The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler

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Philippe Burty, 1830-1890

Nationality: French
Date of Birth: 1830
Place of Birth:
Date of Death: 1890.06.03
Place of Death: Parays


Philippe Burty was a critic, collector and etcher. He had a daughter Madeleine who married the entrepreneur Charles Haviland of Haviland & Co., a porcelain manufacturing firm in Limoges.


Burty, who began his career studying drawing and painting, became art critic of the Gazette des Beaux-Arts in 1859. He also wrote for the newspaper Le Rappel from 1869 to 1871, and the avant-garde journal La Renaissance littéraire et artistique (1872-1874), as well as making regular contributions to La République française, Academy and L'Art.

Like JW, Burty was among the early enthusiasts and collectors of Japanese artefacts. It was he who coined the term Japonisme in 1872 and was considered to be one of the key figures in the growing popularity of Japanese culture in France.

Burty took an interest in JW's work in 1863, asking Henri Fantin-Latour if JW planned to exhibit at the Salon of that year (#01077). In that year JW was awarded a gold medal for the etchings he exhibited at The Hague. He wrote to Fantin to get Burty to mention this in the Presse (#08043). In 1865 Burty commented on JW's The Scarf (YMSM 59) and Caprice in Purple and Gold: The Golden Screen (YMSM 60) in the Gazette des Beaux-Arts: 'abondent en tons faux et délavés, choses singulière, puisque M. Whistler s'inspirait directement de ces feuilles d'albums japonais si franches et riches.' JW was very anxious to have Burty's good opinion (#01085).

Burty was also a devotee of the works of Delacroix, whose letters he edited, as well as a significant influence on the Impressionists, whose cause he defended in numerous articles. He himself continued to draw small landscape sketches in pencil or charcoal, which show a close observation of nature and atmospheric conditions.

Burty also etched (e.g. Japanese Objects from the Collection of Philippe Burty, c. 1873; Museum of Fine Art, Boston) and was a central figure in the etching revival. He was a founder-member of the Société des Aquafortistes in 1862, and knew many etchers. He also had a fine collection of prints, including works by Félix Bracquemond, Charles Meryon and JW. During the late 1870s he auctioned a significant part of his print collection in London, using the money raised to purchase further Japanese objects of art.


Burty, P., 'Exposition de la Royal Academy', Gazette des Beaux-Arts, vol. 18, June 1865, pp. 553-65; Burty, P., Les Emaux cloisonnés anciens et modernes, Paris, 1868; Burty, P. (ed.), Lettres d'Eugène Delacroix, Paris, 1878.

Weisberg, Gabriel P., 'Philippe Burty: A Notable Critic of the Nineteenth Century', Apollo, vol. 91, 1970, pp. 296–300; Weisberg, G. P., 'Philippe Burty and Early Japonisme', Japonisme in Art: An International Symposium, Tokyo, 1980; Weisberg, G. P., The Independent Critic: Philippe Burty and the Visual Arts of Mid-nineteenth-century France, Berne and New York, 1993; Weisberg, Gabriel P., 'Philippe Burty', The Grove Dictionary of Art Online, ed. L. Macy, (accessed 2 August 2002).