Medium: Oil on canvas
Size: 80.5 x 61.3 cm
Signed: lower right: J. E. Blanche 90
Jacques-Émile Blanche, Jane Roberts, Gourcuff Gradenigo, Montreuil, 2012, p. 68-69; To be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné de l’oeuvre de Jacques-Émile Blanche in preparation by Jane Roberts.
Despite being most well-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 who Blanche returned to 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 a young girl 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.
The painting of Esnault here is one of his earliest depictions of the little locksmith’s daughter and features a mirror, a prop he employed in many paintings of both Lucie and others. In this portrait, she has her back to the viewer and it is only through her reflection in the cheval glass that we are able to look upon her inscrutable expression. This bold composition not only demonstrates his talent as a painter, who pays homage to masters such as Velazquez, but it also allows us to see the different ways that Blanche chose to present his sitters.