The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Marc-Charles-Gabriel Gleyre, 1806-1874

Nationality: Swiss
Date of Birth: 1806.05.02
Place of Birth: Chevilly, Vaud Canton
Date of Death: 1874.05.05
Place of Death: Paris


Marc-Charles-Gabriel Gleyre was a Swiss painter and teacher who was primarily active in France.


Gleyre specialised in classical and biblical subjects. Along with Paul Delaroche and Thomas Couture, he helped to create what was known as the juste-milieu compromise style of painting. His work had academic overtones but had an imaginative freshness. He was an influential figure in the establishment of the Néo-Grec school. In 1843 he took over from Delaroche one of the most famous ateliers in Paris which had also belonged to Jacques-Louis David and Antoine-Jean Gros. Gleyre did not run his studio conventionally. He did not ask his students for a fee but expected them to contribute to the rent and payment of models. Similarly they were given a voice in the day to day running of the school. His students included Claude Monet, Auguste Renoir, Alfred Sisley, Jean-Frédérick Bazille and Whistler.

When Whistler arrived in Paris in the summer of 1855 Gleyre's studio carried an air of fashionability, and on 17 June 1856 Whistler enrolled as a student there. Through Gleyre, Whistler learned to systematically arrange the colours on his palette and to paint in opaque pigments over a dark ground. Although he was to later rebel, this method essentially informed his painting practice throughout his career. Pennell wrote that even later works such asArrangement in Black: Portrait of F. R. Leyland (YMSM 97) and Arrangement in Black, No. 2: Portrait of Mrs Louis Huth (YMSM 125) showed Whistler still following 'the system taught by Gleyre'. When he in turn became master at the Académie Carmen, his methods were based on those of Gleyre.

In Gleyre's studio Whistler came into contact with Henri Martin, Henri Oulevey, George Du Maurier, Edward Poynter, L. M. Lamont and Joseph Rowley, a group which were later satirised in Du Maurier's novel Trilby (1895). However, Whistler was to find himself more in sympathy with Courbet's pupils who included Henri Fantin-Latour and Edgar Degas.


Clément, C., Gleyre: Etude bibliographique et critique, Geneva, 1878; Bénézit, E., Dictionnaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs et Graveurs, 8 vols, Paris, 1956-61; Hauptman, William , 'Allusions and Illusions in Gleyre's Le Soir', Art Bulletin, vol. 40, 1978, pp. 321-30; Robinson, L. F., Marc-Charles-Gabriel Gleyre, dissertation, Baltimore, 1978; Charles Gleyre, 1806-1874, exhibition catalogue, New York, 1980; Hauptman, William, 'Delaroche's and Gleyre's Teaching Ateliers and their Group Portraits', Studies in the History of Art, vol. 18, 1985, pp. 79-119; Hauptman, William, '(Marc-)Charles(-Gabriel) Gleyre', The Grove Dictionary of Art Online, ed. L. Macy, (accessed 8 March 2002).