The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Théodore Roussel, 1847-1926

Nationality: French
Date of Birth: 1847.03.23
Place of Birth: Lorient, Brittany
Date of Death: 1926.04.23 or 1927
Place of Death: Hastings, Sussex


Théodore (Casimir) Roussel was a painter and etcher.


Roussel was born and educated in France and settled in England in 1878, where he established his reputation as an artist. He was largely self-taught, studying in detail the works of the old masters. His early paintings show this influence combined with an interest in modern urban life.

Roussel met JW in 1885, having become his neighbour in Chelsea, and the two men became lifelong friends. His watercolours and oils of this period show the influence of JW in both technique and subject matter. His portraits of Mortimer Menpes and JW's mistress Maud Franklin, and a painting of Bathers, described as an 'arrangement in flesh-colour and green', exhibited at the SBA in 1887-88, were particularly Whistlerian.

In 1888, encouraged by JW, Roussel began experimenting with etching and drypoint (see Sign of the 'White Horse', Parson's Green, about 1893-94). He was particularly interested in colour science and was an early pioneer of colour etching in Britain. He became President of the Society of Graver Printers in Colour at its foundation in 1909, a post which he retained until his death.

Like JW, Roussel become concerned with the designing of his own frames. The two artists also shared models, such as the Pettigrew sisters, and at times exchanged drawings (see Whistler and his sister-in-law 'telling' cards (M.1191), A door opening onto steps down to a garden (M.1193), A house with a veranda and steps leading down to a garden (M.1194)).

In 1887 Roussel became a member of the Royal Society of British Artists, of which JW had become President in 1886. He made drawings of a number of JW paintings exhibited at the SBA for publication (e.g. Nocturne in Blue and Gold: Valparaiso Bay (YMSM 76), Cremorne, No. 1 (YMSM 163), Arrangement in Black, No. 8: Portrait of Mrs Cassatt (YMSM 250)). When JW resigned from the Society in June 1888, Roussel, along with Menpes, Walter Sickert and Alfred Stevens, also handed in their resignation.

Roussel also exhibited with the New English Art Club and with the International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers (under JW's presidency from 1898). In 1908 he was amongst the founder members of the Allied Artists' Association.


Rutter, F., Theodore Roussel, London, 1926; Bénézit, E., Dictionnaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs et Graveurs, 8 vols, Paris, 1956-61; Young, Andrew McLaren, Margaret F. MacDonald, Robin Spencer and Hamish Miles, The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler, New Haven and London, 1980; Walkley, Giles, Artists' houses in London 1764-1914, Aldershot, 1994; MacDonald, Margaret F., James McNeill Whistler. Drawings, Pastels and Watercolours. A Catalogue Raisonné, New Haven and London, 1995; Anderson, Ronald, 'Théodore (Casimir) Roussel', The Grove Dictionary of Art Online, ed. L. Macy, (accessed 1 May 2002).