Skip to content

Blanc, Charles

    Image Credit: Kayre in Color

    Full Name: Blanc, Charles

    Other Names:

    • Charles Blanc

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 17 November 1813

    Date Died: 17 January 1882

    Place Born: Caracas, Distrito Capital, Venezuela

    Place Died: Paris, Île-de-France, France

    Home Country/ies: France

    Subject Area(s): French (culture or style) and Italian (culture or style)

    Career(s): art critics and educators


    Critic and historian of French and Italian art; chair in the history of art at the Collège de France (1878); first editor of the Gazette des beaux-arts. Originally trained as an engraver, Blanc began submitting journal articles to Bons Sens and Le Progrès in 1836. Throughout his career, he was politically active, advocating increased government support for the arts. In 1848, Blanc was appointed head of the Bureau des Beaux-Arts. After losing the position in 1851, he resumed his work as an art critic, writing exhibition reviews and articles on museum collections. Beginning in 1853 Blanc began writing a fourteen-volume history of painters, entitled Histoire des peintres de toutes les écoles, whose first volume appeared in 1861. In 1859 Édouard Houssaye founded the art periodical Gazette des beaux-arts, appointing Blanc to be its first editor. While continuing to publish his Histoire, Blanc issued Grammaire des arts du dessin in 1867. The book merged developments in science with aesthetics and was widely read by the Neo-Impressionists. Blanc was elected to the Académie des Beaux-Arts in 1868. In 1871, as Director of Beaux-Arts, Blanc proposed a museum housing reproductions of significant works of art found throughout Europe, Musée des Copies. The idea though originally set out some years before by interior minister Adophe Thiers, aroused a storm of controversy at the Beaux-Arts Administration and artists and critics. Blanc was elected to the Académie Française in 1876 on the basis of his Histoire, beating out Eugène Fromentin and his book, Les Maîtres d’autrefois: Belgique, Hollande, a book ultimately of much more lasting quality. Blanc famously disputed Fromentin’s competence to judge art, chiding Fromentin for not being a genius because he was subtle (!). Blanc spent the last decade of his life teaching art history at the Collège de France and writing about painters of the Italian Renaissance. His brother was Louis Blanc (1811-1882), the French writer and politician under the Second Republic. Blanc’s color theory, outlined in Grammaire des arts du dessin, influenced the Arles period of Vincent van Gogh. His Histoire des peintres, however, quickly became obsolete (Gerson).

    Selected Bibliography

    Histoire des peintres de toutes les écoles. 14 vols. Paris: Librairie Renouard 1861-1877; Grammaire des arts du dessin architecture, sculpture, peinture. Paris: Jules Renouard, 1867


    Gerson, Horst. “Editor’s Introduction.”Fromentin, Eugène. The Masters of Past Time: Dutch and Flemish Painting from Van Eyck to Rembrandt. London: Phaidon Press, 1948, p. vii; Boime, Albert. “Le Musée des copies” Gazette des Beaux-Arts 64 (October 1964): 237-247; Dictionary of Art, Lavin, Marilyn Aronberg. “Piero the Painter Blended Geometry with Religious Art.” Smithsonian 23, no. 9 (December, 1992); Bazin, Germain. Histoire de l’histoire de l’art; de Vasari à nos jours. Paris: Albin Michel, 1986, pp. 468.


    Contributors: Emily Crockett, LaNitra Michele Walker, and Lee Sorensen


    Emily Crockett, LaNitra Michele Walker, and Lee Sorensen. "Blanc, Charles." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

    More Resources

    Search for materials by & about this art historian: