The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Zacharie Astruc, 1833-1907

Nationality: French
Date of Birth: 1833
Place of Birth: Angers
Date of Death: 1907
Place of Death: Paris


Zacharie Astruc was an artist, journalist and poet.


Astruc became a well known art critic in Paris between 1859 and 1872, acting as spokesman and defender of the artistic avant-garde in Paris, most notably Gustave Courbet and Edouard Manet, whose cause he championed in such major Parisian newspapers and journals as Le Salon (1863), L’Etendard (1866–8), Echo des Beaux-Arts (May–July 1870), Le Pays, Nain jaune and Dix Décembre.

Astruc was close friends with Manet, and Manet included his poem 'Olympia, la fille des îles' in the Salon catalogue entry for his Olympia in 1865. Astruc, who did much to promote Spanish art in France, encouraged Manet’s trip to Spain in 1865. He was responsible for introducing Manet to Claude Monet in 1866. In 1866 Manet painted Astruc’s portrait (Ksthalle, Bremen). Manet also included Astruc in his Music Lesson (1870; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA). In turn Astruc sculpted a head of Manet in 1881. Astruc also figures prominently in Henri Fantin-Latour’s L'Atelier aux Batignolles (1870; Musée d’Orsay, Paris), where he is shown seated, having his portrait painted by Manet.

Astruc probably first met JW at the Café Molière in Paris in October 1858 when JW showed him his 'French Set'. JW etched Astruc's portrait in 1859, Astruc, a literary man (K.53). Like JW, Astruc was fascinated by the art and culture of Japan. In 1865 he composed his first Japanese-inspired play, L’Ile de la demoiselle, and in 1866 in L’Etendard he began to write critically on the current Japoniste vogue. He showed his watercolour The Chinese Gifts (private collection, New York) at the first Impressionist exhibition of 1874.

From 1870 Astruc turned his attention increasingly to painting in watercolour and to sculpture. He exhibited regularly at the Salons. He was awarded the Légion d’honneur in 1898 and received a bronze medal for sculpture at the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1900. A collection of his letters, sketchbooks, articles and notebooks is held in the Louvre.


Astruc, Zacharie, Les 14 Stations du Salon, Paris, 1859; Astruc, Z., Le Salon intime: Exposition au Boulevard des Italiens, Paris, 1860; Astruc, Z., ‘Salon des Refusés’, Le Salon, 20 May 1863; Astruc, Z., ‘L’Empire du soleil levant’, L’Etendard, 27 February, 23 March 1867; Astruc, Z., ‘Le Japon chez nous’, L’Etendard, 26 May 1868.

Pennell, Elizabeth Robins, and Joseph Pennell, The Life of James McNeill Whistler, 2 vols, London and Philadelphia, 1908; Flescher, S., ‘Manet’s Portrait of Zacharie Astruc: A Study of a Friendship and New Light on a Problematic Painting’, Art Magazine, June 1978, pp. 98–105; Flescher, S., Zacharie Astruc: Critic, Artist, and Japoniste (1833–1907), New York, 1978; Monneret, S., L'Impressionisme et son époque, Paris, 1978-79; Sharon Flescher, 'Zacharie Astruc', The Grove Dictionary of Art Online, ed. L. Macy, (accessed 18 July 2002,).