The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Léon-Joseph Florentin Bounat, 1834-1923

Nationality: French
Date of Birth: 1834
Place of Birth: Bayonne
Date of Death: 1923
Place of Death:


Léon-Joseph Florentin Bonnat (1834-1923), painter and collector.


Bonnat entered the Ecole des Beaux Arts and competed for the Prix de Rome three times, coming second in 1857 with the Resurrection of Lazarus. In the 1870s he painted studies of history and Italian life, and in the 1870s, portraits of important members of American and European society. He was greatly influenced by Ribera, Titian, Velaquez and van Dyke and although he was renowned for his work, many were of a poor quality, and hastily finished, due to the number of commisions he received.

As well as running an independent studio for thirty years, he taught at the Ecole des Beaux Arts from 1883. He was known for being a liberal salon judge and had great support for non academic artists like Manet. In addition to this, from 1880 onwards he was a important art collector and his series of Old Master drawings formed the basis of the the Musée Bonnat in Bayonne.

JW's connection with Bonnat was brief; he was mentioned in a letter from George Rolland Halkett to The Scotsman as being one of the artists of the French Academy who presented JWwith a medal for his contribution to art, even though their tastes were greatly different.


Pennell, Elizabeth Robins and Joseph Pennell, The Life of James McNeill Whistler, 2 vols, London and Philidelphia, 1908; Rosenthal, M. , 'Leon-Joseph Florentin Bonnat',The Grove Dictionary of Art Online, ed. L. Macy, (accessed 1st July 2003).