Description: Henri Rouart and Edgar Degas were schoolmates in Paris and life-long friends. Degas chose a career in art and Rouart entered the military, eventually distinguishing himself as a lieutenant in the Franco-Prussian War. Degas served as a volunteer under Rouart’s command during the siege of Paris. After leaving the military, Rouart entered the field of industrial engineering, successfully pioneering new systems of refrigeration and amassing a fortune. Rouart became an avid collector of early European art, but he also assembled a large and impressive collection of works by his friends in the Impressionist circle, particularly those of his old classmate.
In addition to lending his financial support to the Impressionists, Rouart was also a talented painter who participated in seven of the eight Impressionist exhibitions between 1874 and 1886. Inspired mostly by his friend Degas, Rouart produced dazzling canvases in the Impressionist style, including Woman Playing the Guitar, a work of the late 1880s. The painting is thought to be a portrait of Rouart’s daughter Hélène, and the setting, the engineer-cum-artist’s elegant home. Part of his famous art collection serves as the backdrop.