The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Whistler 2003 - Centenary Journal

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10th July 2003 - Proust is born

It was shortly after the collapse of the Paris Commune on 10 July 1871 that Madame Proust, in the Parisian suburb of Auteuil, gave birth to her son, the novelist, Marcel Proust.

Best known for his epic masterpiece À la recherche du temps perdu, Proust is linked with Whistler through the character Elstir in that novel. Elstir is a painter who regularly attends Madame Verdurin's soirées, and is a member of the group of bohemian socialites known by Mme Verdurin as "the faithful". Philippe Michel-Thiriet (in The Book of Proust, Chatto & Windus, London, 1989, p. 274) suggests that the name 'Elstir' is "perhaps a combination of Helleu and Whistler", although he suggests a number of other artists who might also have influenced the character of Proust's painter, including Moreau, Renoir, and Vuillard.