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Thoré, Etienne-Joseph-Théophile

    Full Name: Thoré, Etienne-Joseph-Théophile

    Other Names:

    • Théophile Thoré

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1807

    Date Died: 1869

    Place Born: La Flèche, Pays de la Loire, France

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

    Home Country/ies: France

    Subject Area(s): Dutch (culture or style) and Impressionist (style)

    Career(s): art collectors


    Vermeer scholar and “rediscoverer;” and collector and French Salon critic important for Impressionism; co-founder of L’Alliance des arts. Thoré wrote criticism beginning in the 1830s, during the regime of the July Monarchy (1830-48). By the 1840s his art criticism was wide ranging encompassing aesthetic and political views. He extolled the work of Eugène Delacroix, Théodore Rousseau and other Barbizon school painters, chiding the conservative painters such as Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres as well as the more popular artists such as Paul Delaroche and Horace Vernet. In 1842 he and Paul Lacroix (1806-1884) founded a private agency to sell and promote art, the Alliance des Arts. They also published a Bulletin. Between 1844-8 Thoré was the art critic for Le Constitutionnel. Because of his support of some of the radicals in the 1848 revolution, (he was a Saint-Simonist and exponent of Pierre Leroux, 1797-1871) was forced into exile in 1849. After living in London, Brussels and in Switzerland, he returned in 1859, continuing to write under the government of Second Empire (1851-70). In 1855, Thoré began using the Dutch-sounding pseudonym “Willem Bürger,” focusing his writing on northern European art. An active archival researcher and connoisseur, he is credited with the rediscovery of Johannes Vermeer and significant re-evaluations of of other seventeenth-century Dutch artists, including Frans Hals. He published museum catalogues and reviews of collections and exhibitions in Europe, as well as studies of the Spanish and English schools. Among these was the Velazquez catalog for French edition of Velazquez and his Works by William Stirling Maxwell in 1865. His criticism derided French baroque painting as too heavily influenced by Italy, terming it as inauthentic of a national identity. He lauded Dutch 17th-century naturalism and what has subsequently come to be seen as the acme of Netherlandish painting, the art of the Dutch Republic. It’s direct appeal to simple human virtues, he declared made it an art for the people (“l’art pour l’homme”). He continued to deplore the dark history painting of the Academie and the Second Empire, particularly that of Jean-Léon Gérôme and Alexandre Cabanel, in favor of Realism painter such as Gustave Courbet (his favorite), Jean-François Millet, and the Impressionists Claude Monet and Auguste Renoir. As early as 1860, Thoré began purchasing Vermeer paintings. A Lady Standing at the Virginal (1672-73, National Gallery, London) was acquired sometime before 1876, Woman with a Pearl Necklace (1664, Berlin, Gemäldegalerie) was bought from Henry Grevedon in June 1866. A Lady Seated at the Virginal (1675, National Gallery, London) was purchased for a mere 2,000 francs in 1867. Thoré was one of the first to recognize the importance of Manet in the 1868 Salon featuring his work. The sale of Thoré’s collection by Hotel Drouot in 1892 brought the Vermeers and other works into more public collections. Though Thoré’s criticism may appear overly political, his early recognition of the important masters of French nineteenth-century painting and the Dutch baroque place him at a seminal point in art history. His most important contribution was in the history of taste and collecting, particularly the reevaluation of Dutch artists as well as an early supporter of Impressionism.

    Selected Bibliography

    Le Salon de 1844: pécédé d’une lettre à Théodore Rousseau. Paris: Masgana, Alliance des arts, 1844; Le salon de 1845, pécédé d’une lettre a Béranger. Paris: Masgana, Alliance des arts, 1845; [under pseudonym W. Bürger] Tre´sors d’art en Angleterre. Brussels: F. Claassen, 1860; Tre´sors d’art: expose´s a Manchester en 1857 et provenant des collections royales, des collections publiques et des collections particulières de la Grand-Bretagne. Paris: Jules Renouard, 1857; Muse´es de la Hollande. 2 vols. Paris: J. Renouard, 1858-1860. [Velazquez catalog, in] Stirling, William Maxwell. Velazquez et ses œuvres. Paris: J. Renouard, 1865.


    Blum, Andé. Vermeer et Thoré-Bürger. Genève: Les Éditions du Mont-Blanc s. a., 1945. Bazin, Germain. Histoire de l’histoire de l’art; de Vasari à nos jours. Paris: Albin Michel, 1986, p. 237; Jowell, Francis S. Dictionary of Art; Jowell, Frances-Suzman. “Vermeer and Thoré-Bürger: Recoveries of Reputation” Studies in the History of Art 55 (1998): 35-58; Jowell, F. S. “From Thoré to Bürger: the Image of Dutch Art before and after the Musees de la Hollande.” Bulletin van het Rijksmuseum 49 no. 1 (2001): 44-60; Hecht, Peter. “Rembrandt and Raphael Back to Back: the Contribution of Thoré.” Simiolus 26 no. 3 (1998):162-78; Kultermann, Udo. The History of Art History. New York: Abaris, 1993, pp.117.


    "Thoré, Etienne-Joseph-Théophile." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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