Through his rustic genre scenes and landscapes, Henry Herbert La Thangue became a leading exponent of the British approach to Impressionism at the turn of the century. H H La Thangue was the son of a clerk in the General Register Office, who was of French Huguenot descent. He was born at 4 St John’s Grove, Croydon, on 19 January 1859, and educated at Dulwich College, where his contemporaries included the future painters, Alexander Stanhope Forbes and Frederick Goodall. He studied at Lambeth School of Art and then the Royal Academy Schools, where he won a gold medal and a travelling scholarship. His first exhibits appeared at the Society of British Artists (from 1877) and the Royal Academy (from 1878).
With the additional help of a letter of introduction from Frederic Leighton, the President of the Royal Academy, La Thangue went to Paris in 1880 to study under Jean-Léon Gérôme at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. While in France, he spent his summers working with Stanhope Forbes on the Brittany coast (1881-83), and with James Harvard Thomas in the Rhône Valley (1883).
During this period, he fell under the influence of Jules Bastien-Lepage and other plein-air naturalists. As a result, he developed a technique using square brushstrokes of bright opaque colour, which was revealed in the works that he exhibited at the Paris Salon (from 1881), the Grosvenor Gallery (from 1882) and the Institute of Painters in Oil Colours (a member from its inaugural year in 1883).
On his return to England in 1884, La Thangue settled in South Walsham, Norfolk, and painted scenes of Fenland life. Two years later, he became a founder member of the New English Art Club, and campaigned for it to develop as a progressive rival to the Royal Academy. However, he failed to convince the more conservative members, and so resigned. He had more success in Bradford, where the mill owners became his principal patrons and the Arcadian Art Club elected him its President.
Following his move to Bosham, near Chichester, in Sussex, in 1891, La Thangue began to exhibit regularly again at the Royal Academy. (He would be elected an Associate in 1898 and an Academician in 1913.) Late in the decade, he moved again, to Graffham, near Petworth, but, from the turn of the century, was drawn increasingly to the Mediterranean. From a base in the village of Bormes-les-Mimosas, he explored and painted in Provence, Liguria, Lombardy and Spain. His first solo show – of landscapes, at the Leicester Galleries, in 1914 – was a critical success, receiving the praise of Walter Sickert, among others.
Living at Runcton, near Chichester, from the mid 1920s, La Thangue died at 20 Wimpole Street, Marylebone, London, on 21 December 1929.
His work is represented in numerous public collections, including Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums; and the Art Gallery of New South Wales (Sydney).
Further reading: Kenneth McConkey, ‘La Thangue, Henry Herbert (b London, 19 Jan 1859; d London, 21 Dec 1929)’, Jane Turner (ed), The Dictionary of Art, London: Macmillan, 1996, vol 18, page 830; Kenneth McConkey, ‘La Thangue, Henry Herbert (1859-1929)’, H C G Matthew and Brian Harrison (eds), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004, vol 32, pages 627-628; Kenneth McConkey, Painter’s Harvest: H H La Thangue, 1859-1929, Oldham Libraries, Art Galleries and Museums, 1978