The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Jacques Émile Blanche, 1861-1942

Nationality: French
Date of Birth: 1861.02.01
Place of Birth: Paris
Date of Death: 1942
Place of Death: Paris


Jacques Emile Blanche was a French portrait painter, art critic and writer. His father was a fashionable nerve specialist and owned a clinic where many of Blanche's sitters had been patients. He married Rose Blanche, née Lemoinne, the daughter of John Lemoinne, founder-publisher of the Journal des Debats.


Blanche was a very popular artist of his day. He was much influenced by James Tissot, John Singer Sargent and Edouard Manet. JW was also an influence, although Blanche's works tend to be lighter in subject, colour and mood. The loose brushwork and subdued colouring of his portraits are reminiscent of Thomas Gainsborough. Blanche had no formal training and many of his paintings suffered as a result of poor technique. He worked in pastel during the 1880s and 1890s and these are of high quality.

Blanche visited London every year from 1884. He painted many portraits of important literary and society figures including Marcel Proust (1892; private collection, Paris); Aubrey Beardsley (1895; National Portrait Gallery, London), for whose novel Under the Hill Blanche wrote the preface; and Charles Conder (1904; Tate Britain, London).

Blanche exhibited at the Salon from 1882 to 1889 and at the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts from 1890. In 1884, together with Ary Renan, he organized and exhibited at the first Salon des Indépendants at the Galerie Georges Petit in Paris. This was an eclectic show of Neo-Impressionist, Symbolist and other works, including paintings by Odilon Redon, Eugene Carriere, Fernand Khnopff and Charles Angrand. He also exhibited at New English Art Club at the Dudley Gallery in 1888.

Many of Blanche's friends were painters, including Walter Sickert, Sargent, Edgar Degas, Paul Helleu and Giovanni Boldini. He met Proust in the salon of a fashionable hostess in 1891, and they became close. Proust helped Blanche with his writing and corrected the proofs of his Cahiers d'un artiste (1915-20). He also wrote the preface to Blanche's Propos de peintre (1919-28).

Blanche first met JW around 1884 and was in correspondence with him throughout the 1880s. In 1885 JW visited Sickert who was staying with Blanche at his family house in Dieppe. Blanche came to own a number of JW paintings including a portrait of Sickert, Portrait Sketch of Walter Sickert (YMSM 351) and a portrait of a woman, possibly Olga Alberta Caracciolo, later Baroness de Meyer, Arrangement in Pink, Red and Purple (YMSM 324), whom Blanche had also painted. Blanche also acquired St Ives: The Beach (YMSM 267) and Mrs Leyland (M.436). Robert, Comte de Montesquiou-Fezensac, a close friend of JW's was an important patron of Blanche before the two quarrelled in 1889.

Blanche contributed an article on JW to the Renaissance Latine in 1905, and discussed his work in both Propos de peintre, de David à Degas (1919) and Portraits of a Lifetime (1937).

At his death, Blanche bequeathed a large number of his paintings, both his own and those he had collected, to the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Rouen.


Blanche, Jacques Emile, 'James McNeill Whistler', Renaissance Latine, June 1905, pp. 353-78; Blanche, J. E., Cahiers d'un artiste, 6 vols, Paris, 1914-17; Blanche, J. E., Propos de peintre, de David à Degas, 3 vols, Paris, 1919-29; Blanche, J. E., Portraits of a Lifetime, trans. and ed. W. Clement, London, 1937; Blanche, J. E., More Portraits of a Lifetime, London, 1939; Halevy, D., Exposition Jacques Emile Blanche, 1861-1942, exhibition catalogue, Musée d'Orangerie, Paris, 1943; Ferrier, A., 'Jacques-Emile Blanche, peintre et memorialiste', L'Oeil, vol. 8, 1962, pp. 58-65, 108.

Young, Andrew McLaren, Margaret F. MacDonald, Robin Spencer and Hamish Miles, The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler, New Haven and London, 1980; MacDonald, Margaret F., James McNeill Whistler. Drawings, Pastels and Watercolours. A Catalogue Raisonné, New Haven and London, 1995; Abdy, Jane, 'Jacques Emile Blanche', The Grove Dictionary of Art Online, ed. L. Macy, (accessed 21 May 2002).