Detail from The Canal, Amsterdam, 1889, James McNeill Whistler, The Hunterian, University of Glasgow


Jacques Émile Blanche

Nationality: French
Date of birth: 1 February 1861
Place of birth: Paris
Date of death: 1942
Place of death: Paris
Category: artist and art critic


Jacques Emile Blanche was a French portrait painter, art critic and writer. His father was a fashionable nerve specialist and owned a clinic where many of Blanche's sitters had been patients. He married Rose Blanche, née Lemoinne, the daughter of John Lemoinne, founder-publisher of the Journal des Debats.


Blanche was a very popular artist, much influenced by James Tissot, John Singer Sargent and Edouard Manet, as well as Whistler, although Blanche's works tend to be lighter in subject, colour and mood. Blanche had no formal training and many of his paintings suffered as a result of poor technique. He also worked in pastel during the 1880s and 1890s.

Blanche visited London every year from 1884. He painted many portraits of literary and society figures including Marcel Proust (1892; private collection, Paris); Aubrey Beardsley (1895; National Portrait Gallery, London), for whose novel Under the Hill Blanche wrote the preface; and Charles Conder (1904; Tate Britain, London).

Blanche exhibited at the Salon from 1882 to 1889 and at the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts from 1890. In 1884, together with Ary Renan, he organized and exhibited at the first Salon des Indépendants at the Galerie Georges Petit in Paris. This was an eclectic show of Neo-Impressionist, Symbolist and other works. He also exhibited at New English Art Club at the Dudley Gallery in 1888.

Many of Blanche's friends were painters, including Walter Sickert, J.S. Sargent, Edgar Degas, Paul Helleu and Giovanni Boldini. He met Proust in 1891 and Proust helped Blanche with his writing and corrected the proofs of his Cahiers d'un artiste (1915-20). He also wrote the preface to Blanche's Propos de peintre (1919-28).

Blanche first met Whistler around 1884 and was in correspondence with him throughout the 1880s. In 1885 Whistler visited Sickert who was staying with Blanche at his family house in Dieppe. Blanche came to own a number of Whistler paintings including Portrait Sketch of Walter Sickert y351 and a portrait of a woman, Arrangement in Pink, Red and Purple y324. Blanche also acquired St Ives: The Beach y267 and Mrs Leyland m0436. Robert, Comte de Montesquiou-Fezensac, a close friend of Whistler's, was an important patron of Blanche before the two quarrelled in 1889.

Blanche contributed an article on Whistler to the Renaissance Latine in 1905, and discussed his work in both Propos de peintre, de David à Degas (1919) and Portraits of a Lifetime (1937).

At his death, Blanche bequeathed a large number of his paintings, both his own and those he had collected, to the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Rouen.


Blanche, Jacques Emile, 'James McNeill Whistler', Renaissance Latine, June 1905, pp. 353-78; Blanche, J. E., Cahiers d'un artiste, 6 vols, Paris, 1914-17; Blanche, J. E., Propos de peintre, de David à Degas, 3 vols, Paris, 1919-29; Blanche, J. E., Portraits of a Lifetime, trans. and ed. W. Clement, London, 1937; Blanche, J. E., More Portraits of a Lifetime, London, 1939; Halevy, D., Exposition Jacques Emile Blanche, 1861-1942, exhibition catalogue, Musée d'Orangerie, Paris, 1943; Ferrier, A., 'Jacques-Emile Blanche, peintre et memorialiste', L'Oeil, vol. 8, 1962, pp. 58-65, 108.

Young, Andrew McLaren, Margaret F. MacDonald, Robin Spencer, and Hamish Miles, The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler, New Haven and London, 1980 ; MacDonald, Margaret F., James McNeill Whistler. Drawings, Pastels and Watercolours. A Catalogue Raisonné, New Haven and London, 1995 ; Abdy, Jane, 'Jacques Emile Blanche', The Grove Dictionary of Art Online, ed. L. Macy. 'Jacques-Emile Blanche', ArtUK. 'Jacques-Émile Blanche', Wikipedia.