Paris 1861–1942 Offranville
Autoportrait de l'artiste au salon de musique au Manoir du Tot, Offranville
Signed, lower right, J. E. Blanche
Oil on canvas
16 ⁹⁄₁₆ x 13 ⅜ inches
42 x 34 cm
Private collection, New York
J. Roberts, Jacques-Emile Blanche, Paris, 2012, p. 129, illustrated
Painted circa 1910
Blanche’s attachment to Normandy and the area around Dieppe dated from his earliest childhood. Whenever his mother felt he was “under the weather,” he was sent to Dieppe, to his cousins, the Lallemant, who lived at 29 rue de l’Ecosse (“j’ai dit que Dieppe avait faillie être mon lieu de naissance. Au moindre bobo, on m’y envoyait pour changer d’air”¹).
Then, wisely investing in Jacques’s future artistic career, Dr. Blanche decided to build, in 1879 - although Jacques was still only 18 - a magnificent, timbered studio overlooking the sea, in the garden of his large, Norman-style “chalet” designed by Mélicourt (“à l’autre bout de la plage avait été récemment construite une rangée de maisons, sur l’emplacement de la vieille batterie à canons de Napoléon, le bas fort blanc. De son atelier, Jacques Emile Blanche pouvait voir passer les bateaux de pêche comme dans une cabine de bateau”²).
It was there that summers were spent with houseguests such as Degas, Gervex or Helleu, socializing with his neighbors the Halévy family.³ In 1902, Blanche, who had by then lost both his parents and had, in 1895, married Rose Lemoinne, rented the Manoir du Tot in the pretty village of Offranville. The large and quite imposing house - Blanche always refused to call it “chateau”- had many charming 18th-century features including fireplaces and panelling in all the rooms, which suited Blanche’s personal style of furnishing and showed the British influence of flowered or patterned chintzes and comfortable sofas and chairs mixed with pretty Louis XVI pieces of furniture. In 1904, he undertook some renovations and made it very much his permanent home, virtually forsaking Auteuil.
There was a constant stream of guests at the Manoir du Tot, including the very young Jean Cocteau with Hilda Trevelyan, whom Blanche portrayed in the salon de musique on the first of many visits to Offranville. In 1912 the couple appears leaning on the piano and reflected in the trumeau. Blanche was always fascinated by reflections in mirrors, which expanded compositions and gave them a certain mystery, a “trick” no doubt learned from his old mentor Degas. Here we see the artist himself reflected in yet another mirror of the salon de musique, giving depth and half-hidden meaning to what is a rather formal but charming interior.
The music room was south-facing and the Blanches’ favorite reception room. Music was a lifelong passion for Blanche, who could have become a professional pianist had he not become a painter. Indicative of his fondness for the room, Blanche painted two other views of the music room at the Manoir du Tot, both circa 1910: one larger, from a different angle, which shows the chintz-covered chair in the present painting as well as another covered in the same material, both in front of the fireplace;⁴ and another, smaller, showing just the chintz-covered chair to the left of the fireplace.⁵
Jacques Emile Blanche died in Offranville in 1942.
“I said that Dieppe nearly was my birthplace. At the slightest sign of illness, I was sent there for a change of air,” Jacques-Emile Blanche, La pêche aux souvenirs, Paris, Flammarion, 1949, p. 50.
Simona Pakenham, "quand Dieppe était anglais ," les informations dieppoises, 1971, p. 33.
Jane Roberts, “A Young Man at Home in Dieppe,” in Six friends in Dieppe, exhibition catalogue, Providence, Rhode Island School of Design, 2005, pp.31- 49.
Private collection, Paris (oil on canvas, 31 1/2 x 19 5/8 inches, 80 x 50 cm; see J. Roberts, op. cit., pp. 128, 194, illustrated on p. 128).
Oil on canvas, 9 x 6 3/4 inches, 22.5 x 17 cm (see Paris, Jane Roberts Fine Arts, Lucien Simon et Jacques-Emile Blanche: Une histoire d’amitié, exhibition catalogue, 20 November – 20 December 2019, cat. no. 24, illustrated).