Born in Paris, the son of a society neurologist, Jacques-Émile Blanche (1861–1942) was a French painter of portraits and landscapes. He enjoyed fashionable success during his lifetime. From 1884 he visited England almost every year, where he regularly submitted work for exhibition. Blanche’s parents kept a house at Dieppe which was a centre for the town’s social scene, as was Blanche’s studio there at Le Bas Fort Blanc. In Dieppe in the mid-1880s Blanche encountered a cross-section of artists and cultural critics, including George Moore, Arthur Symons, Aubrey Beardsley and Charles Conder, as well as Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, Camille Pissarro, Paul Helleu and André Gide.1 When he visited Dieppe in 1885 Walter Sickert visited Blanche, although it seems likely they had met for the first time earlier the same year in London. Blanche’s memoirs suggest this first meeting took place when he visited his friend, Mrs Edwin Edwards, who with her husband was on friendly terms with the painter Henri Fantin-Latour. Sickert had been dispatched there by Whistler to try to persuade Fantin-Latour to visit the American artist’s studio.2 It was in Blanche’s Dieppe house in 1885 that Sickert refreshed his acquaintance with Degas.3
Sickert and Blanche became close friends at this time, and the art historian Wendy Baron has written:
The significance of the role played by Jacques-Émile Blanche in Sickert’s life can hardly be stressed too strongly. Sickert himself treated Blanche rather casually in later life. Their friendship cooled towards the end of the first decade of the twentieth century when Sickert gradually dismissed Blanche as a fussy, rather gloomy and lightweight personality. This change of attitude was typical ... and did not do justice to Blanche’s gifts nor to the help he had given Sickert in his early years.4
In 1909 Sickert wrote to Mrs Hammersley, the wife of one of his patrons, making plain his feelings about Blanche:
You may not, probably do not know that in a sense I have treated Blanche who is a very old friend very badly ... The peculiar angle of his somewhat gossipy mind, and ... pushing character of his art politics, which happen to be diametrically opposed to mine decided me that it was absolutely necessary for my peace & comfort to avoid him & his friends as much as I could. He is a little too officious, kindly officious, but too inconvenient & too compromising. Fortunately the reality of my incessant occupation has enabled me to avoid many people I used constantly to see, without apparent unkindness ... I have even written displeasing things about Blanche’s work in my articles.5
Wendy Baron, Sickert, London 1973, p.16.
Jacques-Émile Blanche, Portraits of a Lifetime, London 1937, p.45; Wendy Baron, Sickert, London 1973, pp.16, 20 n.4; Tate has in its collection Fantin-Latour’s Portrait of Mr and Mrs Edwin Edwards 1875 (Tate N01952).
Baron 1973, p.17.
Walter Sickert, letter to Mrs Hamersley, 1909; quoted in Wendy Baron, Sickert: Paintings and Drawings, New Haven and London 2006, no.269.
Baron 1973, pp.16–17.
NPG 4761. Reproduced in Jacques-Émile Blanche, peintre (1861–1942), exhibition catalogue, Musée des Beaux Arts, Rouen 1997 (31).
Reproduced in Baron 2006, no.57.
Robert Emmons, The Life and Opinions of Walter Richard Sickert, London 1992, p.139.
See Baron 2006, no.269.
See ibid., nos.269, 270.
Reproduced in Modern and Post-War British and Irish Art, Sotheby’s, London, 22 June 1994 (49).
See Wendy Baron, Miss Ethel Sands and her Circle, London 1977, p.76.