Le Peintre Thaulow et ses enfants
Against a rapidly painted, indistinct background, evoking a cluster of trees that might appear in a "Conversation Piece" painting from 18th century England, Jacques-Emile Blanche depicts the artist Frits Thaulow (1847-1906), a familiar figure in Parisian artistic circles, surrounded by his children as he paints. Proof of the friendship that existed between the two men, the painting also expresses Blanche's fascination with this happy, generous family with their unconventional air, far removed from bourgeois preoccupations. However Blanche undertook the work in difficult circumstances at a time when his attention was focused on the poor state of his mother's health. Thaulow himself had to square up a small preparatory drawing to get his friend to pick up his brushes and finish the painting while he was in a "sort of fit of anger". So, it was just as he was about to lose his mother, that Blanche painted one of his most beautiful paintings showing a family full of life, love and tenderness.
The composition develops in a spiral, beginning at the centre with a line of brushstrokes that become increasingly wide. At first it takes in the palette, before going on to incorporate the painter's face as he looks towards his canvas. Then, he adds in little Ingrid (1891-1983) and Harald (1887-1967) – both children of Thaulow's second marriage to Alexandra Lasson – and finally Else (1880-1960), his daughter from a first marriage to Ingeborg Gad, Paul Gauguin's sister-in-law.
Presented at the Salon de la Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts in 1896, this painting with its very rigorous structure, despite the apparent spontaneity of the brushwork, brilliantly revitalises Blanche' style. Moreover, the painting was greeted with unanimous critical acclaim, which prompted Blanche to say later that this work was the one that "made him a painter".