Henrique Alvim Corréa (1876 – 1910) was a vary rare breed indeed. A Pre-Modernist Brazilian. an illustrator of Victorian era science fiction books. Way, way ahead of his time. He was born to a well to do family in Rio de Janeiro, died in Brussels and is known (if he’s known at all) for his illustrations for H. G. Wells’s novel The War of the Worlds.
After his lawyer father died when he was seven. When he was 16, Corrêa was taken by his royalist stepfather, Barão de Oliveira Castro to Europe, shortly after the 1892 proclamation of the Republic of Brazil. His stepfather, a banker, first took the family to Lisbon and then a year later in 1893, to Paris.There Corrêa studied with the military painter Édouard Detaille & exhibited military scenes in the Paris Salons of 1896 and 1897. In 1898, Corrêa eloped to Belgium with Blanche Fernande Barbant. Blanche was the daughter of an illustrator named Charles Barbant, who illustrated for Jules Verne and engraved drawings for Gustave Doré.
Excommunicated by his family and stranded in Brussels with a newborn baby to feed, Corrêa was desperate to do any work he could get. He designed advertisements and painted houses and, by 1900, he’d dug his way out. He opened a studio and built a press at Watermael-Boitsfort,in the suburbs of Brussels. There he produced works on military life, mainly on the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871). He also produced (or resorted to) other works, erotic drawings signed “Henri LeMort” (Henri Dead Man) in which Blanche, his future wife, posed as a model.
Then, in 1903 he did something very special. At his own initiative he made a series of 132 illustrations, full of Victorian post-apocalyptic terror. An incredible, pre-WW1 feat of imagination, they represented his own singular interpretation of H.G. Well’s novel, The War of The Worlds. He sailed to London and showed the drawings to Wells. He loved them and approved 32 of of them to illustrate the new 1905 French translation of his 1898 novel.
Wells is said to have considered Corréa’s work superior to that of his previous illustrator, Warwick Goble, whose darker, perhaps more expected Victorian vision illustrated the 1897 edition. Corrêa’s drawings were published in a luxury French language edition of 500 copies in 1906.
In 1910, just a couple of years after his illustrations for H.G. Wells were published, Henrique Alvim Corrêa died of tuberculosis at just 34. His body was shipped to Brazil and buried in Rio de Janeiro, his hometown.
After Corrêa’s death, the great H.G. Wells said the obscure Brazilian artist, “did more for my work with his brush than I with my pen”. Much of Corrêa’s work is now lost. In 1914, when Germany invaded Belgium during World War I, many of his drawings were stolen or destroyed. In 1942, during World War II, some of his illustrations were lost when the ship that transported them to Brazil sank after being torpedoed by a German submarine.
In Brazil today, Corrêa is considered a progressive Pre-Modernist and has been celebrated with large exhibitions at major institutions.