Catalogue entry

Jacques-Emile Blanche 1861-1942

N03580 Thomas Hardy 1906

Inscribed 'To Mr Thomas Hardy J.E. Blanche | 24 May 1906 | London' b.r.
Oil on canvas, 36 1/8 x 28 3/4 (92 x 73)
Purchased from the artist (Clarke Fund) with the aid of donations from E. Debenham, A.G. Ross, Mrs Granville-Barker, Sir James Barrie, C.H. St John Hornby, Lady Ilchester 1921
Exh: New English Art Club, London, June 1906 (108); Exposition de Peintres et de Sculpteurs, Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, March 1907 (13); Salon de la Société Nationale, Paris, April-June 1907 (133); x Esposizione Internazionale d'Arte della Città di Venezia, Venice, April-October 1912 (Blanche 18); National Portrait Society, Grafton Galleries, London, January-March 1921 (2)
Lit: Jacques-Emile Blanche, Mes Modèles (Paris 1928), pp.80-3, 87; Jacques-Emile Blanche, Portraits of a Lifetime (London 1937), pp.177-81, repr. facing p.178; Jacques-Emile Blanche, More Portraits of a Lifetime (London 1939), p.87; William Rothenstein, Since Fifty (London 1939), pp.79-80
Repr: Studio, XXXVIII, 1906, p.228; Kunst für Alle, XXIX, 1913, p.128

Thomas Hardy, OM (1840-1928), the novelist and poet. Blanche had been corresponding with Hardy for some time and had been trying to arrange to paint his portrait, but he didn't actually meet him until the afternoon on which this portrait sketch was painted. Hardy turned up unexpectedly at his London hotel and said that he would be willing to pose straightaway, as he had a little time between two appointments. The sketch was painted in an hour and a half in Blanche's nearby studio in William Street. It was a very hot day and Hardy was suffering severely from the heat.

Blanche afterwards painted a second portrait (quite different in pose and done in numerous sittings) which is now in the Manchester City Art Gallery. Blanche himself greatly preferred this second, completely finished portrait, and wrote on 12 August 1927 to Sir William Rothenstein: 'You remember, the Committee (Mr Debenham's) decided upon the sketch as more "modern", as you may guess! But the more elaborate one, the rejected one, no doubt is far superior'.

Published in:
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, pp.57-8, reproduced p.57