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Jacques-aEmile Blanche

The first published monograph devoted to the work of Jacques-Emile Blanche. 'Fifty years from now, my portraits of a host of men of letters who were my friends will be on display in museums and galleries; the painter of these portraits, meanwhile, will have left not a single trace in any book published in his time. I am perhaps the only artist of my era of whom there exists not the smallest monograph, nor even an entry in Larousse.' When he wrote this prophetic lament in 1921, Jacques-Emile Blanche could hardly have guessed that in fact nearly a century would pass before the publication of a monograph devoted to his paintings. Yet the work of this artist who rubbed shoulders with 'le tout Paris' of the Belle Epoque - friend of Marcel Proust and Andre Gide, among many others - and who was equally at home in the world Edwardian London society and English country house parties, has never lost its popularity. Why has Blanche for so long been consigned to an artistic limbo? Has he quite simply been the victim of his own lavish gifts? Blanche was not merely a celebrated painter in his own lifetime, but also a musician of professional standard, who played the piano 'divinely' and could read the most complex of scores; the author of over forty published books; and a prolific journalist and commentator in the Paris press. This plethora of talents was to earn him a reputation as a dilettante in every field: contemporary painters accused him of being a writer who also painted badly, while writers dismissed him as a painter who was too ready with his pen. His talents also laid Blanche open to harsh criticism not only from art critics, but also from his fellow artists and even friends, who accused him of being a jack-of-all-trades, of living a life of idleness thanks to his substantial private income (a charge that was not often levelled at Manet or Degas), of being too clever for his own good, and - worst of all - of being too 'fashionable'. Yet as early as 1880, when he was just nineteen years old, Blanche had resolved that painting was his true metier. No fewer than 1500 of his works that have been documented since 1987, testifying not only to his dedication but also to his lifelong passion for art. When Rouen Museum mounted an exhibition of Blanche's work in 1997 (the first since the Second World War), the catalogue sold out within weeks. This book - the first monograph of his work to be published - will be eagerly awaited not only by the public who display such enthusiasm for his paintings, but also by private collectors and the many art galleries and museums that possess examples of his work. It will also demonstrate the degree to which Jacques-Emile Blanche should be considered - alongside the likes of Helleu and Boldini - among the ranks of the great artists of the Belle Epoque and the interwar years.
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The reader is left with a very strong appreciation for the artist and his work. His paintings and pastels are continually featured, the range of his creativity is strongly advanced, and since he was a supreme portrait painter, Roberts has offered a crucial understanding of who his sitters were. This is a very valuable service. -- Gabriel P. Weisberg Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide

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