Jacques-Emile Blanche (1861-1942) came from a medical family. His father ran a psychiatric clinic, where many painters, writers and musicians were treated. Contact with them inspired Blanche to paint, and later to write. Among the artists he met were Manet, Degas, Whistler, Proust and Renoir, Delacroix, Corot, Degas, Puvis de Chavannes, Sand, Gautier, Liszt, Berlioz and Gounod.
Description of the painting:
The model bent over the book is Lucie Esnault, whose images repeat in Blanche’s work. He painted her as a girl, so on his later paintings you can observe Lucie’s growing up and maturing. She was the daughter of a locksmith living near the painter’s family home. This allowed the artist to portray her in slightly more relaxed poses, not constrained by the restrictions and requirements associated with portraits of people from higher social classes, painted on order.
Lucia seems to feel comfortable with the painter, and one can even get the impression that she has forgotten about his presence. Engrossed in a book she is holding on her lap, she supports it with one hand with slender fingers, and with the other in an unconscious gesture she holds it under her chin, playing with a pendant. Her pale face, bent over the book is focused and serious. Her dark, thick hair merges almost with the armchair and the greenish background. The artist composed the scene in such a way that the white, wide dress fills a large part of the canvas and strongly contrasts with the dark background, which focuses attention on the model and intensifies the expressiveness of the image. Blanche was an artist shaped by specific life circumstances. He grew up in a clinic for people with mental illnesses, run by his father, a psychiatrist. The patients of the center consisted of the cultural and artistic elite of France and England. Three of Blanche’s siblings died prematurely and he was raised in the presence of adults, governesses, nurses, doctors and patients. He listened to the conversations in the salon on Sunday by painters such as Eugène Delacroix, Camille Corot, Edgar Degas, Pierre Puvis de Chavannes and writers such as Georg Sand and Théophile Gautier. In addition, his father took him to concerts, where he personally met Franz Liszt, Hector Berlioz and Charles Gounod.
Blanche did not finish an art school, for a while he took drawing and painting lessons at home. The greatest influence on his creativity were the painters and writers he met, such as Manet, Degas, Whistler, Proust and Renoir, with whom he often had friendly relationships. Thanks to this, he not only painted, but also began to write books and collect works of art. In the Rógala gallery we can find another work by Blanche, “Study of a Girl (in a Green Dress)”, which shows another, often portrayed by the artist model, Wanda Zielińska.