Blanche, Jacques-Émile

Paris 1861 - Offranville 1942
Biography & List of works

Lucie Esnault reading

Lucie Esnault reading

Medium: Oil on canvas

Size: 98 x 70.5 cm

Signed: Signed lower right, J.E.Blanche


Private collection, Switzerland


Jacques-Émile Blanche, Jane Roberts, Gourcuff Gradenigo, Montreuil, 2012, the book features a number of portraits of Lucie Esnault. To be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné de l’oeuvre de Jacques-Émile Blanche in preparation by Jane Roberts.

Related works: There is a painting of Lucie in a similar dress in an interior of an elegant Hôtel Particulier (Le Boudoir Bleu), in the Musée des Beaux Arts, Lyon.

Despite being best-known for his portraits of Parisian high society, Jacques-Émile Blanche worked with sitters from all walks of life, which is how he came across Lucie Esnault. The daughter of the local locksmith in Auteuil, Lucie belongs to a select group of sitters to whom Blanche returned for multiple paintings. The many portraits of Lucie, which document her from a small girl in 1889 through to adulthood, not only allow us to watch her grow up and develop, but also allow us an insight into Blanche’s depictions of a singular personality over a period of time, and most interestingly, how he conveys that personality to the viewer. Models like Esnault allowed Blanche a freedom to explore beyond the limitations of certain compositions in a way a commissioned society portrait could not.

This painting of Lucie Esnault here is one of his later paintings of the young woman, absorbed in a book, possibly in Blanche’s own salon. It is also a portrait of an interior and may be compared with another painting of Lucie Esnault in which she is seated in a chair in profile in a salon, wearing the same white dress, but with a hat and evidently ready to go out. This latter work was acquired by the Musée des Beaux Arts de Lyon in 1908 (illustrated in Roberts, op. cit., pp.72-73).