A Closer Look at Tissot’s “Algernon Moses Marsden”

I recently had the rare opportunity to see James Tissot’s Algernon Moses Marsden, one of three of his oil paintings on temporary loan to the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford from a private collection.  My thanks to the gentleman on Twitter who kindly drew my attention to this.

James Tissot painted Algernon Moses Marsden’s portrait in 1877, and it remained in the Marsden family for nearly a century.  It’s a compelling image; Marsden, at age 30, appears sophisticated and well-to-do.  Unfortunately, he was a complete cad.  He was Tissot’s art dealer for a short time in the mid-1870s, and the setting of the portrait is the elegant new studio of Tissot’s home in St. John’s Wood [not Marsden’s study, as it formerly was identified].

IMG_8023 (2), copyright by Lucy PaquetteMarsden was a witty and engaging gambler, bankrupt and rogue who foisted his debts on his father and deserted his wife and ten children.  When his father died in 1884, he disinherited his son but provided legacies for his abandoned family members.  In 1901, bankrupt for at least the third time, Algernon, at age 54, fled to the United States with another woman.

He was bankrupt again in 1912, and he died eight years later in upstate New York.  His tombstone in Mt. Hope Cemetery (Section S) in Rochester, New York, is inscribed:  “MARSDEN Algernon Moses of London, Eng.; d Jan 23, 1920 æ 72y” [at the age of 72 years].

Tissot’s portrait, which captures the man in his moment of youth and apparent success, was sold at Sotheby’s, London in 1971 for $4,838/£2,000.  In 1983, it was sold at Christie’s, London for $65,677/£45,000.  [Hammer prices.]

During my visit to the Ashmolean, I was alone in the gallery with this portrait for some time, and Algernon Moses Marsden is eerily alive.  A highly-educated professional woman I encountered at the museum told me he made her “swoon.”

Enjoy these close-up photographs of the man and that tiger skin – which Tissot uses to provide visual interest to the otherwise plain leather armchair, but which also functions as a startling emblem of Marsden’s virility:  through Tissot, we see Algernon Moses Marsden the way he saw himself.

(And yes, the blue dots are reflections on the glass.)

IMG_7964, Algernon Moses Marsden, copyright by Lucy Paquette

IMG_7969 (2), copyright by Lucy Paquette

IMG_7967 (2), copyright by Lucy Paquette

IMG_7970 (2), copyright by Lucy Paquette

IMG_7994 (2), copyright by Lucy Paquette

IMG_7989 (2), copyright by Lucy Paquette

IMG_7991 (2), copyright by Lucy Paquette

IMG_8030 (2), copyright by Lucy Paquette

IMG_7965 (2), copyright by Lucy Paquette


© 2018 Lucy Paquette.  All rights reserved.

Related Posts:

A Closer Look at Tissot’s “Quarrelling”

Who was Algernon Moses Marsden?

Tissot’s Tiger Skin: A Prominent Prop


CH377762The Hammock:  A novel based on the true story of French painter James Tissot, brings Tissot’s world from 1870 to 1879 alive in a story of war, art, Society glamour, love, scandal, and tragedy.

Illustrated with 17 stunning, high-resolution fine art images in full color

Courtesy of The Bridgeman Art Library  

(295 pages; ISBN (ePub):  978-0-615-68267-9).

See http://www.amazon.com/dp/B009P5RYVE.

NOTE:  If you do not have a Kindle e-reader, you may download free Kindle reading apps for PCs, Smartphones, tablets, and the Kindle Cloud Reader to read The Hammock:  A novel based on the true story of French painter James Tissot.  Read reviews.

Exhibition note:

The EY Exhibition: Impressionists in London, French Artists in Exile (1870 – 1904),” November 2, 2017 – May 7, 2018.

 Curator, Dr. Caroline Corbeau-Parsons, Assistant Curator 1850-1915

Tate Britain

And see “James Tissot, the Englishman,” by Cyrille Sciama, Curator of the 19th century collections at the Musée d’arts de Nantes, in the exhibition catalogue.


A Closer Look at Tissot’s “Quarrelling”

It’s a rare thing to see a painting by James Tissot from a private collection.  For this opportunity, I thank a lovely gentlemen I know from Twitter, who alerted me last fall that three of Tissot’s oil paintings were on temporary loan to the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.  I made the trip to see Quarrelling (c. 1874-76), The Bunch of Lilacs (1875), and Algernon Moses Marsden (1877).

IMG_8012, copyright by Lucy PaquetteIn Quarrelling, which Tissot exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1876, a stylish couple stand in uncomfortable silence on opposite sides of one of the cast-iron columns in the graceful, curved colonnade that Tissot added to his garden at 17 (now 44), Grove End Road, St. John’s Wood, around 1875.  Copied from the colonnade in Parc Monceau in Paris, it became the backdrop for a number of Tissot’s paintings in the next few years.

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Parc Monceau, Paris.  (Photo by Lucy Paquette.)

Everything in this picture is beautiful – and beautifully painted:  the man’s dapper beige lounge suit, his flamboyant tan and white leather spectator shoes, and his straw boater with its black band; the woman’s chic fur-trimmed ensemble, which Tissot used in other paintings, the slick black cast iron, the slightly broken surface of the ornamental pond, and the quietly rippling willow branches.  Enjoy Tissot’s brushwork in the photographs below!

IMG_7950, Quarreling, copyright by Lucy Paquette

IMG_7982 (2), copyright by Lucy Paquette

IMG_7953, copyright by Lucy Paquette

IMG_7961 (2), copyright by Lucy Paquette

IMG_7985, copyright by Lucy Paquette

IMG_7973, copyright by Lucy Paquette

IMG_7983, copyright by Lucy Paquette

IMG_7997, copyright by Lucy Paquette

IMG_7972, copyright by Lucy Paquette

IMG_7954, copyright by Lucy Paquette

IMG_7956, copyright by Lucy Paquette

IMG_7957, copyright by Lucy Paquette

IMG_7977, copyright by Lucy Paquette

Stay tuned for another private viewing in my next post, “A Closer Look at Tissot’s Algernon Moses Marsden.”

As for The Bunch of Lilacs, one of my favorite of all Tissot’s oil paintings, this is what I found during my visit:

IMG_8031, copyright by Lucy Paquette


© 2018 Lucy Paquette.  All rights reserved.

Related Posts:

A Closer Look at Tissot’s “Too Early”

A Closer Look at Tissot’s “The Fan”

A Closer Look at Tissot’s “The Ball on Shipboard”

A Closer Look at Tissot’s “Hush! (The Concert)”


CH377762The Hammock:  A novel based on the true story of French painter James Tissot, brings Tissot’s world from 1870 to 1879 alive in a story of war, art, Society glamour, love, scandal, and tragedy.

Illustrated with 17 stunning, high-resolution fine art images in full color

Courtesy of The Bridgeman Art Library  

(295 pages; ISBN (ePub):  978-0-615-68267-9).

See http://www.amazon.com/dp/B009P5RYVE.

NOTE:  If you do not have a Kindle e-reader, you may download free Kindle reading apps for PCs, Smartphones, tablets, and the Kindle Cloud Reader to read The Hammock:  A novel based on the true story of French painter James Tissot.  Read reviews.

Exhibition note:

The EY Exhibition: Impressionists in London, French Artists in Exile (1870 – 1904),” November 2, 2017 – May 7, 2018.

 Curator, Dr. Caroline Corbeau-Parsons, Assistant Curator 1850-1915

Tate Britain

And see “James Tissot, the Englishman,” by Cyrille Sciama, Curator of the 19th century collections at the Musée d’arts de Nantes, in the exhibition catalogue.

A spotlight on Tissot at the Tate’s “The EY Exhibition: Impressionists in London”

A month ago, I flew to London to visit “The EY Exhibition:  Impressionists in London:  French Artists in Exile 1870-1904″ at Tate Britain.  Its premise is summarized by the Tate:  “In the 1870s, France was devastated by the Franco-Prussian war and insurrection in Paris, driving artists to seek refuge across the Channel.  Their experiences in London and the friendships that developed not only influenced their own work but also contributed to the British art scene.”

IMG_6912The exhibition is huge, and the galleries were crowded on each of the two days I visited.  There is a great deal of beauty on display, but it’s also a very ambitious, cerebral show, so you have to pace yourself.

James Tissot fought to defend Paris in the Franco-Prussian War, served as a stretcher-bearer, participated in the bloody Commune the following spring, and fled to London in June, 1871.  For me, this show was an opportunity to view several works by Tissot never before displayed in public, as well as many of Tissot’s most intriguing oil paintings in a single venue.  These have been cleaned for the occasion, and the colors are as vibrant as if they’d been newly painted.  I was one of many visitors transfixed by the restored beauty of Tissot’s brushwork and the details revealed.


The Green Room of the Théâtre-Français (1877), by James Tissot.  Courtesy of http://www.jamestissot.org

I’ve created the following virtual tour for those who cannot make it to London to see this – or who have not yet seen it, and may soon.  Commentary is mine unless otherwise noted.

In the first gallery of the exhibition, with its walls painted a somber aubergine, I was one of many fascinated by sketches and watercolors Tissot made during the Franco-Prussian War.  Since I have a special interest in his life and work during the war, the Siege of Paris, and the Commune, I’m afraid I may have impeded traffic in this section of the gallery.

For additional information on this tumultuous period, see my posts:

James Tissot and The Artists’ Brigade, 1870-71

Paris, June 1871

London, June 1871

The Artists’ Rifles, London

Tissot’s elegant watercolor, The Wounded Soldier (c. 1870), acquired by the Tate in 2016, is a singularly beautiful image of a restless young man in uniform perched on the arm of a sofa.  Thanks to the staff in the Tate Study Room, I had a chance to view this work closely on an earlier visit to London in the weeks before this exhibition.  It likely was painted within the city walls of Paris, where the wounded were brought to convalesce in public buildings.  The Wounded Soldier is James Tissot’s most sensitive, profound, and arresting work and shows him in a new light.  The exhibition text notes that he kept it in his studio all his life, never exhibiting it.  This is the first time it has been displayed in public.  Photography is prohibited in the exhibition, but click here to see an image of it.

In the bitter aftermath of the war, French citizens engaged in a bloody uprising against the new republican government.  My research indicates that Tissot participated in the Commune in some way, and like many of his peers, including Manet, Degas and Renoir, he seemed sympathetic to the plight of the Communards when the government ended the standoff with mass executions.  Tissot, renowned for painting the ruffles and ribbons of women’s fashions, documented this period in French history in a way no one else did.  The exhibition features his eyewitness account in watercolor, The Execution of Communards by French Government Forces at Fortifications in the Bois de Boulogne, 29 May 1871 (private collection), displayed in public for the first time.  This horrifying image was sent along with a letter to Lady Waldegrave (1821 – 1879), a prominent Liberal hostess in London whom Tissot likely met through J.E. Millais, if not his friend Tommy Bowles (Thomas Gibson Bowles (1841 – 1922).

The letter has been expertly translated from the original French by the exhibition curator, Dr. Caroline Corbeau-Parsons, Assistant Curator 1850-1915 at Tate Britain.  In it, Tissot writes a graphic stream-of-consciousness narrative of executions of Communards, or suspected Communards, by government soldiers.  Dr. Corbeau-Parsons, who organized the exhibition, notes that his “broken language” and his lack of grammatically correct accents betrays how traumatized he was in witnessing this horror, and yet Tissot is surprisingly thorough in relating this experience to Lady Waldegrave.  Exhibition visitors stop to read this translated letter in its entirety.  There is so little documentation on Tissot that it is as if he finally has a voice; otherwise, his work must speak for itself.  But this exhibition, with its new works by Tissot, gives him a chance to do that.

Passing through the second gallery, which refreshes the mood of the exhibition with its sky blue walls, I found my gold mine of Tissot’s oils in the spacious third room, where the tan walls come alive with his colors.

First, take a look at the smaller items that rarely (if ever) have been displayed in public.  Here, you will find Tissot’s sketch of the handsome young Bowles,  used as an illustration in The Defence of Paris; narrated as it was seen, published in London in 1871, Bowles’ eyewitness account as a special correspondent for The Morning Post.  (Incidentally, this book is a great read, as Bowles was terribly witty and writes with a startlingly unperturbed and ironic tone.)

For additional information on the relationship between Tissot and Bowles, see my posts:

1869: Tissot meets “the irresistible” Tommy Bowles, founder of British Vanity Fair

James Tissot & Tommy Bowles Brave the Siege Together: October 1870

Tissot’s graphite drawing, A Cantinière of the National Guard (1870-71), is much more interesting than the engraving of it used as an illustration in Bowles’ book.  A cantinière, the exhibition text explains, was “something like a nurse and a sutler (supplier of provisions) accompanying the troops – cantinières also took up arms on many occasions, playing an increasingly important role in the siege.”


Portrait of Mrs. B (Mrs. Thomas Gibson Bowles, 1876), by James Tissot.  (Photo: Wikipaintings.org)

Don’t miss Tissot’s etching of Bowle’s wife, Portrait of Mrs. B (1876).  Tommy Bowles was the illegitimate son of Thomas Milner Gibson and a servant, Susannah Bowles.  Jessica Evans-Gordon, daughter of Major-General C. G. Evans Gordon, Governor of Netley Hospital, married Bowles in December 1875 and died at 35 in 1887, having borne him four children.  Though Tommy Bowles was quite high-spirited in his youth, he was devoted to the prudent Jessie, so very sober in this image.  After her death, he wrote “So bright and joyous, so gentle and gracious a spirit as hers…still more rarely has been so ordered by a sense of duty.  She was as near perfect wife and mother as may be.”

Then, indulge in the visual feast of some of Tissot’s best, and most well-known, oil paintings – brimming with his wit, flair, psychological insight and unparalleled ability to capture moments of Victorian life and transport us to his world.

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Captain Frederick Gustavus Burnaby (1870), by James Tissot.  Oil on panel, 50 by 61 cm.  National Portrait Gallery, London.  (Photo by Lucy Paquette, 2014).


Napoléon III, by Tissot (Photo:  Wiki)

Tissot, 33 when he painted this small picture of the debonair Captain Frederick Gustavus Burnaby (1870).  Tissot owned a villa on the most prestigious avenue in Paris (now avenue Foch), and he occasionally supplied his British friend Tommy Bowles with caricatures of prominent men for Vanity Fair, Tommy’s new Society magazine which had made its début in London in 1868.  (The exhibition features Tissot’s caricature, Napoléon III, Emperor of France, published in Vanity Fair on September 4, 1869.)  One of Tommy Bowles’ closest friends was the dashing Gus Burnaby (Frederick Gustavus Burnaby, 1842 – 1885), a captain in the privileged Royal Horse Guards, the cavalry regiment that protected the monarch.  Gus, a member of the Prince of Wales’ set, had suggested the name, Vanity Fair, lent Bowles half of the necessary £200 in start-up funding, and then volunteered to go to Spain to chronicle his adventures for the satirical magazine.  All Burnaby’s letters, which were first published on December 19, 1868 and continued through 1869, were titled “Out of Bounds” and signed “Convalescent” (he suffered intermittent bouts of digestive ailments and depression throughout his life).  Tommy Bowles was 29 when he commissioned Tissot to paint Burnaby’s portrait.

[To learn about another portrait commission from Bowles to Tissot (not included in the exhibition), see my post:  James Tissot’s “Miss Sydney Milner-Gibson” (c. 1872).]


Les Adieux (The Farewells) 1871, by James Tissot, oil on canvas, 100.3 by 62.5 cm.  Bristol Museum and Art Gallery.  Photo courtesy of The Bridgeman Art Library for use in The Hammock: A novel based on the true story of French painter James Tissot, by Lucy Paquette © 2012


A Huguenot (1851-52), by J.E. Millais.  (Photo:  Wiki)

James Tissot fled Paris in June, 1871.  He arrived in London with less than one hundred francs, and with the help of a handful of friends, he proceeded to rebuild his career.

In 1872, Tissot exhibited Les Adieux (The Farewells, 1871) at the Royal Academy.  A sentimental costume piece calculated to appeal to the British public, it is displayed adjacent to J.E. Millais’ A Huguenot (1851-52), which it greatly resembles.  [See my post, Was James Tissot a Plagiarist?]

Les Adieux was reproduced as a steel engraving by John Ballin and published by Pilgeram and Lefèvre in 1873 – an indication of its popularity.

This exhibition is a great opportunity to see this painting.

Too Early 2

Too Early (1873), by James Tissot.  Oil on canvas, 71 by 102 cm.  Guildhall Art Gallery.  (Photo by Lucy Paquette, 2014)

James Tissot exhibited Too Early at the Royal Academy in 1873, where it was his first big success after moving to London from Paris two years previously.  According to his friend, the painter Louise Jopling (1843 – 1933), Too Early “made a great sensation…It was a new departure in Art, this witty representation of modern life.”  Too Early was purchased by London art dealer William Agnew (1825 – 1910) – who specialized in “high-class modern paintings” – and sold in March, 1873 (before its exhibition at the Royal Academy that year) to Charles Gassiot for £1,155.  Gassiot (1826 – 1902) was a London wine merchant and art patron who, with his wife Georgiana, donated a number of his paintings to the Guildhall Art Gallery, London, including Too Early.  For more on this painting, see my post, A Closer Look at Tissot’s “Too Early”.


London Visitors (c. 1874), by James Tissot. Oil on canvas, 86.3 by 63.5 cm.  Milwaukee Art Museum.  (Photo: Wikipedia)

According to interesting new research by Tissot scholar Krystyna Matyjaszkiewicz, this painting is not a smaller replica of London Visitors in the collection of the Toledo Museum of Art, as formerly believed.  Mrs. Matyjaszkiewicz has learned from records in the National Gallery Archive that the smaller painting was completed several months before the other.  First called The Portico, the picture in this exhibition was sold by Thomas Agnew & Sons as Country Cousins.  This is a rare opportunity to see London Visitors up close.


The Empress Eugénie and the Prince Impérial in the Grounds at Camden Place, Chislehurst (c. 1874), by James Tissot. Oil on canvas, 105 by 150 cm.  Musée Nationale du Château de Compiègne. (Photo: Wikimedia.org)

The Empress Eugénie and the Prince Impérial in the Grounds at Camden Place, Chislehurst (c. 1874) depicts the exiled French Empress (1826 – 1920), living outside London after the collapse of the Second Empire, and her son, Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte (1856 – 1879), who would be killed at age 23, in the Zulu War.  The only child of Napoléon III of France, he was accepted to the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, in 1872 and is pictured in his uniform as a cadet.  The Empress is in her first year of mourning following the death of her husband in January, 1873, after surgery to remove bladder stones.

Alison McQueen, in Empress Eugénie and the Arts:  Politics and Visual Culture in the Nineteenth Century (Routledge, 2017), states that the picture was commissioned by the Empress and adds, “The wicker chairs and carpet reappear in A Convalescent (c. 1875-76), which further suggests Tissot constructed these scenes in his studio and was not recording mother and son from life studies executed on the property at Camden.”

According to Krystyna Matyjaszkiewicz, who wrote the exhibition catalogue entry, he painted this double portrait of the exiled French royals for the 1875 Royal Academy exhibition, but it was rejected, along with two others (while yet two others, Hush! (The Concert) and The Bunch of Lilacs, were accepted.)

The painting was purchased by Kaye Knowles, Esq. (1835-1886), a client of London art dealer Algernon Moses Marsden [1848-1920, see Who was Algernon Moses Marsden?].  Knowles, whose vast wealth came from shares in his family’s Lancashire coal mining business, owned a large collection of paintings by contemporary artists, including three other oils by Tissot.


Hush! (The Concert, 1875), by James Tissot.  Oil on canvas, 73.7 by 112.2 cm.  Manchester Art Gallery.  (Photo: Wikiart.org)

James Tissot displayed Hush! (The Concert) at the Royal Academy exhibition in 1875, at the height of his success in London.  It depicts a crowded Kensington salon, said to have been hosted by Lord and Lady Coope, which features a performer believed to be Moravian violinist Wilma Neruda (1838 – 1911).  Though Tissot received an invitation to this soirée, he was not given permission to make portraits of any of the guests.  Acquired by the Manchester Art Gallery in 1933, Hush! is a lovely picture that, on closer inspection, is quite witty.  For more on this painting, see my post, A Closer Look at Tissot’s “Hush! (The Concert)”.

www.jamestissot.org, The-Garden

View of the Garden at 17 Grove End Road (c. 1882), by James Tissot.  Oil on canvas, 27 by 21 cm. Geffrye Museum of the Home.  Courtesy http://www.jamestissot.org

By 1873, two years after Tissot arrived in London, he had established himself in a Queen Anne-style villa at 17 (now 44), Grove End Road, St. John’s Wood.  He designed his garden as a blend of English-style flower beds and plantings familiar to him from French parks.  Gravel paths led to kitchen gardens and greenhouses for flowers, fruit and vegetables.  View of the Garden at 17 Grove End Road (c. 1874-1882) is unusual in that Tissot seldom depicted a landscape that was not a background for figures.  Previously in a private collection, View of the Garden was sold to Agnew’s at Sotheby’s, London in 2000 and purchased by the Geffrye in 2004.


Summer (A Portrait, 1876), by James Tissot.  Oil on canvas, 91.4 by 50.8 cm.  Tate.

Summer (A Portrait), 1876 is radiant and has benefited from recent cleaning.  The woman’s white muslin gown, with its lemon-yellow stain bows, shimmers, and details such as her ring, and the designs on the blue-green curtains, pull you into the scene.

This painting was exhibited by Tissot at the new Grosvenor Gallery, London, from May to June 1877 as A Portrait.

The Gallery of HMS Calcutta (Portsmouth) c.1876 by James Tissot 1836-1902
The Gallery of HMS Calcutta (Portsmouth), c.1876, by James Tissot. Oil on canvas, 68.6 by 91.8 cm.  Tate.

Though I’ve visited the Tate numerous times, this is the first time I’ve seen The Gallery of HMS Calcutta in person.  What can I say – it’s one of Tissot’s masterpieces, and I was rooted to the spot studying it, as was everyone around me.  You just cannot take your eyes off the gowns, the bows, the faces, the curvaceous wrought-iron railing, the way Tissot painted the caned chairs, the curves of the windows, the rigging of the ships in the distance…it’s an all-you-can-eat buffet for the eyes.  Tissot exhibited it at the Grosvenor Gallery in 1877 to rather cutting reviews.  Go see it while you can, and form your own opinion.

Also in this third gallery are a few etchings and photographs of Kathleen Newton (1854 –1882), Tissot’s young mistress and muse from about 1876 until her death from tuberculosis six years later.  An idea for a future exhibition would be a display of the numerous images of Mrs. Newton that Tissot produced, with all known photographs of her and of the two of them together, but this exhibition is not about their relationship.

Keep walking, because in a further gallery showcasing images of “British Sports, Crowds, and Parks,” you will find more of Tissot’s paintings.


Holyday (c. 1876), by James Tissot. Oil on canvas, 76.2 by 99.4 cm.  Tate.

In Holyday (c. 1876), Tissot painted members of the famous I Zingari cricket club (which still exists, and is one of the oldest amateur cricket clubs) in their distinctive black, red and gold caps in his garden at 17 Grove End Road, St. John’s Wood, which was only a few hundred yards from Lord’s cricket ground.  Holyday was owned by James Taylor, who lent it for exhibition at the Grosvenor Gallery in London from May to June, 1877.  The painting was purchased by the Tate in 1928.

I’ve long wanted to see Holyday up close, and I found it so intriguing.  The painting includes a woman I’d never noticed in print or digital images – she is indicated only by her white straw bonnet, behind the man leaning against a tree on the far right of the picture.  And the addition of the two other women on the picnic blanket is indicated in the bottom left corner by their skirts, one black-and-white striped, one brown, with the soles of her shoes peeking out behind her knife-pleated hemline.  There’s also a little girl, whom I’ve never noticed, sitting at the feet of the old lady in the wicker chair.  This is such a merry picture!  It makes you want to join this lively group for a cup of tea and a slice of cake.

Ball on Shipboard

The Ball on Shipboard (c. 1874), by James Tissot.  Tate.  (Photo: Lucy Paquette, 2014)

The Ball on Shipboard (1874) is a large, dramatic, detailed painting that invites speculation:  an enigmatic image as precise as a photograph but which evades precise meaning.  You find yourself transfixed as you try to puzzle it out.

In the center are two women wearing matching blue-and-white yachting gowns.  Scholars have written that Tissot had a fixation with twins, though in the 2013 blockbuster exhibition, “Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity”  exhibition curator Gloria Groom of The Art Institute of Chicago asserted that in The Ball on Shipboard, Tissot was satirizing the rise of ready-to-wear fashion (and, of course, the vulgar social climbing efforts of the nouveaux riches).  This is not Tissot’s only painting of women wearing identical ensembles:  see In the Conservatory (1875-76, also known as The Rivals).  In fact, according to my own research, Alexandra, Princess of Wales (1844 – 1925) and her sister, at that time Grand Duchess Maria Feodorovna of Russia. (1847 –1928, formerly Princess Dagmar of Denmark), were very close and had a habit of wearing identical ensembles when they were together, setting off a general fad for “double-dressing.”  When the Grand Duchess and her husband the Tsarevich visited London in the summer of 1873, the two sisters wore the same costumes on at least thirteen occasions.

In “Impressionists in London,” it is asserted the pair of women in the center of The Ball on Shipboard actually are the Princess of Wales and Maria Feodorovna of Russia, and the occasion an afternoon dance held on the royal naval frigate HMS Ariadne on August 12, 1873, according to research by Krystyna Matyjaszkiewicz.

Ball, detail 3I’m not on board with this theory.  Making royal portraits on, or of, such an occasion would have required that Tissot receive official permission.  This was unlikely, since he was a foreigner and regarded with suspicion for his participation, real or rumored, in the Paris Commune of 1871.  He was not granted permission to make portraits of any of the guests at Lord and Lady Coopes’ salon for Hush! (The Concert, 1873).   Had he received such permission from the royal family, it would have been common knowledge at the time.  But instead of recognizing this as a royal dance, one reviewer wrote, “The girls who are spread about in every attitude are evidently the ‘high life below stairs’ of the port, who have borrowed their mistresses’ dresses for the nonce,” and another objected to the unseemly amount of cleavage revealed by the women wearing the blue and green day dresses (left of center).  Another critic found in the picture, “no pretty women, but a set of showy rather than elegant costumes, some few graceful, but more ungraceful attitudes, and not a lady in a score of female figures,” and another found it “garish and almost repellent.”  While Tissot’s contemporaries (but interestingly, not Tissot himself) identified the setting as the yearly regatta at Cowes, on the Isle of Wight, no one at the time considered this a painting of a royal event.  It also makes no sense that Tissot would have made portraits of these two royal women in their matching nautical gowns – and painted the same gown in Reading the News (c. 1874).  It makes more sense that Tissot seized on the concept of a regatta scene while showcasing his skill at painting women’s fashions during the craze for double-dressing, also celebrated by the pairs of women in blue and in green in the center background.

Ball, detail 2If The Ball on Shipboard had featured a double portrait of royalty, it was not purchased by anyone connected to the royal family.  London art dealer William Agnew (1825 – 1910) – who specialized in “high-class modern paintings” – purchased The Ball on Shipboard from Tissot that year and sold it to Hilton Philipson (1834 – 1904), a solicitor and colliery owner living at Tynemouth.  It was later owned by equine painter Alfred Munnings (1878 – 1959), who presented it to the Tate in 1937.


On the Thames (1876), by James Tissot. Oil on canvas, 74.8 by 110 cm.  The Hepworth Wakefield.  Courtesy of The Bridgeman Art Library for use in “The Hammock: A novel based on the true story of French painter James Tissot” by Lucy Paquette © 2012.

Remember to look behind the partition at the back of the room for On the Thames (c. 1876), a masterpiece of texture:  wood, wicker, fabric, fur, leather, metal, water, and mist.  Take a long, close look at the picnic hamper.

Tissot displayed this picture as The Thames at the Royal Academy exhibition in 1876, the year he painted it.  It was attacked by reviewers for The Times, the Athenaeum, the Spectator and the Graphic as depicting a subject they considered thoroughly unBritish – prostitution.  What else would the Victorians think of a painting of a rakish officer in a boat with two attractive women and a picnic hamper with three bottles of champagne?  The women were perceived as “undeniably Parisian ladies,” and the picture itself, “More French, shall we say, than English?”

This criticism prompted Tissot to paint the more innocent Portsmouth Dockyard (How Happy I Could be with Either!, c. 1877).  A much smaller picture than On the Thames, it is displayed earlier in the exhibition, but I wish the two had been displayed side-by-side.

Portsmouth Dockyard circa 1877 by James Tissot 1836-1902

Portsmouth Dockyard (c. 1877), by James Tissot.  Oil on canvas, 38.1 by 54.6 cm.  Tate.

By this time, you will need to seek seating and sustenance, but your brain will be fully sparked.  The details in all Tissot’s paintings are extraordinary – really enthralling to observe close-up.  To learn more about a number of the Tissot oils in the show, see my posts:

Tissot in the U.K.:  London, at the Tate

Tissot in the U.K.:  London, at The Geffrye & the Guildhall

Tissot in the U.K.: Northern England.

There is a great deal more to “Impressionists in London” than James Tissot, of course, and more than one visit is necessary to take in works by Monet – including a group of his Houses of Parliament series – Pissarro, Sisley, Alphonse Legros, sculptor Aimé-Jules Dalou, André Derain, and others.  But if you love Tissot’s work and want to learn more about him, see this show if you can, and let me know what you think.

The EY Exhibition: Impressionists in London, French Artists in Exile (1870 – 1904),” November 2, 2017 – May 7, 2018.

Tate Britain

See “James Tissot, the Englishman,” by Cyrille Sciama, Curator of the 19th century collections at the Musée d’arts de Nantes, in the exhibition catalogue.

My gratitude to Alexandra Epps and Dr. Caroline Corbeau-Parsons

for their kindness during my visits to the exhibition.

© 2018 Lucy Paquette.  All rights reserved.

View my video, “The Strange Career of James Tissot” (Length:  2:33 minutes).

Related posts:

A spotlight on Tissot at the Met’s “Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity”

James Tissot is now in Italy!


CH377762The Hammock:  A novel based on the true story of French painter James Tissot, brings Tissot’s world from 1870 to 1879 alive in a story of war, art, Society glamour, love, scandal, and tragedy.

Illustrated with 17 stunning, high-resolution fine art images in full color

Courtesy of The Bridgeman Art Library  

(295 pages; ISBN (ePub):  978-0-615-68267-9).

See http://www.amazon.com/dp/B009P5RYVE.

NOTE:  If you do not have a Kindle e-reader, you may download free Kindle reading apps for PCs, Smartphones, tablets, and the Kindle Cloud Reader to read The Hammock:  A novel based on the true story of French painter James Tissot.  Read reviews.

Tissot’s Study for “Young Women looking at Japanese Objects” (1869)

James Tissot’s working methods reflected his academic training in Paris.  Before executing the final version of a picture, he made meticulous studies of its composition as well as detailed studies of the figures in it.  Often, he experimented with different poses and positions within the work.


Jeunes femmes regardant des objets japonais (Young Women Looking at Japanese Objects, 1869), by James Tissot. Oil on canvas, 24 by 19 in. (60.96 by 48.26 cm). Private Collection. (Photo: Wikipedia.org)

On a recent trip to the Tate Britain, I was able to view one of Tissot’s studies for the kneeling figure in Jeunes femmes regardant des objets japonais (Young Women looking at Japanese Objects, 1869).  The study is not on display, but one of the joys of conducting research in London is having access to works in storage by appointment.  It felt like a great luxury to view this and other treasures in the privacy of the Tate Study Room.

IMG_1343Tissot enrolled at the Académie des Beaux-Arts on March 9, 1857, though there is little documentation on the regularity of his attendance at classes, which included mathematics, anatomy and drawing, but not painting.  He studied painting independently under Jean-Hippolyte Flandrin (1809 – 1864) and Louis Lamothe (1822 – 1869), both of whom had been students of the great Neoclassical painter Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780 – 1867) and taught his principles. Flandrin, who had earned a first-class medal at the Paris Exhibition of 1855, was a prolific artist, and he increasingly directed his students to his former student, Louis Lamothe.  Lamothe was a clear and precise draftsman with a passion for detail, and Tissot acknowledged that his own work was significantly influenced by Lamothe’s instruction.


Self portrait (c.1865), by James Tissot. Oil on panel, 49.8 x 30.2 cm (19 5/8 x 11 7/8 in.). The Legion of Honor, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, California. Museum purchase, Mildred Anna Williams Collection, 1961.16. Image courtesy of The Bridgeman Art Library for use in “The Hammock: A novel based on the true story of French painter James Tissot,” by Lucy Paquette © 2012.

James Tissot quickly achieved success in the Second Empire art establishment, through a combination of artistic virtuosity, confidence, charm and financial aptitude. In 1866, thirty-year-old James Tissot bought land to build a villa on the most prestigious of Baron Haussmann’s grand new boulevards, the eleven-year-old avenue de l’Impératrice (now avenue Foch). By the Salon of 1868, Tissot had occupied his newly built mansion:  the intriguing details in La Cheminée (The Fireplace, c. 1869, private collection) and L’escalier (The Staircase, 1869, private collection) almost certainly were painted from its opulent interior.

Tissot’s studio, a showcase for his renowned collection of Japanese art, became a landmark to see when touring Paris – and, for Tissot, it was a brilliant marketing tool to attract commissions.  His collection of Japanese art and objets had grown to include a model of a Japanese ship, a Chinese shrine and hardwood table, and a Japanese black lacquered household altar, along with dozens of embroidered silk kimonos, Japanese dolls, folding screens and porcelains.  In 1869, he assimilated these exotic items into elegant compositions in three similar paintings featuring young women looking at Japanese objects.  [See James Tissot’s brilliant marketing tool, 1869.]

The drawing at the Tate reveals how Tissot experimented with the composition of one of the versions of this picture, in studies for the figure of the woman in black, kneeling to get a better look at the details painted on the folding screen.


Studies of a Kneeling Woman, by James Tissot. Graphite on paper, 12 7/8 by 19 1/4 in. (33 by 48.8 cm).  Tate, London.

He initially drew the woman kneeling, looking slightly to the right so that her face is not in full profile.  Then, to the side, he sketched a second version of her head turned slightly left, so that while she still is not in full profile, we see more of her face as well as her chic hat.


Detail, Studies of a Kneeling Woman, by James Tissot. Tate, London.

Between the two head studies, Tissot sketches a more graceful position of the fingers the woman holds under her chin.  In the painting, we can see that he chose to use the second option for her right hand.


Detail, Studies of a Kneeling Woman, by James Tissot. Tate, London.

Young_Women_Looking_at_Japanese_Objects, left hand

But he knew from the beginning how he wanted to paint her left hand, though he decides to part her little finger and raise it slightly, in a more graceful gesture.





Detail, Studies of a Kneeling Woman, by James Tissot. Tate, London.

In his studies, Tissot uses only a few pencil strokes in delineating the woman’s lovely face.  In the finished painting, Tissot chose to present her in full profile.

Young_Women_Looking_at_Japanese_Objects, hat to elbow

Detail, Jeunes femmes regardant des objects japonais (1869), by James Tissot.


Detail, Studies of a Kneeling Woman, by James Tissot. Tate, London.











Detail of Studies of a Kneeling Woman, by James Tissot. Tate, London.

Tissot’s work is known (and often derided) for showing every ruffle and trim of fabric on the women’s costumes.  Interestingly, even his study shows every detail of each pleat, flounce, and drape of fabric, though the woman’s gown in the painting differs.  For example, the cuff in the study is wider than that in the painting.  The tiers of pleated flounces at the bottom of the skirt are different in the painting, and so is the hat.  This drawing indicates that while Tissot made careful preparatory studies, he was not bound by them in his finished paintings.

It is amusing to imagine him seated at his easel before a beautiful live model, completely lost in his work and constitutionally incapable of merely sketching the outline of the gown or indicating its trimmings with the few quick strokes he used in his studies of the woman’s face.

A special thank you to the wonderful staff at the Tate Britain Study Room.

Related posts:

Tissot’s Study for the family of the Marquis de Miramon (1865)

“The three wonders of the world”: Tissot’s japonisme,1864-67

James Tissot’s brilliant marketing tool, 1869

© 2017 by Lucy Paquette.  All rights reserved.

CH377762If you do not have a Kindle e-reader, you may download free Kindle reading apps for PCs, Smartphones, tablets, and the Kindle Cloud Reader to read The Hammock:  A novel based on the true story of French painter James Tissot.  Read reviews.

The Hammock:  A novel based on the true story of French painter James Tissot, brings Tissot’s world from 1870 to 1879 alive in a story of war, art, Society glamour, love, scandal, and tragedy.

Illustrated with 17 stunning, high-resolution fine art images in full color

Courtesy of The Bridgeman Art Library  

(295 pages; ISBN (ePub):  978-0-615-68267-9).  See http://www.amazon.com/dp/B009P5RYVE.


A Closer Look at Tissot’s “Hush! (The Concert)”

James Tissot exhibited Hush! (The Concert, 1875) at the Royal Academy exhibition at the height of his success in London. 


Hush! (The Concert, 1875), by James Tissot. Oil on canvas; 29.02 x 44.17 in. (73.7 x 112.2 cm.). Manchester Art Gallery, U.K. (Photo: wikiart.org)

In this painting, Tissot depicts a crowded Kensington salon, said to have been hosted by Lord and Lady Coope, which features a performer believed to be Moravian violinst Wilma Neruda (1838 – 1911).  Acquired by the Manchester Art Gallery in 1933, Hush! measures 29.02 by 44.17 in. (73.7 by 112.2 cm) and is on display in the Balcony Gallery.

On my recent trip to England, I took these close-ups for those of you who can’t get to Manchester to see this intriguing picture.

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The pianist and his assistant prepare to begin as the violinist lifts the instrument to her chin.

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She’s beautiful, fashionable, and clearly accomplished, but she is young and nervous.

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The two men at the piano are professionals who take her seriously, and they are anxious to do justice to her talent.

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The two Indian princes, or dignitaries, lean forward in anticipation of the music by this star.

IMG_6353, 2, Copyright-Lucy-Paquette-2017

But the Society guests sitting behind them and to their left seem less than excited.

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In fact, they look bored out of their minds and dreading this tedious folly of their hosts.

IMG_6398, 18, Copyright-Lucy-Paquette-2017

But it is, at least, a chance to be seen.  With shoulders like these, front row center is the place to be, whether you’re a music aficionado or not.

IMG_6395, 17, Copyright-Lucy-Paquette-2017

Making an impression with a dramatic late entrance works, too…

IMG_6394, 16, Copyright-Lucy-Paquette-2017

…though you’re bound to be criticized for upstaging those too timid to think of it themselves.

IMG_6390, 12, Copyright-Lucy-Paquette-2017 (2)

Meanwhile, those relegated to the staircase don’t seem to mind.

IMG_6391, 13, Copyright-Lucy-Paquette-2017 (2)

At least one can redeem the evening by carrying on a business discussion in a back corner –

IMG_6401 (2), 21, Copyright-Lucy-Paquette-2017

– who needs to impress the wallflower?

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These two are wondering how long they’ll have to wait for the liquor to start flowing.

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The men behind them, and the two women with them, just want it over already so they can sit down to dinner.

IMG_6357, 5, Copyright-Lucy-Paquette-2017

Not a group of violin connoisseurs.

IMG_6393, 15, Copyright-Lucy-Paquette-2017

However, the thing does provide some unforeseen opportunities.

IMG_6355 (2), 3, Copyright-Lucy-Paquette-2017

It’s Ladies’ Night.

IMG_6356, 4, Copyright-Lucy-Paquette-2017

The violinist is not the belle of the evening…

IMG_6362, 6, Copyright-Lucy-Paquette-2017

…but rather the lady with the star-shaped diamond brooch in her hair…

IMG_6400, 20, Copyright-Lucy-Paquette-2017

…and the scene-stealing, painted fan.

Hush! is a lovely picture that, on closer inspection, is quite witty.  However, it suffered from the increasing notice Tissot’s work was attracting.  In attempting to equal the success that he had with Too Early at the Royal Academy of 1873, Tissot had miscalculated with The Ball on Shipboard in 1874.  That picture was criticized for lacking a coherent narrative, for its vivid colors criticized as “garish and almost repellent” by the reviewer for The Illustrated London News, and especially for its vulgar show of nouveaux riches, with “not a lady in a score of female figures,” according to the Athenaeum’s reviewer.

Tissot took heed of his critics.  With Hush!, he offered a clear narrative, used a muted palette, with pastel colors – and clearly portrayed London Society in this opulent oval drawing room, with its crystal chandelier, profuse floral displays, and scores of bona fide ladies.

Hush, The Concert, the-athenaeum, cropped old man faceHush, The Concert, the-athenaeum, cropped matronFashion historian James Laver (1899 – 1975), in his 1936 biography of James Tissot, claimed that Tissot had received an invitation to the Coopes’ at which Madame Neruda performed, but that he did not have permission to make portraits of any of the guests.  Instead, he painted types, some based on models he used in other paintings, including the old gentleman with the white whiskers in the left corner who also appears in Reading the News (1874), in the center of The Ball on Shipboard (c. 1874), and in The Warrior’s Daughter (A Convalescent, c. 1878).  The older, white-haired woman on the right also appears in A Convalescent (c. 1876) and Holyday (c 1876).

Tissot added his painter friends, Italian-born Giuseppe de Nittis (1846 – 1884) and German-born Ferdinand Heilbuth (1826 – 1889), to the group standing in the doorway.  (De Nittis is next to the jamb on the left, and Heilbuth is next to him.)

The critics were not amused.  The Illustrated London News reviewer wrote that Hush! showed English Society through “a Gallic sneer,” adding, “But polite people will, of course, be thankful to see themselves as a polished Frenchman sees them.”

Though the French painter was producing pictures that are now considered among his best – or perhaps because of this – Tissot was increasingly unable to please the British art establishment.  The more he succeeded financially, the harsher his critics.  In 1873, he sold Too Early through art dealer William Agnew (1825 – 1910) – who specialized in “high-class modern paintings” – for 1,050 guineas.  Agnew purchased The Ball on Shipboard from Tissot the following year, and in 1875, purchased Hush! directly from the wall of the Royal Academy by for 1,200 guineas.

A chapter in my book, The Hammock:  A novel based on the true story of French painter James Tissot, dramatizes this episode in his new life in London – read it to immerse yourself in the world of Society glamour and tragedy that he knew.

©  2017 by Lucy Paquette.  All rights reserved.

Related Posts:

Tissot in the U.K.: Northern England

A Closer Look at Tissot’s “Too Early”

A Closer Look at Tissot’s “The Ball on Shipboard”

A Closer Look at Tissot’s “The Fan”

James Tissot’s Models à la Mode

CH377762If you do not have a Kindle e-reader, you may download free Kindle reading apps for PCs, Smartphones, tablets, and the Kindle Cloud Reader to read The Hammock:  A novel based on the true story of French painter James Tissot.  Read reviews.

The Hammock:  A novel based on the true story of French painter James Tissot, brings Tissot’s world from 1870 to 1879 alive in a story of war, art, Society glamour, love, scandal, and tragedy.

Illustrated with 17 stunning, high-resolution fine art images in full color

Courtesy of The Bridgeman Art Library

(295 pages; ISBN (ePub):  978-0-615-68267-9).  See http://www.amazon.com/dp/B009P5RYVE.

The James Tissot Tour of Victorian England

James Tissot fled the violence and chaos of the Paris Commune in June, 1871, after prospering under Napoléon III’s Second Empire and then fighting for his country in the Franco-Prussian War, to live and prosper in London during Queen Victoria’s reign until he returned to France in November, 1882.


A newspaper weather map from September 25, 2017 that I used to mark our progress.

I’ve just returned from my long-planned Victorian Tour of the U.K. with my husband and gained more understanding of the Victorian England that Tissot experienced.  I studied Art History in London for a year when I was in my twenties, and since I married, my husband and I have traveled in the U.K. together three times, exploring London, Bath, Cambridge, Ely, Bury St. Edmunds, and Laycock.  On this trip, we were focusing on the Victorian experience, but without doubt, we missed a great deal in two weeks, and I’d like to hear from those of you familiar with other not-to-be-missed Victorian sights.  Relying on trains, we traveled from Manchester to Liverpool, York, Nottingham, Birmingham, and London, for the most part staying in Victorian-era hotels, dining in Victorian pubs, and visiting Victorian art collections and points of architectural interest.  These are some of my photos – and some by my husband, who really is the best traveling companion I could ever wish for.


Manchester Town Hall, with the Albert Memorial in the left foreground.

We started in Manchester, a handsome, exciting city combining the grandeur of its Victorian architecture with the sophistication of its modern energy.  Manchester, or “Cottonopolis,” was the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, and it became a city in 1853.  We saw a demonstration of original 19th century textile mill machinery spinning cotton yarn into cloth at The Museum of Science and Industry, and we learned a bit about the working conditions at the mills.  Manchester – dirty, noisy and overcrowded – was the model for Milton in British novelist Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South, published in 1855, which centers on the romance between the idealistic Margaret Hale and cotton-mill owner John Thornton.


A nook in the Sculpture Hall Café in the Town Hall.

The cotton industry made Manchester the wealthiest city in the British Empire during that time, and its architecture reflected that proud status.  The magnificent Gothic Revival Town Hall (1868 – 1877) designed by Alfred Waterhouse (1830 – 1905) dominates the city center, and its Sculpture Hall Café offers a secluded, rather posh environment for brunch or afternoon tea amid marble busts of former town alderman and other local dignitaries of the era. 

In front of the Town Hall, in Albert Square, Manchester’s Albert Memorial was completed in 1865 as the first of several memorials to Prince Albert (1819 – 1861) including the one designed by Sir Gilbert Scott (1811 – 1878) in Kensington Gardens, London, unveiled by Queen Victoria in 1872.

IMG_1033 (2)

It was easy to find Tissot’s “Hush (The Concert, 1875)” at the Manchester Art Gallery.

In 1876, James Tissot began exhibiting his work outside London, marketing it to the newly-rich men of the Industrial north.  Today, six of his finest works can be found in museums there.  The Manchester Art Gallery’s collection includes Hush! (The Concert), painted in 1875 and displayed at the Royal Academy exhibition at the height of Tissot’s success in London.  The collection also includes The Warrior’s Daughter (A Convalescent, c. 1878), which was not on display when we visited.


A Visit to the Yacht (c. 1873), by James Tissot.  Private Collection.  (Photo: Wikimedia.org)

British painter George Adolphus Storey (1834 – 1919), in his 1899 memoirs, described a high-spirited “railway picnic party” in 1873 with a large group of men returning from a lavish house party in Manchester hosted by art dealer William Agnew (1825 – 1910):  Tissot, painters Ferdinand Heilbuth (1826 – 1889), Philip Hermogenes Calderon, R.A. (1833 – 1898), George Dunlop Leslie, A.R.A. (1835 – 1921), David Wilkie Wynfield (1837–1887), William Yeames, A.R.A. (1835 – 1918), and Frederick Walker (1840 – 1875), editor Shirley Brooks (1816 – 1874) and “the Punch men,” pianist, conductor and composer Frederic Hymen Cowen (1852 – 1935), and a host of others including opera star Charles Santley (1834 – 1922), who “sang us many of his delightful songs.”

Tissot’s work was being purchased by the newly-rich in Northern England as early as 1873, when he painted A Visit to the Yacht, which he sold directly to Agnew’s, London for £650, as La Visite au Navire.  Shortly after, Agnew’s, Liverpool sold the picture to David Jardine (1827 – 1911), a Liverpool timber broker, ship owner and art collector who eventually became Chairman of the Cunard Steamship Company.

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With Tissot’s Portrait of Mrs Catherine Smith Gill and Two of her Children (1877) at the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool.

We took a day trip to the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool to see Tissot’s Portrait of Mrs Catherine Smith Gill and Two of her Children (1877), one of the largest works he ever had produced.

Mrs. Gill’s husband, Mr. Chapple Gill (c.1833 – 1901/2), was the son of Robert Gill, a Liverpool cotton broker of Knotty Cross and R. & C. Gill; the son joined the business in 1857 and had risen to senior partner [by 1880, he became head of the firm].  He commissioned French painter Tissot, then living in London, to paint a portrait of his wife, Catherine Smith Carey (1847-1916), whom he had married on June 10, 1868 at Childwall.  She was the only child of Thomas Carey (1809 – c. 1875), a wealthy, retired estate agent.  Tissot’s portrait of Catherine Smith Gill shows her – heiress at age 30 – sitting in the drawing-room window of her mother’s home at Lower Lee, at Woolton near Liverpool, which was built by Catherine’s father.  Tissot lived at the red sandstone mansion for eight weeks while painting the portrait, in which he depicts Catherine with her two-year-old son Robert Carey and six-year-old daughter Helen; she was to have another boy and two more girls.

Outside Liverpool, we visited Sudley House, the former home of George Holt (1825 – 1896), a self-made Victorian shipping-line owner and merchant who built an impressive art collection that includes work by Thomas Gainsborough, Joshua Reynolds, Edwin Landseer, J.E. Millais, and J.M.W. Turner.  Since British aristocrats did not patronize contemporary French painters, George Holt was just the type of client that Tissot catered to in England:  newly-wealthy men who would invest in art purchased from dealers and at exhibitions rather than from commissions.  Since there is no home of a contemporary client of Tissot’s to tour (e.g. Mr. Chapple Gill), it was quite insightful to see George Holt’s home and collection, now managed by National Museums Liverpool.


Kirkgate at the York Castle Museum.


My indefatigable husband and travel partner.

We continued our Victorian Tour in York, at the York Castle Museum’s Kirkgate, a recreated Victorian street where we were immersed in the experience of strolling over the cobblestones past the goods on display for the rich and the backstreets of the poor.  Kirkgate has everything from a hansom cab like the one Tissot depicted in Going to Business (Going to the City, c. 1879), to a confectioner’s, schoolroom, police cell, millinery shop, watch shop, a gentleman’s clothier, stables, privy, and alleys, one of which smelled strongly of horse manure in a distinctly authentic sensory detail.  The shops are based on real York businesses that operated between 1870 and 1901.  Afterwards, I tried on a bustle gown and smart little chapeau.  While the gown was just a costume, without a corset or foundation garments, I was surprised how very hot, heavy, and constricting it felt.


At the York Castle Museum, in front of the Victorian parlor.

During our visit to the National Railway Museum in York, we were able to look in the windows of Queen Victoria’s palatial train carriages, upholstered in yards of bright blue silk, as well as a train outfitted by King Edward VII in 1902 for his own use, complete with a smoking saloon and full bathroom.  It was Queen Victoria’s delight in train travel than soothed the qualms of the general public, frightened that the wind generated by the speed of this new mode of transportation would blow their heads off.


One of Queen Victoria’s royal train carriages.


Gentleman in a Railway Carriage (1872), by James Tissot.  Worcester Art Museum, Massachusetts, U.S.A.  (Photo: Wikiart)


Lucy in a railway carriage.

We continued on to Nottingham, a bustling city boasting glorious Victorian buildings by architects including Watson Fothergill (1841 – 1928), who designed over a hundred houses, banks, churches, shops and warehouses in the Nottingham area from about 1864 to 1912.


A Fothergill design.




Though Fothergill’s Gothic Revival and Old English vernacular style buildings now are interspersed with modern architecture, we felt surrounded by the Victorian experience.


Nottingham Station, first built by the Midland Railway in 1848, designed by architect J.E. Hall of Nottingham.

Tissot’s Waiting for the Ferry at the Falcon Tavern (1874) was exhibited at Nottingham Castle, still an art gallery today, and at Newcastle-on-Tyne in 1887.

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Waiting for the Ferry at the Falcon Tavern (1874), by James Tissot.  Speed Museum, Louisville, Kentucky, U.S.A.

IMG_6755In Birmingham, where the industrial steam engine was invented and which became a manufacturing powerhouse, the architecture was grander than in Nottingham.  Queen Victoria granted Birmingham city status in 1889, and the vibrant center of the second most populous city in Britain is now under the gaze of the bronze monument to her in Victoria Square.

We received a lovely private tour of Birmingham’s Anglican Cathedral from a kind and knowledgeable volunteer on duty.  Designed in the Baroque style in 1715, it features soaring Pre-Raphaelite stained glass windows designed and manufactured by Edward Burne-Jones and William Morris in 1880.  The Cathedral was bombed during World War II – just after the priceless stained glass windows had been removed and hidden in a slate mine in Wales.


Walking along a Victorian-era street in Birmingham.

We viewed the Pre-Raphaelite masterpieces at the imposing Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, opened by the Prince of Wales in 1885, during a leisurely afternoon before relaxing over tea in the Edwardian Tea Rooms.


Resting at the Edwardian Tea Rooms.


The common yard of the Birmingham Back to Backs.


Outside the common laundry room.

Dashing to the other side of town, we missed the last house tour of the day at the Birmingham Back to Backs, operated as a museum by the National Trust, but the staff kindly allowed us to look at the exhibit above the gift shop and also to walk around the common yard that was shared by several families who lived in these inner-city homes that were three storeys high and one room deep.  Restored by the Birmingham Conservation Trust in collaboration with architects S. T. Walker & Duckham, the Back to Backs were opened to the public in 2004 as the city’s last surviving example of such houses.  After the Public Health Act of 1875, no more back to backs were built, but people continued to live in the crowded existing housing units until the 1950s.  Thousands of similar houses were built throughout the 19th century, for the rapidly increasing population of Britain’s expanding industrial towns, including the families of workers in button making, glasswork, woodwork, leatherwork, locksmithing, tailoring, and jewellery trades.  The common yard was quite small for exercise of those many family members, with a shared laundry room and privies.

While James Tissot was wealthy and would have had little contact with this aspect of Victorian life, it nevertheless was the social reality of his time and the underpinning of many luxury goods and services he would have purchased.


St. Pancras International

In London, we stayed near St. Pancras rail station, the most splendid Victorian edifice of all.  Designed by Sir Gilbert Scott (1811 – 1878) and opened in 1868, it was a marvel of Victorian engineering and a masterpiece of Victorian Gothic architecture.



A staircase in the St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel.

St. Pancras Station was built by the Midland Railway Company to connect London with some of England’s major cities:  Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds and Bradford.  By 1876, the station offered services to Edinburgh.  In June, 1874, the first Pullman service in the U.K. was available, with a restaurant car and sleeping accommodations, and by 1878 this service extended to the northern tip of Scotland.

So when James Tissot participated in that “railway picnic party” in 1873, returning from art dealer William Agnew’s lavish house party in Manchester, he would have traveled to and from the sumptuous new St. Pancras Station, convenient to his villa in St. John’s Wood.



Another view of the staircase.

St. Pancras declined over time and finally was restored from 2004 – 2007, officially re-opening as St. Pancras International in 2007 in an elaborate opening ceremony attended by Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh, with a concert performed by the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra.  Passengers now can travel to Paris and Brussels, among other destinations.

Inside and out, St. Pancras International and the luxury five-star St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel, which was the talk of London when it opened in 1876, are simply jaw-dropping.  My husband and I had cocktails at The Gilbert Scott bar, where I couldn’t take my eyes off the shimmering painted ceiling.


The ceiling in The Gilbert Scott at the St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel.


The Regent’s Park.


The Regent’s Park.

Another incredible place that James Tissot lived near and would have enjoyed is The Regent’s Park, developed by architect John Nash (1752 – 1835), a friend of the Prince Regent (later King George IV).  A vast, rounded green area north of London, The Regent’s Park features a large lake, landscaped gardens, an open-air theater, the London Zoo, and much more.

Tissot’s friend since 1859, the Dutch-born painter Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1836 –1912), lived in Townshend House on the north side of the park near the Regent’s Canal, which we cruised along in a canal boat.


A waterbus on the Regent’s Canal.

Later, we visited the exotically-decorated Leighton House Museum, the former home of the distinguished Victorian artist Frederic, Lord Leighton (1830 – 1896), in Holland Park.  There we viewed the extensive Alma-Tadema exhibition, “Alma-Tadema: At Home in Antiquity,” (July 7 – October 29, 2017), the largest exhibition devoted to the extraordinarily successful Victorian painter held in London since 1913.  The exhibition includes a few contemporary photos of the house at 17 (now 44) Grove End Road in St. John’s Wood that Alma-Tadema purchased from James Tissot in 1883 and lived in from 1885 until his death in 1912.  In 2014, my husband and I toured this large home, now a private residence.


Caricature of Frederic Leighton, by James Tissot. Published in Vanity Fair on June 29, 1872, the caption reads “A sacrifice to the Graces.” (Photo: Wikimedia.)



Queen Victoria’s Coronation gown and golden robe.

At Kensington Palace, we took in the “Victoria Revealed” exhibit (through November 12, 2017), walking through the rooms in which the young princess resided.  I saw the staircase below the room she was in when she learned that her uncle had died and, at age 18, she had become Queen. Here in the Red Saloon, she held her first Privy Council meeting.

Several of Victoria’s gowns were on display, including her delicate gold coronation robe replicated for the current television drama “Victoria,” starring Jenna Coleman, as well as a smart military-style riding jacket with a waist so small it is hard to believe anyone could ever wear it.


A resplendent staircase at Kensington Palace.


The staircase to the room that Victoria was in when she learned that she was Queen, with a quote from her diary.

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Foreign Visitors (1874), by James Tissot.

My husband and I spent a lot of time at Trafalgar Square, where the portico of the National Gallery of Art and the church of St Martin-in-the-Fields provided the backdrop (though slightly altered, which did not endear him to the British art critics) for Tissot’s two versions of Foreign Visitors (1874).  Tissot exhibited the larger version at the Royal Academy in 1874.

On the last day of our Victorian Tour, where else could we have afternoon tea but in the Victoria & Albert Museum’s luxurious Gamble, Poynter, and Morris Rooms, beckoning with multi-colored ceramic, stained glass and enamel, opened in 1868 as the first-ever museum restaurant?  The scones, as big as our faces, were a fitting finale to our Victorian tour – along with one last trip from the awe-inspiring St. Pancras station.


Ceramic-lined staircase at the Victoria & Albert Museum.


The Gamble Room at the V&A (with updated lighting fixtures).



The Poynter Room at the V&A.


One last chance for afternoon tea – until next time!

© 2017 by Lucy Paquette.  All rights reserved.

Related Posts: 

Paris, June 1871

London, June 1871

A visit to James Tissot’s house & Kathleen Newton’s grave

The James Tissot Tour of Paris

CH377762If you do not have a Kindle e-reader, you may download free Kindle reading apps for PCs, Smartphones, tablets, and the Kindle Cloud Reader to read The Hammock:  A novel based on the true story of French painter James Tissot.  Read reviews.

The Hammock:  A novel based on the true story of French painter James Tissot, brings Tissot’s world from 1870 to 1879 alive in a story of war, art, Society glamour, love, scandal, and tragedy.

Illustrated with 17 stunning, high-resolution fine art images in full color

Courtesy of The Bridgeman Art Library

(295 pages; ISBN (ePub):  978-0-615-68267-9).    See http://www.amazon.com/dp/B009P5RYVE.


The Company He Kept: James Tissot’s Friends

If a person can be known by the company he keeps, James Tissot’s friends indicate he was charming, broad-minded and cultured, interested in music and literature as well as art, resourceful, and unafraid of change.  Described as reserved, he had a strong work ethic and spent a great deal of time working in his studio.  But he seems to have made friends easily and maintained numerous mutually satisfying relationships over many years – with both men and women, of varied ages, religions, backgrounds, and temperaments.


James Tissot, age 20-21

Jacques Joseph Tissot’s first friend may have been his mother.  When he realized that what he really wanted was a career in art instead of architecture, his businessman father was less than thrilled.  His father told him that if he was determined to pursue this unreliable profession, he was going to have to make it on his own – with no financial help.  But his mother found a connection for him in Paris, and Jacques left home at 19, in 1856 (i.e before he turned 20 that October).

Within three years of his arrival in Paris, Tissot was ready to exhibit his work at the Salon.  Competing with established artists, the 23-year-old student submitted five entries for the Salon of 1859.  The jury accepted them all, including Portrait de Mme T…, a small oil painting of his mother.  With her belief in him, his career in the capital of the European art world was launched.


James Whistler

When Jacques Joseph Tissot exhibited in the Salon, it was as James Tissot – and it’s likely he borrowed the name from another young art student, James Whistler.

It is thought that when Tissot registered for permission to copy paintings at the Louvre on January 26, 1857, he met the pugnacious American James McNeill Whistler (1834 – 1903), reportedly while copying Ingres’ 1819 Ruggiero Freeing Angelica side by side in the Luxembourg Museum.


Self-Portrait with White Collar (c. 1857), by Edgar Degas. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. (Photo by Lucy Paquette)

In 1859, Tissot met another art student, with whom he became close friends – Edgar Degas (1834 – 1917).  Degas, the curmudgeonly son of a prosperous banker from Naples and a mother from New Orleans, had spent the previous three years traveling in central Italy.  Probably through Degas, Tissot soon met the charismatic, restless Édouard Manet (1832–1883).


Lawrence Alma-Tadema

In 1859, Tissot traveled to Antwerp, augmenting his art education by taking lessons in the studio of Belgian painter Hendrik Leys.  There he made friends with a young Dutch art student working with Leys, Lourens Tadema (1836 – 1912; the painter moved to London in 1870 and restyled himself Lawrence Alma-Tadema).

Alma-Tadema’s personality combined middle-class sensibilities with a ribald sense of humor.  He was an extrovert who loved wine, women, music, and practical jokes.


Édouard Manet


Emmanuel Chabrier, by Édouard Manet

Though still living in the dilapidated Latin Quarter at 29, Tissot was enjoying increasing professional success and was described as a boulevardier – a man-about-town.  In addition to painters, his friends included the poet Camille-André Lemoyne (1822 – 1907), “a man of modesty and merit” who dedicated a published poem, “Baigneuse,” to Tissot in 1860, and composer, pianist and bon vivant Emmanuel Chabrier (1841 – 1894), whose portrait Tissot drew in 1861.  His circles often overlapped; Chabrier, for example, was friends with Degas and Manet as well.


John Everett Millais

In 1862, Tissot traveled to London, where the first exhibition of his work was at the International Exhibition.  He showed one of his début paintings from the Paris Salon of 1859, and he must have met Britain’s most popular painter, John Everett Millais (1829  1896).  Warm-hearted, boyish, and boundlessly self-confident, Millias had a wife and five children to provide for by this time.  He found a steady source of income drawing illustrations, for periodicals such as Once a Week and The Cornhill Magazine as well as Tennyson’s Poems (1857) and Anthony Trollope’s novel Framley Parsonage (1860).  James Tissot, at 26, having inherited his parents’ business sense, was exploring a new art market and making useful contacts.


Alphonse Daudet

In 1863, Tissot became close friends with Alphonse Daudet (1840 – 1897), a young writer who had published a volume of poetry (The Lovers) in 1858, and who rented the room below him in the rue Bonaparte.  Daudet, who was kind, hard-working, generous and sociable, was employed as a secretary to the Duc de Morny, the Emperor’s illegitimate half-brother who served as a powerful appointed minister.  He eventually became wealthy from his novels, in which he wrote about the poor and downtrodden with sympathy, and his friendship with Tissot was a lifelong one.

In 1864, the year Millais was elected a member of the Royal Academy, Tissot again exhibited work in London:  two pictures on display at the Society of British Artists, and a small oil painting at the Royal Academy Exhibition.  In France, Tissot associated, loosely, with a band of artistic rebels led by Manet – men who met at the Café de Bade to debate the purpose of art and express their frustration with the rigidity of the Paris art Establishment.  But Tissot was a traditionalist at heart.  He must have admired Millais – as a man, as a painter, and as a successful businessman.  In 1865, Tom Taylor’s Ballads and Songs of Brittany was published in London, illustrated by several artists including Millais and Tissot, who provided the Frontispiece and further widened his reputation in Great Britain.


Ernest Meissonier


Ferdinand Heilbuth

In 1866, the thirty-year-old artist bought land to build a villa on the most prestigious of Baron Haussmann’s grand new Parisian boulevards, the eleven-year-old avenue de l’Impératrice (now avenue Foch).  By the Salon of 1868, Tissot had occupied his newly built, elegant mansion in the splendid avenue, the place to see and be seen amid the heady delights of life in the imperial capital.  But an early biographer asserted that there were no parties or receptions in this home, as Tissot dreaded the noise; he hosted only quiet gatherings with intimates such as Degas, eminent painter and sculptor Ernest Meissonier (1815 –1891), and painter Ferdinand Heilbuth (1826 – 1889).


Alfred Stevens

Tissot and wildly successful Belgian painter Alfred Stevens (1823 –1906) moved in the same social circle, which included Manet, Degas, Frédéric Bazille, Berthe Morisot and Whistler as well as Alma-Tadema.  Stevens and his wife held regular receptions at their home on Wednesdays.  Tissot may have preferred quiet evenings with his friends in his new villa, but in early 1868, he scribbled a hurried message to Degas on the back of a used envelope when he found Degas away from his studio:  “I shall be at Stevens’ house tonight.”  He had dropped by to give Degas advice on finishing a problematic painting-in-progress, Interior (The Rape) before the Salon deadline.

Tissot appears to have been content to live well and maintain a fairly low profile in the art world he had conquered within a decade of his arrival as a provincial art student.  Oddly, there are almost no references to Tissot in letters, journals or accounts of his chatty friends and acquaintances during this time, even though his studio was a chic gathering place, and it is likely he visited crowded, gossipy weekly soirées such as those hosted by Madame Manet (Edouard’s formidable mother) on Tuesdays, the Stevenses on Wednesdays, and Madame Morisot (Berthe’s formidable mother) on Thursdays.

In 1869, Tissot began contributing political cartoons to the newest Society journal in London, Vanity Fair, founded by Thomas Gibson Bowles (1841 – 1922).  Tommy Bowles was the illegitimate son of Thomas Milner Gibson (1806 – 1884), a Liberal MP for Manchester and President of the Board of Trade from 1859 to 1866, and a servant, Susannah Bowles.  Tommy’s father (and even his father’s wife, Arethusa Susannah, a Society hostess who was the daughter of Sir Thomas Gery Cullum of Hardwick House, Suffolk, and their six children) acknowledged him.  Tissot, at 33, was famous in Paris.  Tommy, a handsome blue-eyed blonde, was five or six years younger and making a name for himself, even in France, with his controversial articles in London’s Morning Post.

It is strange, the life Tissot led – an exclusive address and titled patrons in Paris and yet close friends with the individualistic, struggling Edgar Degas (who ceased to exhibit in the Salon after this year, due to his discontent with it), the illegitimate and irreverent London publisher Tommy Bowles, and the renegade James Whistler, who was considered belligerent and uncouth by this time.

It seems that James Tissot was a peaceable, refined, and multifaceted gentleman, truly his own man – in a world about to implode.

The Franco-Prussian War united Tissot and Tommy Bowles, who raced to Paris as a war correspondent.  Because there were not enough French troops, a National Guard – a volunteer militia independent of the regular army – was forming to defend Paris.  On Friday, September 9, 1870, Tommy was surveying the scene of Garde Mobile squads drilling or wandering around along the avenue de l’Impératrice [near James Tissot’s sumptuous villa at No. 64], “when my hand was suddenly seized, and I found myself talking to one of my smartest Parisian friends [James Tissot] who had donned the blue uniform like everybody else.  He was delighted to see me.”  Tissot gamely promised that if there was a sortie, he would make sure that Tommy had the chance to see some action.  [Tissot scholar Willard E. Misfeldt learned that James Tissot actually had enlisted in the Garde Nationale de la Seine, the Fourth Company of the Eighteenth Battalion, in 1855 – as soon as he had arrived in Paris at age 19.]

In early October, military operations blocked access to Tissot’s new villa, and he turned up at Bowles’ rented apartments.  Tommy observed affectionately of his friend, “We neither of us have got any money left, but we propose to support each other by our mutual credit…and to share our last rat together.  Meantime we are not greatly to be pitied.  Our joint domestic, Jean, one of those handy creatures yet to be invented in England, makes our beds, scrubs the floor, brushes the clothes, cooks like a cordon bleu, and is, as we believe and fervently hope, capable of producing any explanation or invention that may be required by persons in search of payment.  He has been especially successful as regards meat.”  The British journalist and the French painter shared a mischievous sense of humor, numerous dangerous sorties – and strong survival instincts.


The Tirailleurs de la Seine at the Battle of Rueil-Malmaison, 21st October 1870 (1875), by Étienne-Prosper Berne-Bellecour. (Oil on canvas, 103×203 cm; Château de Versailles, France; Giraudon). Photo courtesy of The Bridgeman Art Library for use in “The Hammock: A novel based on the true story of French painter James Tissot,” by Lucy Paquette © 2012

On October 21, 1870, the men in Tissot’s unit – the Éclaireurs of the Seine, an elite unit of scouts and snipers (tirailleurs) – “one and all Parisians of the purest type” according to Tommy Bowles – were sent to fight in the Battle of Malmaison (also referred to as the Battle of Rueil-Malmaison, or La Jonchère, for the nearby towns), west of Paris.  [See James Tissot and The Artists’ Brigade, 1870-71.]

During the war, James Tissot fought with valor on the front line, and he later volunteered as a Red Cross stretcher-bearer.  Then he became involved in the bloody civil uprising that followed, the Paris Commune.  He fled to London with a hundred francs in his pocket.  There, he had plenty of friends to help him rebuild his life.

Oxford Portraits

Chichester Fortescue

Besides Tommy Bowles, there was Frances, Countess Waldegrave (1821 – 1879), an influential Liberal Society hostess whose fourth and final husband was Chichester Fortescue (1823 – 1898), an Irish MP, who became Lord Carlingford.  Tissot may have met her through Millais, who frequented her salons.  She shared Tissot’s interest in spiritualism and painting, and at some point, Tissot painted her portrait in her boudoir.  (The portrait, whereabouts unknown, was not considered a good likeness.)

In 1871 – shortly after Tissot fled Paris – the charming and “irresistible” Countess Waldegrave pulled strings to get Tissot a lucrative commission to paint a full-length portrait of Fortescue, which was funded by a group of eighty-one Irishmen including forty-nine MPs, five Roman Catholic bishops and twenty-seven peers to commemorate his term as Chief Secretary for Ireland under Gladstone – as a present to his wife.



Tissot also was friendly with Society novelist Ouida (Maria Louise Ramé, 1839 – 1908); on June 19, 1871, she sent him an invitation to visit on June 21, with the promise that “some English artists will enjoy the great pleasure of meeting you & seeing your sketches.”  Described as having a “sinister, clever face” and a “voice like a carving knife,” Ouida lived in the Langham Hotel, where surrounded by purple flowers, she wrote on large sheets of violet-colored notepaper in bed by candlelight.  Her lavish soirées included celebrities such as Oscar Wilde, J.E. Millais. Algernon Charles Swinburne, and Wilkie Collins, along with dozens of handsome guard officers.


The Captain and the Mate, (1873), by James Tissot. The Captain and the Mate (1873), by James Tissot. Oil on panel, 53.6 by 76.2 cm. Private Collection. Courtesy of The Bridgeman Art Library for use in “The Hammock: A novel based on the true story of French painter James Tissot,” © 2012 Courtesy of The Bridgeman Art Library for use in The Hammock: A novel based on the true story of French painter James Tissot, © 2012

Once Tissot moved to London in 1871, he continually sought “British” subject matter, always offering it up with a French twist.  He soon found a friend in Captain John Freebody (1834 – 1899), master of the Arundel Castle from 1872-73, when he took emigrants to America.  Captain Freebody’s wife, Margaret Kennedy (1840 – 1930), modeled for The Captain’s Daughter, set at the Falcon Tavern in Gravesend.  Tissot exhibited The Captain’s Daughter, as well as two other paintings [The Last Evening (1873) and Too Early (1873)], at the Royal Academy in 1873.

Two other paintings featuring Margaret Kennedy are in a private collection:  Boarding the Yacht (1873) and The Captain and the Mate (1873), in which Margaret’s older brother, red-bearded Captain Lumley Kennedy (1819 – 1899), and her sister posed as well.   Tissot, having grown up in the bustling seaport of Nantes, where his father was a successful wholesale linen draper (a trader in fabrics and dress trimmings to retailers and exporters), must have felt quite comfortable with sailors and their families.

Within a few years of hard work and help from such friends, Tissot bought the leasehold to a house in St. John’s Wood, at 17 (now 44) Grove End Road, and built an extension with a studio and a conservatory.  A handsome and talented 35-year-old Parisian, he earned and returned the respect of intelligent and capable women.


Louise Jopling

British painter Louise Jopling (1843 – 1933) lived in Paris from 1865 to 1869, when her ne’er-do-well husband, Frank Romer, was sent packing by his employer, Baron de Rothschild.  Louise had been painting with the encouragement of the Baroness, a watercolor artist, and after moving to London, Louise continued painting despite numerous hardships.  Her work was exhibited at the Royal Academy exhibitions after 1870, and she met “that extraordinarily clever French artist, James Tissot,” when his
picture, Too Early, “made a great sensation” at the 1873 exhibition.  Tissot gave her a sketch of Gravesend he made that year.  In her 1925 autobiography, Louise wrote of him, “James Tissot was a charming man, very handsome.”

Louise proved to be an excellent source of information on Tissot’s personality, including this anecdote about a day they spent with Ferdinand Heilbuth.  She wrote, “Heilbuth was a delightful man as well as an excellent painter.  He was a great friend of Tissot…One day, before I was married, he arrived at my studio and said he had a letter from Tissot, who begged him to come round to me and try to induce [my sister] Alice and I to come spend the day at Greenwich where he was painting his charming pictures of scenes by the Thames.  I was to bring my sketching materials.  I had promised [my fiancé] Joe to give him a sitting for my portrait, but it was much too delightful a project not to be accepted with fervor.  I wired to Joe, “Called out of town on business.”


Berthe Morisot, by Édouard Manet

Berthe Morisot (1841 – 1895) also appreciated Tissot.   He socialized frequently in 1875, inviting Berthe Morisot to dinner at his home in St. John’s Wood when she was in England for her honeymoon.  She wrote to her sister, Edma Pontillon, “We went to see Tissot, who does very pretty things that he sells at high prices; he is living like a king.  We dined there.  He is very nice, a very good fellow, though a little vulgar.  We are on the best of terms; I paid him many compliments, and he really deserves them.”

During the same trip, Berthe wrote to her mother, “[I was dragged out of bed] just now by a letter from Tissot – an invitation to dinner for tomorrow night.  I had to get up and ransack everything to find a clean sheet of paper in order to reply.”  Later, she added, “He was very amiable, and complimented me although he has probably never seen any of my work.”

In 1873, Tissot joined the Arts Club in Hanover Square, and in 1875, Italian painter Giuseppe De Nittis (1846 –1884) wrote to his wife, Léontine, “I saw Tissot at the club, he was very nice, very friendly.”

In 1874, Degas invited both Tissot and De Nittis to display their work in the first exhibition by the French artists who would become known as the Impressionists.  Tissot was achieving success in London and declined, but De Nittis accepted.


Sir Julius Benedict


Self-Portrait, Giuseppe Di Nittis

Another member of the Arts Club with whom Tissot was friendly was Sir Julius Benedict (1804 – 1885), the German-born composer and conductor who is portrayed as the pianist in Tissot’s Hush! (The Concert, 1875).  The son of a Jewish banker, Benedict became a naturalised Englishman and was knighted in 1871.

After spending several weeks in Venice with Manet, Tissot dined at his friend Jimmy Whistler’s three-storey townhouse in Lindsey Row, Chelsea on November 16, 1875 with Alan S. Cole (1846 – 1934, a lace and textile expert who was the son of Sir Henry Cole, the first director of the South Kensington Museum, now the V&A), independent-minded, outspoken painter Albert Moore (1841 – 1893) and Captain Crabb (commander of The Brazilian in 1870) on topics such as “ideas on art unfettered by principles.”


George Adolphus Storey

On December 7, Tissot returned to dine with Jimmy, his patron Cyril Flower (1843 – 1907, later Lord Battersea), and painter George Adolphus Storey (1834 – 1919); they conversed on the works of Balzac.

Storey, in his 1899 memoirs, described a high-spirited “railway picnic party” in 1873 with men he referred to as intellectuals:  Tissot, Heilbuth, Philip Hermogenes Calderon, R.A. (1833 – 1898), George Dunlop Leslie, A.R.A. (1835 – 1921), David Wilkie Wynfield (1837–1887), William Yeames, A.R.A. (1835 – 1918), Frederick Walker (1840 – 1875), editor Shirley Brooks (1816 – 1874) and “the Punch men,” pianist, conductor and composer Frederic Hymen Cowen (1852 – 1935), and a host of others returning from a grand house party in Manchester hosted by art dealer William Agnew (1825 – 1910).  Opera star Charles Santley (1834 – 1922), Storey added, “sang us many of his delightful songs.”


Mavourneen (Portrait of Kathleen Newton, 1877). Oil on canvas, 36 in. /91.44 cm. by 20 in./50.80 cm. Photo courtesy of The Bridgeman Art Library for use in “The Hammock: A novel based on the true story of French painter James Tissot,” © 2012 by Lucy Paquette

As desirable he was as a guest, Tissot must have enjoyed entertaining in his turn.  Louise Jopling noted of Tissot, “At one time he was very hospitable, and delightful were the dinners he gave.  But these ceased when he became absorbed in a grande passion with a married woman.”

Around 1876, Tissot met Kathleen Newton (1854 – 1882), an Irish divorcée in her early twenties with a four-year-old daughter and a son born on March 21, 1876.  [See James Tissot’s Model and Muse, Kathleen Newton and Was Cecil Newton James Tissot’s son?]  Being Roman Catholic, Tissot and Kathleen could not marry, but she moved into his house in St. John’s Wood.


Sir Charles Wyndham


Sir Henry Irving

Kathleen’s two children lived with her sister’s family around the corner, and they and their cousins visited Kathleen and Tissot regularly.  Tissot’s social life drastically changed, and he must have judged his love affair with the discarded young beauty well worth the sacrifice.  Though cohabitation was common in Victorian England, especially in bohemian circles, it was not socially acceptable to most people in the middle and upper classes.

Though Tissot and Mrs. Newton were not invited out, their friendship was valued, and plenty of lively friends sought their company.  One of Kathleen’s nieces, interviewed as an adult, recalled, “Whistler and Oscar Wilde, with his brother Willie, were constant visitors,” as were actor Henry Irving (1838 – 1905), actor-manager Charles Wyndham (1837 – 1919), and actress Miss Mary Moore (1860 – 1931, who became Wyndham’s second wife in 1916, the year he was widowed).  Tommy Bowles, his longtime friend, remained a frequent visitor and introduced others including landscape painter William Stone (c. 1840 – 1913), who “often had tea in the garden with Tissot and the lady.”  Stone, perhaps revealing the essence of Tissot’s charm, observed, “Tissot was quite a boulevardier and could not grasp our somewhat puritanical outlook.”

© 2017 by Lucy Paquette.  All rights reserved.

Related posts:

On his own: Tissot as a Paris art student, 1855 — 1858

James Tissot & Tommy Bowles Brave the Siege Together: October 1870

James Tissot and The Artists’ Brigade, 1870-71

James Tissot the Collector:  His works by Degas, Manet & Pissarro

James Tissot and Alfred Stevens

James Tissot: Portraits of the Artist

CH377762If you do not have a Kindle e-reader, you may download free Kindle reading apps for PCs, Smartphones, tablets, and the Kindle Cloud Reader to read The Hammock:  A novel based on the true story of French painter James Tissot.  Read reviews.

The Hammock:  A novel based on the true story of French painter James Tissot, brings Tissot’s world from 1870 to 1879 alive in a story of war, art, Society glamour, love, scandal, and tragedy.

Illustrated with 17 stunning, high-resolution fine art images in full color

Courtesy of The Bridgeman Art Library

(295 pages; ISBN (ePub):  978-0-615-68267-9).    See http://www.amazon.com/dp/B009P5RYVE.