The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Marc-André Raffalovich, 1864-1934

Nationality: French
Date of Birth: 1864.09.11
Place of Birth: Paris
Date of Death: 1934.02.14
Place of Death: Edinburgh


Marc-André Raffalovich was born in Paris in 1864 and was educated in France and England. He was the youngest son of Marie and Herman Raffalovich. Marie Raffalovich wrote articles on art exhibitions for the journal of Saint-Petersburg. She also ran a salon which was very popular and attracted guests such as Collette, Gustave Moreau and Henri Bergson. As a result Marc-André grew up in a very cultured environment which led him to be a writer himself and to form friendships with many artists and writers himself.


Raffalovich was a journalist, poet and novelist. Between 1884 and 1896 he published five books of poetry and two novels which focused on the subject of sexuality. The poems of Raffalovich often focused on objects of desire but did not specify gender, therefore encouraging same-sex readings.

His most famous non-fiction work Uranisme et Unisexualite (1896) introduced 'unisexuality' as a mode of sexual expression equal to heterosexuality. Raffalovich wrote that 'unisexuality' was noble and pure but only when carried out by a 'sublime invert' who fulfilled his desires through celibate friendship, spirituality and art. Raffalovich's controversial ideas in the text about congenital unisexuality and virility attracted attention from scientists and doctors throughout Europe.

Living in London in 1882 Raffalovich met Aubrey Beardsley and became his patron and good friend. Beardsley read drafts of Raffalovich's work and Raffalovich commissioned a portrait of himself by Beardsley. When Raffalovich moved away he and Beardsley wrote to each other frequently amassing a large correspondence in which Beardsley expressed his appreciation of Raffalovich's financial and moral help.

Raffalovich met his partner, the poet and Symbolist John Gray, in 1892. Gray was possibly the model for Oscar Wilde's 'Dorian Gray'. Gray studied in Rome to become a priest which led to Raffalovich converting to Catholicism in 1896. Together they moved to Edinburgh in 1902 when Gray became a rector at St Peter's Church, Morningside. In Edinburgh Raffalovich continued to attract and support artists such as Cecile Walton, Dorothy Johnston, Eric Robertson and Eric Gill. Guests to Raffalovich's home included Max Beerbohm, Herbert Read the art scholar and the sculptor Aelread Whitacre.

Raffalovich became friendly with Whistler in his time in London in the early 1880s and there are six letters between them.


Sewell, Brocard, Footnote to the Nineties.A Memoir of John Gray. A Memoir of John Gray and Andre Raffalovich, London, 1968; (accessed 2004).