Henri Goetz

Obituary of Henri Goetz in The Independent, Tuesday 29 August, 1989

'Henri Goetz was a focal personality in the heady days of post-war Paris, a period now referred to as the "heroic years".

It was time when artists of the calibre of De Stael, Poliakoff, and the painters from the COBRA group - Appel, Atlan, Constant and Corneille - all of whom had been in hiding or in exile during the occupation, came together again to form the new Ecole de Paris. They were hardly names then - it was news when one of them sold a painting - but they were destined to become the acknowledged masters of post-war European art.

Goetz and his wife, the painter Christine Boumeester, had suffered much privation in the unoccupied zone of France, working for the Resistance and moving from place to place. Once the war was over, even though accommodation, rationing and scarcities were a problem, Paris was still Paris, we were all in the same boat, and Henri and Christine Goetz's studio in the Rue de la Grande-Chaumiere became a haven for their friends.

It would be too generous to nominate Henri Goetz as one of the principal figures of post-war Paris. However, the solid evolution of his art from a somewhat erotic Surrealist fancy to a personal definitive abstraction, is a significant contribution to the legacy of the period. His activity as a teacher, with a gentle but persuasive approach, an insistence on the value of technique, born in part from his early mastery of engraving, benefited scores of students who came to him over the years.

Though he was born in New York in 1909 and educated in America, his English was distinctly accented, from a desire, one suspected, to sound really French. He did indeed become a naturalised French citizen. Apart from exhibiting jointly with Goetz in the 1949 Salon des Realites Nouvelles, and other salons, I participated with him and two other painters, Atlan and Goebel, in an exhibition in Mannheim entitled "Four Painters from Paris", which received little acclaim or financial return. We packed all the works in one large case in Goetz's studio and took it to the Gare de l'Est on a hand-cart, Gear pulling and Atlan "steadying" at the back.

The last encounter was at the opening of my exhibition at the Galerie 1900-2000 in Paris on 29 February 1988, where Goetz joined us, accompanying Olga, the widow of Picabia. After 30 years, he still looked the same. He was now one of the old masters of Paris, a Paris he had known for over 50 years. The loss of Christine 15 years ago was a blow to Goetz. At the end, there was little to look forward to, suffering as he was from a serious illness and wife a life's work achieved.'

William Gear