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Why I’m obsessed with these cheap paintings of Paris

Did this French painter ever exist?

Who is the artist Henry Rogers? His French impressionist paintings of Paris street scenes seem to only exist in online auctions and yard sales. The mystery of his identity deepens when you take a closer look at his art, and notice that his signature changes from painting to painting — sometimes it’s spelled “Henry” and sometimes the French “Henri.”

For years, the only place anyone could learn more about Rogers was on a blog called living-in-the-past.com — a site where one man documented his curiosities and passion projects, dating back to the ’90s.

The author of this site, Philip Lord, became obsessed with gathering information about Rogers, but found nothing in his early online searches. So he started researching by analyzing dozens of Rogers’s paintings, many of them seeming to show the same street in Paris from varying perspectives. He wanted to figure out if “Henry Rogers” was a lone street painter in Paris, or in fact a workshop of painters trained to create similar-looking paintings and sign them under a pseudonym.

Lord gave up the search in 2011. In 2022, we picked up the puzzle, and tried a few new avenues of inquiry. An actual Paris street painter, Jerome Feugueur, told us that Rogers’s “impressions” of Paris were imaginary. Then, we visited a lab in Cleveland, Ohio, that’s using artificial intelligence and detailed scans of paintings to distinguish the fingerprint of individual artists. They suggested that Henry Rogers is in fact multiple artists creating similar paintings.

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