Jacques-Émile Blanche

Paris 1861 - Offranville 1942

Blanche’s talents as a painter of still life, portraits, landscapes, beach scenes and the occasional incident from everyday life, earned him considerable wealth and a prominent place in the art world of his time. His friends and acquaintances ranged from the avant-garde to the upper bourgeoisie and he moved with ease from one group to the other. His many portraits are evidence of the range of his connections and the broad recognition of his talent, including not only Jean Cocteau but others among the most famous French writers of the early years of the century: André Gide and the Vicomtesse Anne de Noailles (both 1912), Francis Jammes (1917), Paul Claudel (1919), the poet Max Jacob (1921) – who was later to die in a Nazi concentration camp- and Maeterlinck (1931) as well as Nijinsky, the Norwegian painter Thaulow and his family, James Joyce, Paul Adam, Charles Cottet and Walter Sickert.

While his art could not be described as progressive, he was nonetheless an open minded supporter of new talent and a critic of moribund academicism. His own origins were respectable and bourgeois: he was the son of a famous alieniste, and his training conventional. He had studied with Gervex and Fernand Humbert as well as spending time in the more advanced studios of Manet and Degas. A regular exhibitor at the Salon of the National Society of Fine Arts from 1890, he also frequently exhibited in London at the Leicester Galleries and was given a monographic show at the National Gallery, a rare distinction for a living painter. During the latter part of his career his style seemed retardataire, harking back to the days of post-impressionism without being touched by the artistic revolutions of the First World War period. Nonetheless, he had many supporters and patrons from the time of his debut at the Salon until the late twenties. He was married to Rose Lemoinne, the daughter of John Lemoinne, founder-publisher of the Journal des Debats, but it is said that this alliance may have been more a convenience than a love match.