Stoppenbach & Delestre

Henry Somm

(French, 1844–1907)

elégante devant le moulin rouge by henry somm

Henry Somm

Elégante devant le Moulin Rouge

la parisienne by henry somm

Henry Somm

La Parisienne



After studying at the Lle Municipale de Dessin in Rouen, Henry Somm settled in Paris in the late 1860’s, where he trained briefly with Isidore Pils.
He enjoyed a successful career as an illustrator and draughtsman, contributing regularly to such popular journals as Le Monde Parisien and L’Illustration Nouvelle, as well as providing illustrations for satirical books like Olivier’s Alphabet de l’imperfection et malice de femmes, published in 1876.
Somm was also active as a graphic designer, providing menus, theatre programs, invitations and announcements for the many fashionable events of Belle Epoque Paris.
He also produced visiting cards and bookplates, as well as designs for plates for the Haviland porcelain factory, commissioned by the firm’s artistic director, F x Bracquemond.
At the invitation of Edgar Degas, Somm took part in the fourth Impressionist exhibition of 1879, showing his drawings alongside those of Bracquemond, Degas, Mary Cassatt and Camille Pissarro.
Like several of his contemporaries, Somm developed a fascination with Japanese art; he studied the language and often used oriental motifs in his work.
Indeed, he became one of the earliest artistic exponents of Japonisme, his work in this genre first developed in illustrations accompanying a series of articles by Philippe Burty published in L’Art in the early 1870's.
The 1880s found Somm associated with a group of artists associated with the cabaret Le Chat Noir in Paris, for whose eponymous journal he published reviews and articles.
In the latter part of his career, Somm was employed by the periodical Le Rire; required to provide several drawings for each issue, his draughtsmanship became both more economical in line and more self-assured.
Somm’s finished drawings are often related to his more commercial work as an illustrator for magazines or books.