Michel Henricot was born in 1940 in Douai. Fascinated with the work of Gustave Moreau, Max Klinger, Max Ernst, Egyptian art, and Renaissance Italian painting. Henricot was a close friend of Leonor Fini, Constantin Jelenski, and Stanislao Lepri.
The artist began exhibiting his work early in life, while still in his twenties, in 1961, at Galerie Marignan, Paris. And it was in this way that he met Léonor Fini, with whom he shared a fairly intense relationship: “My greatest friendships have arisen through painting – like with Léonor Fini. It’s a very strong link, extraordinary really… But if we were friends, it’s because we had a common ground. I wasn’t really influenced by her. Certainly, she wasn’t influenced by me! It was more a way of seeing things…”
He explains that he is largely “…self-taught. I was always at the Louvre, staring like crazy at the pictures there, fascinated by ‘how it’s done’.” Fini’s works from the 60’s influenced, to a degree, the young Henricot. Depicted in a heiratic style with underlying geometrical forms, her graceful elongated figures seem to exist in timeless spaces that are dark and densely atmospheric. Henricot’s earliest figures also have this graceful quality, but were more stylized and cybernetic, with ergonomic designs on their metallic skins. Sometimes they remained mere torsos, lacking hands to grasp or feet to stand.
Although Henricot is also a painter of ancient ruinous landscapes (of this, more later), he is best known for his shrouded and mummified figures in a state of suspended animation – hovering somewhere between life and after-life.
“The best I can do, to describe my painting, is to relate this dream, since the experience is the same. After each work, I’m aware of having journeyed into a zone unknown to me, where everything is extraordinarily silent and comforting. And, at the same time, it is a violent revelation of the unknown. I also have the feeling that, after each work, a door closes and it will never open again.”
Eventually, Henricot’s mummified figures entered into relationships with other extraordinary beasts: cerberus hounds, winged erinys or pre-historic pterodactyls. Indeed, these species altered and evolved to the point where their anatomies miraculously expanded and combined. Henricot demonstrates an extraordinary imaginative capacity to meld the ossified structures of man and beast.
In this way, the timeless human figures move back and forward into ancient pre-history or the far-distant future. Regressing from antiquity to the arcane origins of our species, trilobyte fossils reflect the primordial symmetry of our own skeletal structure. Or, as fascinating anomalies in our human evolution, transparent human figures acquire pre-historic wings and miraculously take flight into the endless depths of time.