Henry Bonaventure Monnier, artist and playwright, was born 7 June 1799. After studying at the Lycée Bonaparte, he frequented the workshops of the neo-classical artists Anne-Louis Girodet-Trioson and Baron Antoine–Jean Gros. Aged just 23, Monnier went to live in London, returning to Paris five years later where he started to encounter and befriend a glittering cast of authors and painters of the time: Alexandre Dumas, Théophile Gautier, Stendhal, Eugène Sue, Prosper Mérimée, Eugène Scribe, Eugène Delacroix, Louis Boulanger and Honoré de Balzac.
Between 1827 and 1832, he produced several albums of lithographs, social satires and caricatures of his contemporaries, of the grisettes and the boulevardiers. He created the character Monsieur Joseph Prudhomme: plump, foolish, conformist and sententious, Prudhomme was deemed to be the epitomy of the Paris bourgeoisie by Honoré de Balzac and Paul Verlaine found inspiration in this character in his poem, Monsieur Prudhomme, part of his Poèmes saturniens.
On 21 May 1834, Monnier married Caroline Péguchet (known as Caroline Linsel, an actress at the Théâtre de la Monnaie) in Brussels. From the 1850s onwards, he essentially devoted himself to writing and theatre. He was the author of the famous phrase – On devrait construire les villes à la campagne, l’air y est tellement plus pur ! – that is usually attributed to Alphonse Allais.
In 1931 Sacha Guitry created a play freely inspired by Monnier’s life, entitled Monsieur Prudhomme a-t-il vécu ?.
Monnier died on the third of January, 1877.
This group of tiny erotic watercolours mostly measure just 6 by 6 centimetres and were probably executed in the 1830s.
Click on any of the group of images above to begin the slide show