The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler

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Théodore Chassériau, 1819-1856

Nationality: French
Date of Birth: 1819.09.20
Place of Birth: Sainte-Barbe de Samana, South America
Date of Death: 1856.10.08
Place of Death: Paris


Théodore Chassériau was a painter and printmaker.


Chassériau, a precocious artist, trained in Ingres's studio, and made his début at Salon in 1836 with several works, including Cain Accursed (Private Collection, Paris), for which he received a third-class medal. He became well known for his paintings of idealised but sensual female nudes, for example, Susanna Bathing (1839, Louvre, Paris). The conflicting influences of Ingres' linearity and idealisation and Delacroix's exoticism and sensuality is also evident in his commissions for public buildings in Paris, for example, St Philip Baptizing the Eunuch of the Queen of Ethiopia (1854; St Roch). Like Delacroix, Chassériau preferred to paint in an oil medium on plaster, rather than in fresco. His decorative paintings had a marked effect on such artists as Gustave Moreau and Puvis de Chavannes.

In 1846 Chassériau, like Delacroix before him, found himself drawn to North Africa. His orientalist works, painted following his return from Algeria, suffer in authenticity because of the European models he used. Whistler shared with Chassériau an interest in oriental subjects, although his inspiration lay in Japan rather than North Africa. He also shared an interest in colour and this meant that he too sacrificed the authenticity of ethnic models for concerns of aesthetic beauty.


Chevillard, V., Un Peintre romantique: Théodore Chassériau, Paris, 1893; L. Bénédite, Théodore Chassériau, sa vie et son oeuvre, 2 vols, Paris, 1932; Bénézit, E., Dictionaire critique et documentaire des peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs et Graveurs, Paris, 1960. Sandoz, M., Théodore Chassériau, 1819–1856: Catalogue raisonné des peintures et des estampes, Paris, 1974; Fisher, J. M., Théodore Chassériau: Illustrations for 'Othello', Baltimore, 1979; Orientalism, The Near East in French Painting, 1800–1880, exhibition catalogue, University of Rochester, New York, 1982; Stevens, M. A. (ed.), The Orientalists: Delacroix to Matisse, exhibition catalogue, Royal Academy, London, 1984; Rosenthal, Donald A., 'Théodore Chassériau', The Grove Dictionary of Art Online, ed. L. Macy, accessed 30 August 2002,