The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Gustave Geffroy, 1855-1926

Nationality: French
Date of Birth: 1855
Place of Birth: Paris
Date of Death: 1926
Place of Death: Paris


Gustave Geffroy was a French critic and writer on art, literature and politics.


Geffroy was greatly influenced by the socialism and Naturalism of Georges Clemenceau, Emile Zola and Edmond de Goncourt. In the 1880s he wrote for Clemenceau's newspaper La Justice and from 1893 for Le Journal. He was a champion of Impressionism and was good friends with Claude Monet. He was one of the first to appreciate Monet's series paintings. He was also close to Auguste Rodin, J.-F. Raffaëlli, Félix Bracquemond and Eugène Carrière. Both Rodin and Paul Cézanne made portraits of Geffroy in recognition of his critical support. Although showing little sympathy for the work of the Symbolists he appreciated the work of Georges Seurat, Edouard Vuillard, Pierre Bonnard, Maurice Denis and Paul Gauguin. He was also known for his writings on women artists, japonisme, mural painting and the decorative arts.

In 1890 Geffroy made a very detailed and perceptive descriptions of Whistler's Nocturne in Blue and Gold: Valparaiso Bay (YMSM 76) and Nocturne: Black and Gold - The Fire Wheel (YMSM 169). In 1891 Whistler discussed with Geffroy, Stéphane Mallarmé, Théodore Duret and Roger Marx ways in which his Arrangement in Grey and Black: Portrait of the Painter's Mother (YMSM 101) could be acquired by the Musée du Luxembourg. Geffroy responded by writing an article in Le Gaulois on 4 November 1891 urging that it be bought by the French government. Geffroy saw and wrote about Whistler's Violet and Silver: A Deep Sea (YMSM 411), Dark Blue and Silver (YMSM 412) and Violet and Blue: Among the Rollers (YMSM 413) in Paris in 1894, and Brown and Gold (YMSM 440) in 1900.


Geffroy, G., La Vie artistique, 8 vols, Paris, 1892-1903; Geffroy, G., Claude Monet: Sa vie, son oeuvre, Paris, 1922; Denommé, R. T., The Naturalism of Gustave Geffroy, Geneva, 1963; Monneret, S., L'Impressionisme et son époque, Paris, 1978-79; Paradise, J. C., Gustave Geffroy and the Criticism of Painting, New York, 1985; Paradise, Joanne Culler, 'Gustave Geffroy', The Grove Dictionary of Art Online, ed. L. Macy, (accessed 8 March 2002).