Blanche was born in Paris. His father was a successful psychiatrist who ran a fashionable clinic, and he was brought up in the rich Parisian neighborhood of Passy in a house that had belonged to the Princesse de Lamballe.
Although Blanche received some instruction in painting from Henri Gervex, he may be regarded as self-taught. He became a very successful portrait painter, with a style derived from 18th-century English painters such as Thomas Gainsborough as well as Édouard Manet and John Singer Sargent. He worked in London, where he spent time from 1870 on, as well as Paris, where he exhibited at the Salon and the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts. One of his closest friends was Marcel Proust, who helped edit several of Blanche's publications. He also knew Henry James and is mentioned in Gertrude Stein's The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas.
Among the painter's most famous works are portraits of his father, Marcel Proust (private collection, Paris), the poet Pierre Louÿs, the Thaulow family (Musée d'Orsay, Paris), Aubrey Beardsley (National Portrait Gallery, London), and Yvette Guilbert and the infamous beauty Virginia Oldoini, Countess of Castiglione whom his father had treated for mental illness. Others he painted included James Joyce, Julia Stephen, Edgar Degas, Claude Debussy, Auguste Rodin, Colette, Thomas Hardy, John Singer Sargent, Charles Conder, Percy Grainger, and Tamara Karsavina as Stravinsky's Firebird.
He was the author of the unreliable Portraits of a Lifetime: the late Victorian era: the Edwardian pageant: 1870–1914 (London: J.M. Dent, 1937) and More Portraits of a Lifetime, 1918–1938 (London: J.M. Dent, 1939), about which Walter Sickert said "he is liable to twist things he hears or doesn't into monstrous fibs".
Marcel Proust at age 21
- Benezit Dictionary of Artists
- Jacques-Émile Blanche, Maurice Denis, Correspondence, (1901-1939)
- "Vitti, ??-??", The Correspondence of James McNeill Whistler, University of Glasgow, retrieved 2017-07-17
- Wendy Baron, Miss Ethel Sands and her circle (London: Peter Owen, 1977) p. 77.
- Julia Prinsep Stephen, née Jackson (1846–1895)
- 44 Painting(s) by or after Jacques-Émile Blanche at the Art UK site
- Abdy, Jane. "Blanche, Jacques-Emile" in Oxford Art Online.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Blanche, Jacques Émile". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.