Henry Bataille Biography


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Henry Bataille (he is also known as “Félix-Henry” or “Henri” Bataille) was born in Nîmes, in southern France, in 1872. However, when his father, a magistrate, was named to a judicial post in Paris in 1876, the family moved there. The young Bataille studied at secondary schools in Paris and Versailles. He developed an interest in painting, especially portraiture, and in 1890, he enrolled in the Académie Julian and later at the École des Beaux-Arts, both in Paris. In 1901, Bataille published a book of lithographed portraits of well-known people of the day. Meanwhile, he continued writing poetry, something he had begun doing at the age of fifteen.

Bataille’s playwriting was stimulated by friends, who speculated on his producing a fairy-tale piece. Bataille’s first play was a version of “Sleeping Beauty,” written in collaboration with Robert d’Humières and presented in Paris in 1894. The play was not a success, and Bataille returned, for the time being, to his painting and his poetry, publishing in 1895 a collection of poems called La Chambre blanche (the white room). However, influential critics and friends persuaded Bataille to try his skills in the theater once again.

His early plays were in the Symbolist vein, but he soon found his niche, with L’Enchantement and Le Masque, in the théâtre du boulevard. Bataille’s popularity was short-lived; some observers accused him, in his later work, of writing formula plays in order to make money. His health had always been fragile, and by the time he died, in 1922, he had passed his peak as a dramatist.