, Paris, 1946, 1947

Galerie Maeght, Paris, 1947

Salon de Mai, from 1947 to 1960

Mid-Century Art Gallery, Los Angeles (CA), 1948

Galerie Colette Allendy, Paris, 1948

Salon des Réalités Nouvelles, from 1948 to 1953

Galerie des Deux-Iles, Paris, 1949

Galerie du Siècle, Paris, 1950, 1951

Galerie 55, Paris, 1951

Numéro 21 Gallery, Florence, 1951

Galerie Fiegel, Basel, 1952

Galerie Evrard, Lille, 1952

Galerie Marbach, Bern, 1952

Galerie Art Moderne, Basel, 1952

Kunstcabinet Horemans, Antwerp, 1953

Galerie Ariel, Paris, 1953, 1954, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1961, 1963, 1966

Circle and Square Gallery, New York (NY), 1953

Cittadella Gallery, Locarno, 1954

Schwarz Gallery, Milan, 1954

French Institute, Milan, 1954

Salon Comparaisons, 1955, 1956

Art Center, Atlantic City (NJ), 1956

Obelisk Gallery, London, 1956

Galerie La Hune, Paris, 1958, 1962-1973

Obelisk Gallery, Rome, 1962

French Institute, Mainz, 1963

Sonet Gallery, Stockholm, 1960-1970

Galerie Boisserée, Cologne, 1965

Arta Gallery, The Hague, 1965

Galerie Hervieu, Saint-Paul-de-Vence, 1965

Daberkow Gallery, Frankfurt, 1965

Maison de la Culture, Le Havre, 1967

Franska Galleriet, Malmö, 1969

Galerie Harmonies, Grenoble, 1969

Daberkow Gallery, Frankfurt, 1969

Galerie Sylviane Garnier, Saint-Omer, 1970

Ostermalm Gallery, Stockholm, 1970

Galerie Georges Bongers, Paris, 1972

Galerie Armorial, Brussels, 1972

Galerie Cour St-Pierre, Geneva, 1972

San Francisco Gallery, Lisbon, 1973

L’ARCO, Rome, Italy, 1973

Örebro Gallery, Sweden, 1973

Venezia Viva Gallery, Venice, 1974

École des Beaux-Arts, Angers, 1974

Galerie Soleil, Paris, 1974

Galerie Hélène Trintignan, Montpellier, 1975, 1976, 1978, 1980, 1981, 1983, 1985, 1988, 1991, 1998, 2000

Robert Hervieu Gallery, Malmö, 1975

Centro d’Arte II Castello, Venice, 1975

Galerie Jean-Claude Bellier, Paris, 1975

Galerie La Pochade, Paris, 1975

Galerie Cavalero, Cannes, 1976

Maison de la Culture, Ibn Rachiq, Tunis, 1976

Palais de la Méditerranée, Nice, 1976

Galerie du Palais, Marseille, 1976

Septentrion, Lille, 1976, 1977

Galerie Arcurial, Paris, 1977

M’Arte Gallery, Milan, 1977

French Institute, Tehran, 1978

Galerie Bellechasse, Paris, 1978, 1979, 1981, 1983

Galerie Simone Badinier, Paris, 1978

Musée de Sète, Sète, 1978

Musée de Melun, Melun, 1978

Paul Bruck Gallery, Luxembourg, 1979

Musée de Montbrison, Montbrison, 1979

Valle Orti Gallery, Valencia, 1979

Gallery of the Cabinet des Estampes, Colmar, 1979

Galerie Claude-Jory, Paris, 1979

Gallery of the Société Industrielle de Mulhouse, Mulhouse, 1979

Galerie de L’Escalier, Brussels, 1979

Palais des Congrès, Strasbourg, 1979

Saarbrücken Museum, Saarbrücken (Germany), 1980

Musée du Château, Belfort, 1980

Musée de Belfort, Belfort, 1981

Kutter Gallery, Luxembourg, 1981

Galerie Matarasso, Nice, 1981, 1982

Galerie des Maîtres Contemporains, Aix-en-Provence, 1983

Musée Goetz-Boumeester, Villefranche-sur-Mer, 1984

Galerie l’Obsidienne, Paris, 1985

Forum des Arts, Reims, 1985

Galerie Cupillard, Saint-Tropez, 1985

Galerie Jacques Verrière, Lyon, 1986

Palais de l’Europe, Menton, 1986

Crawshaw Gallery, 50 Years of Painting, London, 1986

French Institute, Edinburgh, 1987

Galerie Bailly, Nancy, 1987

Galerie Aittouarès, Paris, 1987, 2001

Henri Goetz, Retrospective exhibition, Crawshaw Gallery, London, 1987

Henri Goetz, retrospective exhibition, Alliance Française centre, Edinburgh, 1987

Henri Goetz, retrospective exhibition, Galerie Michel Reymondin, Geneva, 1988

Henri Goetz, Studio Rita Gallé, Milan 1988

Henri Goetz, retrospective exhibition, Galerie du Cobra, Paris, 1988

Bibliothèque Nationale de Paris, 1988

Théâtre de l’Opéra Municipal, Nice, 1988

Henri Goetz, retrospective exhibition, Galerie Artuel, Paris, 1989

Galerie Bourgoin-Pissaro, Paris, 1989

Henri Goetz, Rétrospective, Galerie Hanin-Nocera, Paris, 1991

Galerie Verdaine, Geneva, 1991

Galerie 26, Paris, 1992

Galerie Hanin-Nocera, Goetz-Boumeester, Paris, 1993

Raphaël Westend Gallery, Frankfurt, 1994

Strasbourg Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Strasbourg, 1995

La Côte d’Azur et la modernité, 1918-1958, Musée de Nice, Nice, 1997

Galerie Elyette Peyre, Paris, 1999

Galerie Cazeau-Bérodière, Paris, 2001

Années 1935-1960, Galerie Hélène Trintignan, Montpellier, 2009

Années 1960-1989, Galerie Hambursin-Boisanté, Montpellier, 2009

Hommage à Henri Goetz, Galerie Rémy Bucciali, Colmar, 2009

Selected bibliography

Selected bibliography

Boumeester-Goetz, dessins et peintures, exhibition catalogue, Galerie Bonaparte, Paris, 1937

Tableaux de 36 à 48, exhibition catalogue, Galerie Colette Allendy, Paris, 1949

Jean-Roger, Henri Goetz, Presses Littéraires de France, Paris, 1952

Vercors, Goetz, Le Musée de Poche, Paris, 1958

Goetz, 1952-1961, exhibition catalogue, Galerie Ariel, Paris, 1961

Pastel, exhibition catalogue, Galerie Ariel, Paris, 1963

Catalogue Bolaffi d’art moderne, p.176-177, Giulio Bolaffi Editore, Turin, 1966

Goetz, 1952-1966, exhibition catalogue, Galerie Ariel, Paris, 1966

Henri Goetz, La gravure au carborundum, preface by Joan Miro, Maeght Editions, Paris, 1969

Boumeester-Goetz, exhibition catalogue, Franska Galleriet, Malmö, 1969

Goetz, exhibition catalogue, Otermalm Gallery, Stockholm, 1970

Alexandre Galpérine, Goetz, Le Musée de Poche, Paris, 1972

L’Œuvre gravé de Henri Goetz, 1940-1972, texts by C. Tisari, Sonet publications, Stockholm, 1973

Goetz, gravures, exhibition catalogue, San Francisco Gallery, Lisbon, 1973

Henri Goetz, exhibition catalogue, L’Arco Gallery, Rome, 1973

Henri Goetz-Christine Boumeester, exhibition catalogue, Venizia Viva Gallery, Venice, 1974

Henri Goetz, 1935-1948, exhibition catalogue, preface by Michel Eyriey, Galerie Jean-Claude Bellier, Paris, 1975

Henri Goetz, exhibition catalogue, Galerie Hélène Trintignan, Montpellier, 1975

Henri Goetz, exhibition catalogue, texts by Luigi Lambertini, Giuseppe Appella, Il Messagio publications, Regio Calabria, 1976

Karl Masrour, L’Œuvre gravé de Goetz, 1940-1977, texts by Oscar Reutersväd, Michel Mélot, Denise Zayan and Henri Goetz, Art Moderne publications, Paris, 1977

Gérard Xuriguera, Henri Goetz, Lucas publications, Gandia, 1977

Antonio Urrutia, Gérard Xuriguera, Henri Goetz, Guadalimar, 1978

Henri Goetz, 1948-1978, exhibition catalogue, text by Gérald Gassiot-Talabot, Aemmepi publications, Milan, Galerie Bellechasse, Paris, 1978

Boumeester-Goetz, exhibition catalogue, Musée Paul-Valéry, Sète, 1978

Karl Masrour, Répertoire de l’œuvre 1935-1980, texts by Bernard Dorival, Jean Guichard-Meili, Gérard Xuriguera, Guy Sautter, Gérald Gassiot-Talabot, Georg W. Költzsch, Michel Mélot and Henri Goetz, published by La Nuova Foglio, Macerato, 1981

Karl Masrour, Gérald Gassiot-Talabot, Henri Goetz, Lucas publications, Gandia, 1981

Gérard Xuriguera, Les années cinquante, p. 88-89, Arted publications, Paris, 1984

Goetz, peintures, papyrus, pastels, dessins, gravures, exhibition catalogue, Galerie L’Obsidienne, Paris, 1985

Henri Goetz, 50 Years of Painting, exhibition catalogue, Crawshaw Gallery, London, 1986

Museum catalogue, texts by Bernard Dorival, Vercors, Michel Mélot, Musée Goetz-Boumeester, citadel of Villefranche-sur-Mer, 1987

Henri Goetz, huile, pastel, technique-mixte, 1962-1978, exhibition catalogue, Galerie Aittouarès, Paris, 1987

“Goetz”, Revue Poésimage, special issue no. 15-16, texts by J. Guichard-Meili, Serge Brindeau, A. Lagrange, Francis Picabia, Karim Boudjemaa, Jean-Pierre Geay and Henri Goetz, Savigny-le-Temple, 1989

Jean-Pierre Geay, Henri Goetz, interview with Henri Goetz, Cercle d’Art publications, Paris, 1989

Henri Goetz and Jean-Pierre Geay, Livres et manuscrits, Fédération des Œuvres Laïques de l’Ardèche, 1990

John Castegno, European Artists 1800-1990, p. 267, The Scarecrow Press Inc., London, 1990

Maurice Rousseau-Leurent, Carborundum engraving. La gravure au carborundum, preface by Henri Goetz, Galerie Nannini publications, Villefranche-sur-Mer, 1991

L’Art du XXe siècle, Dictionnaire de peinture et sculpture, p. 327, Larousse publications, Paris, 1991

Dictionnaire de l’art moderne et contemporain, p. 258, Hazan publications, Paris, 1992

Lydia Harambourg, L’École de Paris 1945-1965, p. 207 to 210, Idées et Calendes publications, Paris, 1993

Goetz, Rétrospective, 1933-1989, exhibition catalogue, “Trajectoire d’une œuvre” by Jean-Pierre Geay, Issoire Cultural Centre, Issoire, 1993

Jeanne Bucher, Une galerie d’avant-garde 1925 – 1946 de Max Ernst à de Staël, p. 84 and 115, Skira publications, Paris, 1994

10 ans du Musée Goetz-Boumeester. Hommages aux Amis, exhibition catalogue, Chapelle Saint-Elme, citadel of Villefranche-sur-Mer, 1994

Henri Goetz, Rétrospective, 1935-1989, exhibition catalogue, “Découvrir Henri Goetz” by Jean-Pierre Geay, Strasbourg Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Garnier Nocera publications, Paris, 1995

Pascal le Thovel-Deviot, Petit Dictionnaire des artistes contemporains, p. 106, Bordas publications, Paris, 1996

Frédéric Nocera, Catalogue raisonné de l’œuvre 1930-1960, extract from the text by Henri Goetz, Ma vie, mes amis, Garnier Nocera publications, Paris, 2001