Jacques-Émile Blanche, Paris 1861 - 1942 Offranville-en-Caux, Normandy
A talented portrait painter of great personal charm, Jacques-Émile Blanche enjoyed a particular vogue during his lifetime in France and in London. Blanche was born in Paris, the son of a fashionable nerve specialist, and save for a few lessons with Henri Gervex and Ferdinand Humbert, he was largely self-taught as a painter, developing a style that blended aspects of the work of Manet and Degas with that of Gainsborough. Blanche was at the heart of an extraordinary social circle, his friends and social acquaintances ranging from the avant-garde artists and writers to wealthy and fashionable members of the haute bourgeoisie. A writer himself, one of Blanche’s closest friends was Marcel Proust. He also knew Henry James and is mentioned in Gertrude Stein’s The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas. Among the painter’s most famous works are portraits of Marcel Proust (private collection, Paris), the poet Pierre Louÿs, the Thaulow family (Musée d’Orsay, Paris), and the illustrator and author Aubrey Beardsley (National Portrait Gallery, London). Other portraits included the painter Mary Cassatt, James Joyce, the Pre-Raphaelite model Julia Stephen, the artist Edgar Degas, the composer Claude Debussy, the author Stéphane Mallarmé, the pianist Léontine Bordes-Pène, the authoress Colette, the novelist Thomas Hardy, the painter John Singer Sargent, and Tamara Karsavina as Stravinsky's Firebird. As much at home in England as in France, Blanche visited London every year from 1884 with great success, and regularly spent his summers at his family house in Dieppe, playing host to many of his artist friends and popularizing the town as an artistic colony.