The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Horace Lecoq de Boisbaudran, 1802-1897

Nationality: French
Date of Birth: 1802
Place of Birth: Paris
Date of Death: 1897
Place of Death: Paris


Horace Lecoq de Boisbaudran was an artist and teacher.


Lecoq de Boisbaudran studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris with Jacques Peyron and Guillaume Lethière. He made his début at the Salon in 1831 and became a regular exhibitor at the Salon during the 1830s, showing mainly portraits and religious subjects. In 1841 he became an assistant professor at the Ecole Royale et Spéciale de Dessin et de Mathématique, where he developed a system of teaching based on visual memory training, where his students would be trained to memorize lines of differing lengths and angles and then more complex models, including paintings, sculptures and scenes observed from every day life. Lecoq first outlined this method in 1848 in a pamphlet entitled L'Education de la mémoire pittoresque'. In 1866 he became the director of the Petite Ecole. He resigned in 1869 following fierce criticism from the conservative wing of the school. He then taught at the Lycée Saint-Louis, the Ecole Spéciale d'Architecture and privately in his home.

Many well known painters and sculptors studied under Lecoq de Boisbaudran including Georges Bellenger, Jean-Charles Cazin, Jules Dalou, Henri Fantin-Latour, Alphonse Legros, Léon Lhermitte, Auguste Rodin and the Régamey brothers: Guillaume, Félix and Frédéric. Edouard Manet, Edgar Degas and JW were also influenced by Lecoq's ideas, albeit indirectly. JW became aware of his teaching methods through his friendship with Fantin-Latour and Legros, all three forming the Société de Trois in 1858. Lecoq's system was of particular importance for the development of JW's Nocturnes and his turn away from Realism, encouraging simplicity and a new perception of landscape as merely an arrangement of colour and form.


Boisbaudran, Horace Lecoq de, L'Education de la mémoire pittoresque, Paris, 1848, English trans., London, 1911; Boisbaudran, Horace Lecoq de, Coup d'œil sur l'enseignement des beaux-arts, Paris, 1872; Boisbaudran, Horace Lecoq de, Lettres à un jeune professeur, Paris, 1876.

Dorment, Richard and Margaret F. MacDonald, James McNeill Whistler, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London, 1994; Régamey, Félix, Horace Lecoq de Boisbaudran et ses élèves: Notes et souvenirs, Paris, 1903; Chu, Petra ten-Doesschate, 'Lecoq de Boisbaudran and Memory Drawing: A Teaching Course between Idealism and Naturalism', The European Realist Tradition, ed. G. Weisberg, Bloomington, 1982; Chu, Petra Ten-Doesschate, 'Horace Lecoq de Boisbaudran', The Grove Dictionary of Art Online, ed. L. Macy, (accessed 25 July 2002).