Blanche Jacques-Émile

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Biography of Blanche Jacques-Émile ( 1861-1942 )

Jacques-Emile Blanche was a key portrait painter at the end of the 19th century, and used to see very often from his early age the most emblematic artists of his time.

He was one of Stéphane Mallarmé’s pupil in the Lycée Condorcet, where he was English teacher. Blanche received a cosmopolitan education and made friend with Henri Bergson and André Gide. He was such a good pianist that for a long time, he hesitated between painting and music.

Although he followed some lessons at the Academy of painting founded by Ferdinand Humbert and Henri Gervex, Jacques-Emile Blanche can be considered as an autodidact painter. He made his first steps in the society under Count Robert de Montesquieu’s watchful eye and gained quickly a great renown as a portrait painter.

In his beginning, he has been encouraged by Fantin-Latour and Manet and was marked by his social origins (his father was the famous alienist Emile-Antoine Blanche) and by his way of life. Personality of the ‘Tout-Paris’, he knew every striking people in the Parisian artistic environment.

The main part of his painting, from Belle Epoque to the twenties, is dedicated to a brief and flattering representation of this glamour society, with so many artifice. His style, alive and sophisticated, has the mark of Parisian Salons.

In 1895, he get married with Rose Lemoinne who was his confidant and childhood friend. He was close to surrealist and Dada artists, among which Jacques Rigaut, René Crevel, Jean Cocteau, whose mother was very friend with Blanche’s family. We can include in his masterpieces a portrait of his father, one of the poet Pierre Louÿs, the painter Fritz Thaulow with his children and also Yvette Guilbert’s portrait.

He was regularly visiting Geneviève Bizet’s salon, who will become Mrs Straus, very well known figure of the ‘Tout-Paris’ in literature and arts, and the countess Potocka’s one too. In this dense society life, he founded inspiration for about 1500 portraits.

In these circumstances, Jacques-Emile Blanche realised the portrait of Lille Langtry, known as Jersey Lily, an English actress with reputed beauty. Painted in Dieppe in 1889, this outside portrait with free technique depicted a woman who knew at this time some private troubles, because she has been having an affair with Albert Edward, Prince of Wales. Many British artists painted this actress, of whom Edward Burne-Jones and Frank Miles.

During the early 1900’s, Jacques-Emile Blanche was named at the Académie de la Palette, and, in 1935, he was elected as a member of the Fine Arts Academy.

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