The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Alfred Emile-LĂ©opold Stevens, 1823-1906

Nationality: Belgian
Date of Birth: 1823.05.11
Place of Birth: Brussels
Date of Death: 1906.08.24
Place of Death: Paris


Alfred Emile-Léopold Stevens was a Belgian painter who came from a family of painters. He had two brothers, Joseph Edouard (q.v.),who was an animal painter, and Arthur (d. 1890) who was an art critic and keeper of the picture gallery of Leopold II. Alfred married Marie Blanc (d. 1891) in 1858. Their eldest son Léopold (b. 1861) became a portrait, genre and landscape painter. The couple's other children were Catherine, Jean and Pierre.


Stevens studied under Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. His early works show a debt to the Realism of Gustave Courbet and the historical subjects of Henri Leys. After 1855 he turned to painting genre scenes depicting female subjects within middle-class Parisian interiors.

Stevens shared Whistler's interest in Japonisme (see Woman in Pink, 1866, Museum of Modern Art, Brussels) and was amongst those who frequented La Porte Chinoise at 36 rue Vivienne in the 1860s.

According to Henri Fantin-Latour, Stevens greatly admired one of Whistler's White Girl paintings, probably Symphony in White, No. 3 (YMSM 61). Whistler also appreciated the work of Stevens. Visiting the 1887 International Exhibition in Antwerp, he declared of a painting by Stevens, 'one would not mind having painted that!' The Pennells likened Stevens to Whistler in his refusal to bow to public taste. He and Whistler were in correspondence during the period 1886-95.

As President of the Society of British Artists, Whistler was behind the election of Stevens to its membership in 1887. When Whistler resigned his Presidency of the Royal Society of British Artists on 4 June 1888, Stevens, along with Mortimer Menpes, Walter Sickert and Théodore Roussel, resigned in support.


Lemonnier, C., Alfred Stevens et son oeuvre, Brussels, 1906; Lambotte, P., Alfred Stevens, Antwerp, 1907; Boucher, F., Alfred Stevens, Paris, 1930; Mitchell, P., Alfred Emile Léopold Stevens, 1823-1906, London, 1973; Grenez, A., Rétrospective Alfred Stevens, Charleroi, 1975; Coles, W. A., Alfred Stevens, Ann Arbor, 1977; Thomas, Bernadette, 'Alfred (Emile-Léopold) Stevens', The Grove Dictionary of Art Online, ed. L. Macy, (accessed 29 April 2002).