Jacques-Emile Blanche was born in Paris and raised in the fashionable suburb of Poissy. He spent his youth in a house that once belonged to the Princesse de Lamballe and he was educated in an atmosphere of culture and refinement. He was the grandson of the celebrated physician Emile Antoine Blanche who treated the elite of Paris, among them the poet Gerard de Nerval. From an early age, Blanche was exposed to the literary and artistic luminaries of late 19th Century Paris, and he was quite comfortable in the company of famous artists, musicians, writers and socialites. He spent some time in the studio of Henri Gervex, and won a gold medal at the Exposition universelle of 1900. He regularly exhibited at both the Paris Salon and the London Royal Academy and was made a Commander of the Legion of Honor that same year. Blanche was himself a man of letters who published novels (more or less autobiographical) which, like his paintings, give insight to the manners of mores of the social elite of the Belle Epoque. Portraits of a Lifetime was published in 1937, and its sequel More Portraits of a Lifetime which was published the following year were essentially chronicles of life in and about Paris around the turn of the century. Doubtless, the artist drew upon his social and artistic interaction with the cream of Parisian and London society as a basis for his novels, and his insight into the personalities of his subjects as an artist is clearly reflected in his writing.
Blanche was in enormous demand as a portraitist on both sides of the Channel. He traveled to England regularly beginning in 1884 and was no doubt exposed to the work of John Singer Sargent and James Abbott McNell Whistler. He would also have known Sargent in Paris, where his clients included Jean Cocteau, Andre Gide, Edgar Degas, Claude Debussy, Maeterlinck, Paul Claudel, and Colette among others. His English sitters are no less distinguished, among them James Joyce, Henry James, Aubrey Bearsly and D. H. Lawrence. Blanche appears as a character in Mabel Dodge Luhan's memoirs and Arnold Bennet's diary. He counted among his friends Stephane Mallarmé, Thomas Hardy and King Edward VII.
We would like to thank Galerie Brame et Lorenceau and Jane Roberts for confirming the authenticity of this work.