Monthly Archives: October 2012

The competition: Tissot’s friends Whistler, Degas, Manet, Courbet, Alma-Tadema & Millais in 1866

While Tissot had found his artistic entrée to the Paris aristocracy by 1865, what were his friends doing?

In February, 1866, Manet was introduced to the young writer Émile Zola (1840 – 1902), who passionately and publicly defended Manet in the liberal newspaper L’Événement when Manet’s The Fifer and The Tragic Actor were rejected by the 1866 Salon jury.  Zola encouraged collectors to invest now in Manet’s work, predicting, “The future is his.  A place is marked for Manet in the Louvre.”  Rather than make converts, Zola made enemies of his own, and resigned.

Edouard Manet: Young Flautist, or The Fifer, 1866

Edouard Manet: Young Flautist, or The Fifer, 1866 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Degas’ 1866 Salon entry differed from his début with a medieval subject the previous year.  He showed Steeplechase — The Fallen Jockey, another image from Longchamp, the thoroughbred race course in the fashionable Bois de Boulogne.  This was a painting of modern life that no one could miss – it was painted on a canvas of more than seven feet by five feet.  Still, Degas’ epic scene received very little critical notice.

By early 1866, Whistler was frustrated with his work, writing to a friend, “It’s always the same thing, always work that’s so painful and uncertain!  I am so slow — I produce very little, because I rub everything out.”  This friend wrote about Whistler to a mutual friend, “I have a feeling that our happy days are over.  He believes too much in making a stir, and not enough in quality, which is the only way to success.”  Restless and perhaps craving action and adventure – or fleeing creditors — Whistler sailed for Valparaiso, Chile and stayed for seven months, embroiling himself (not heroically) in the political crisis between Spanish imperialists and the Chilean government.  While there, he painted five pictures of the harbor, including Nocturne in Blue and Gold:  Valparaiso.  His first biographers, Elizabeth and Joseph Pennell, wrote that Whistler gave his paintings to the ship’s purser to bring home:

The purser kept them.  Once they were seen in his house in London by someone who recognized Whistler’s work.

Why, they must be by Whistler!’ he said.

‘Who’s Whistler?’ asked the purser.

‘An artist,’ said the other.

‘Oh, no,’ said the purser.  ‘They were painted by a gentleman.’

Nocturne in Blue and Gold: Valparaiso Bay (186...

Nocturne in Blue and Gold: Valparaiso Bay (1866) by James Abbott McNeill Whistler (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Though a dandy, the pugnacious Whistler’s conflicts were not merely artistic:  he had started a brawl on board the ship home, and then received a beating – from no one knows whom — upon his arrival back in London.  At some point before or after this, he took boxing lessons from a professional pugilist in London.

While Whistler was away from London, he gave power of attorney to his flame-haired mistress Joanna Hiffernan so she could look after his finances and sell his paintings.  Jo had spent the previous summer with him and Courbet in Trouville, France.  In those leisurely months, they had enjoyed seafood, casinos and dips in the ocean with Claude Monet and others.  Jo clowned around to cheer Whistler up and sang Irish songs in the evenings.  She had modeled for Courbet several times; he painted her as La Belle Irlandaise (The Beautiful Irishwoman).  Now she went to Paris, posing for Courbet’s erotic paintings Sleep (for the Turkish ambassador who had missed the opportunity, the previous year, to buy Venus jealously pursuing Psyche) and The Origin of the World and likely had an affair with him.  Whistler broke off with her some time after his return from South America.

Courbet’s Woman with a Parrot was not only accepted by the 1866 Salon jury, but it was a tremendous success with the public – and with the Comte de Nieuwerkerke, who insisted it be displayed prominently.  Nieuwerkerke offered to purchase Courbet’s other Salon painting, Covert of Roe Deer, for the Empress Eugénie’s private collection, but it already had sold.  Nieuwerkerke then paid 2,000 francs for one of the many versions of Courbet’s Puits Noir (this one was also known as Shaded Stream) for the Empress’ collection.  Courbet, at 47, suddenly was flooded with commissions, and even with compliments from prominent Academicians, to whom he referred in a letter to a friend as “that bunch of scoundrels.”  He wrote in 1866, “The success I am having in Paris at the moment is unbelievable.  In the end, I am the one and only.”

Gustave Courbet - Woman with a Parrot - WGA5504

Woman with a Parrot, Gustave Courbet

Tissot’s Dutch friend, Lourens Tadema (later Lawrence Alma-Tadema), had moved from Antwerp to Brussels, where his paintings won him acclaim and honors.  His highly detailed and scholarly pictures now showed the influence of the archaeological excavations at Pompeii and Herculaneum that he had seen on his honeymoon in 1863.  In mid-May, 1866, Tadema and his wife, Pauline, traveled to London for a fancy-dress ball given at the St. John’s Wood home of his dealer, Ernest Gambart.  For the occasion, Tadema had painted In the Peristylum (No. 75, 1866).  Gambart had purchased fourteen of Tadema’s paintings to date, but he had not sold them:  Tadema found thirteen of them hanging on Gambart’s own walls.  Gambart actually was selling some of Tadema’s early work to a client in America, and he reassured the artist that his work would sell in Britain soon.  Two of Tadema’s pictures, Returning home from market (No. 70, 1865) and Entrance to a Roman theatre (No. 74, 1866), were on view through Gambart in London and earning praise.  In the autumn of 1866, Tadema’s Preparations for the festivities (No. 72) won a major award in Brussels.

Millais did not exhibit at London’s Royal Academy in 1866.  Distinguished art dealers William Agnew and Ernest Gambart hounded him to meet the constant demand for water-color and oil replicas of his most popular paintings [such as Ophelia (1852), The Huguenot (1852), Sir Isumbras at the Ford (1857), The Vale of Rest (1858) and The Black Brunswicker (1860)].  He spent the fall shooting grouse and stags among friends in Scotland.  He met his responsibilities as a successful artist and grasped the business side of his profession — and he reaped the rewards.

The Vale of Rest

The Vale of Rest, J.E. Millais

Certainly of all Tissot’s artist friends, Millais must have seemed the one with a career worth emulating.

© Copyright Lucy Paquette 2012.  All rights reserved.

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


Ready and waiting: Tissot’s entrée, 1865

English: Dimensions and material of painting: ...

Apple Blossoms (Spring), 1859, J.E. Millais, oil on canvas, 43-1/2 x 68 in (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The American Civil War had ended and President Lincoln had been assassinated by the opening of the Salon of 1865, but life was placid enough for James Tissot.  He exhibited The Attempted Abduction* and Spring.  The first painting, a scene of a duel over a woman, was another of Tissot’s medieval pictures, and the critics were disappointed in him.  The second picture, however, received some praise because of its similarities to Millais’ Apple Blossoms (Spring), exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1859.

Spring (1865), by James Tissot. Photo:

Esther (1865) Private Collection

Esther (1865), J.E. Millais, Private Collection (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Millais, at the 1865 Royal Academy, exhibited an oil painting based on a Tennyson subject, Swallow! Swallow! Flying South.  It was bought by the distinguished London art dealer William Agnew (1825 – 1910), who helped foster the market for British contemporary art.  Millais also exhibited The Enemy Sowing Tares, Esther, The Romans Leaving Britain, and Joan of Arc.  Millais, newly a member of the Royal Academy, found that success breeds success, and his pictures were snapped up by well-heeled buyers.  In addition that year, he painted portraits including the son of his friend, Tom Taylor.

Tom Taylor (1817 – 1880) was the editor of Punch magazine, a professional art critic and a popular playwright.  Among his other works, he wrote Our American Cousin – the farce that U.S. President Lincoln was seeing at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C. when he was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth.  In 1865, Tom Taylor’s Ballads and Songs of Brittany was published by Macmillan & Co.  It was illustrated by several artists including Millais and Tissot, who provided the Frontispiece and further widened his reputation in Great Britain.

English: Egyptian chess players

Egyptian chess players, Lawrence Alma-Tadema (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tissot’s Dutch friend, Lourens Tadema (later Lawrence Alma-Tadema), living in Antwerp, had career-changing luck the previous summer when he was discovered by the influential art dealer Ernest Gambart (1814 – 1902).  Gambart, who had a gallery at Trafalgar Square as well as in Brussels, was impressed by Tadema’s work-in-progress Egyptian chess players (No 60, completed 1865) and commissioned twenty-four pictures.  He then ensured that three of Tadema’s paintings were exhibited in London in April 1865.  Pastimes in Ancient Egypt (18th Dynasty) (No 56, 1863)Egyptian chess players (No 60, 1865) and Birthday presents in the 16th century (No 61, 1865) were included in Gambart’s 12th Annual French and Flemish Exhibition at the French Gallery, Pall Mall, but the 29-year-old Tadema’s début in England received little notice.

Allegorical painting representing suffering of...

Scene of War in the Middle Ages, Edgar Degas.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In Paris, Degas made an unremarkable Salon début in 1865 with a historic picture, Scene of War in the Middle Ages (called Misfortunes of the City of Orléans after his death).

But his attention had drifted to learning the art of wax sculpture from his friend, Louis-Alfred-Joseph Cuvelier, an innovative, aspiring young equestrian sculptor who cast his work in bronze.

By Degas. (Photo by Cynthia, Flickr)

Obsessed with capturing motion, Degas experimented with frameworks of twisted wire on a wooden plank, using wine corks as filler for the horse’s head and body.

Degas modeled his sculptures in colored beeswax, did not cast his work in bronze, and never publicly exhibited his wax sculptures.

At the Salon, Whistler exhibited The Princess from the Land of Porcelain (La Princesse du pays de la porcelain), in which he had painted Christina Spartali on a 6.5’ by 4’ canvas, tall and sway-backed as if she were a design on a multi-colored Japanese vase.  The picture provoked a negative response from the critics as well as Christina’s father, the Greek consul in London who commissioned it as a portrait of his daughter but then refused to buy it.

Symphony in White, No. 2: The Little White Girl

Symphony in White, No. 2: The Little White Girl, James McNeill Whistler (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At the Royal Academy Exhibition in London, Whistler exhibited The Little White Girl, showing his Irish mistress and model, Joanna Hiffernan, in a simple white gown.  Hung near Millais’ Esther, it did not fare well by contrast; one critic wrote that Whistler made “the most bizarre of bipeds” of all his models.  His other pictures there, The Golden Screen and Old Battersea Bridge, received praise for their “subtle beauty of color” and “almost mystical delicacy of tone.”  But one critic dismissed Whistler as “half a great artist” and another sniffed that he “lives in intimate communion with fantasy.”

Whistler and Jo joined Courbet, in the late summer and fall of 1865, in Trouville, a fishing village on the Normandy coast which had become a fashionable resort.  Courbet had exhibited two scandal-free paintings in the 1865 Salon: a landscape and a portrait, which nevertheless were disliked by the critics.  The landscape, The Black Stream, was purchased by the Comte de Nieuwerkerke for the collection of Napolean III.  Courbet spent three months in Trouville – painting portraits of rich vacationers such as Countess Károlyi, the wife of a Hungarian diplomat.  Along with Whistler and the cocky twenty-four-year old artist, Claude Monet (1840 – 1926), Courbet also painted outdoors, capturing the changing light, color and atmosphere with his series of seascapes.

Olympia (1863), Edouard Manet, Musée d'Orsay

Olympia (1863), Edouard Manet, Musée d’Orsay (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

No such peace – or acclaim despite public animosity – was to be had for Édouard Manet.  At the 1865 Salon, he showed Jesus Mocked by the Soldiers, which offended many by its unidealized figure of Christ, and Olympia, a painting which required guards to protect it from the hostility of the crowds.  One critic observed that “Art sunk so low doesn’t even deserve reproach.”  Manet was openly mocked in the streets, despised personally for both these pictures.  A celebrated painting master at l’École des Beaux-Arts forbade his students to mention Manet’s name.  Devastated, saying, “I’ve never been through anything like it,” Manet left for Spain in August.  His great friend, the poet, writer and art critic Charles Baudelaire (1821 – 1867), wrote to Manet, “It’s really stupid that you should get so worked up.  You’re laughed at, your merits are not appreciated.  So what?  Do you think you’re the first man to be in that position?”

Tissot, in contrast to his friends Degas, Whistler and Manet, had found acceptance in a circle beyond the Salon, the critics, or intellectual rebels:  he had found an entrée to the French aristocracy and was commissioned to paint The Marquis and the Marquise de Miramon and their children [René de Cassagne de Beaufort, Marquis de Miramon (1835-1882), his wife, née Thérèse Feuillant (1836-1912), and their first two children, Geneviève and Léon on the terrace of the château de Paulhac in Auvergne].  Tissot depicted them outdoors, as an informal, affectionate family in the English-style elegance of a Thomas Gainsborough (1727 – 1788) or a Joshua Reynolds portrait (1723 – 1792).  This painting served as Tissot’s calling card to the lucrative market for Society portraiture.

The Marquis and the Marquise de Miramon and their children, by James Tissot (Photo: Wikipedia Commons)

His self-portrait of 1865 shows him, at 29, ready for, though perhaps wary of, the spectacular success to come.

Self portrait (1865), by James Tissot, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, CA, USA. 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

* Tissot’s The Attempted Abduction (1865, oil on canvas, 26.7 x 38 in.) was sold at auction by Sotheby’s on May 4, 2012 for $134,500.

© Copyright Lucy Paquette 2012.  All rights reserved.

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

Paris c. 1865: The Giddy Life of Second Empire France


Napoleon III and Haussmann (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By 1865, Napoleon III’s majestic and “revolution-proof” vision to modernize Paris had been methodically implemented for twelve years by his préfet, Baron Haussmann.  James Tissot had lived and painted in the city during nine years of this transformation.  The economy was booming as overcrowded medieval buildings were demolished, hills were leveled, bridges were constructed, and narrow, tangled streets were replaced with straight, broad tree-lined avenues extending to the western suburbs where fields of cabbages once grew.  When the Arc de Triomphe was completed in 1836, five streets radiated from it; Haussmann added seven more and a traffic round-about, and it became known as Place de l’Etoile (Place of the Star).  In an effort to create a large, clean and progressive metropolis, rows of neo-classical apartment buildings were constructed with shops at street level, as well as a breathtakingly beautiful new opera house.

Paris Opéra Garnier Grand escalier

Paris Opéra Garnier Grand escalier (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To serve a population that had almost doubled in the past fifteen years and was nearing two million, aqueducts transported fresh spring water to city reservoirs, and an extensive sewer system was installed.  Telegraph lines allowed modern and efficient communication.  Railways now branched out from the city, reaching into the outlying regions and making it an industrial center.  Trains also encircled the city, so that the main railroad stations were conveniently connected within the old fortified wall around the capital.  The once-squalid city had become an international model of urban planning, with new public squares and parks.  The densely wooded Bois de Boulogne was designed on the western edge of the city as an imperial playground, with two lakes, a zoo, an aviary, and an aquarium plus a thoroughbred race course, Longchamp.

The splendid new streets now were a cacophony of horses, carriages, and omnibuses.  Parisians flaunted their wealth, and conspicuous consumption was the order of the day.  Grand department stores and hotels sprang up, and cafés spilled thousands of tables and chairs into the wide sidewalks, packed with people of all classes taking in the spectacle between two and six in the afternoon.  Shops stayed open into the night, drawing crowds from nine o’clock to midnight and beyond, and to the east, there were theaters, music halls and cabarets.  With 15,000 gaslights glittering on the streets, Paris became “The City of Light.”

Valentine Haussmann and her father, Georges Haussmann (

While the Emperor carried on affairs with women including Valentine Haussmann, the 21-year-old daughter of the man renovating Paris, the Empress Eugénie and her friends would drive themselves down the elegant avenue de l’Impératrice – Empress Avenue (now the avenue Foch) – heading for the Bois de Boulogne in an open carriage to boat on the lakes, sip wine at the Swiss Chalet there, and enjoy picnics and galas.  Like London’s Hyde Park, it was the place to see and be seen, and to show off fine horses.  In the winter, there was ice skating (introduced in 1862 by the Empress Eugénie), and there were always balls at the Tuileries; in 1865, it was the fashion to drive to masked balls at 3 a.m.  The Empress patronized Charles Worth, the first dressmaker to offer his own designs at luxury fashion shows and to label his creations.  Eugénie’s tastes set style; her extravagant white tulle ballgown strewn with diamonds led to imitations sewn with beetles, butterflies and bells.

The Empress Eugenie Surrounded by her Ladies in Waiting by Franz Winterhalter (

Princess Mathilde Bonaparte

Princess Mathilde Bonaparte (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The power behind the throne – in cultural matters, at least — was not Eugénie or even a mistress, but Princess Mathilde.  A first cousin of Napoleon III, she was engaged to him briefly at age 16, though they were mismatched intellectually.  When the man she did marry turned out to be cruel and abusive, she fled him with her Parisian lover, the Comte de Nieuwerkerke.  She took her family’s jewels, using them as collateral for a bank loan of 500,000 francs that funded her cousin’s rise to power.  Even after Napoleon III’s marriage to Eugénie, a Spanish countess educated in Paris, Mathilde wielded enormous power.  At the Paris townhouse Napoleon III put at her disposal, she regularly received scientists, writers, painters, and musicians, and she obtained advantages for them.  She herself was an artist, winning a medal for her painting at the 1865 Salon, and it was at her request that the Comte de Nieuwerkerke (a failed sculptor) was promoted to Superintendent of Fine Arts in 1863, at an annual salary of 60,000 francs.  It is said that Princess Mathilde decided who was elected to the Académie des Beaux-Arts, or which painter won a medal.

Portrait of Count Alfred Émilien de Nieuwerkerke (1811 – 1892) c. 1856-57, by Princess Mathilde Bonaparte (Photo:

What would Tissot, a man who had depicted himself in a self-portrait a few years earlier as a hooded monk, have been doing amid the heady delights of life in the imperial capital?  In an 1865 photograph, he’s a dapper dresser.  Though still living in the dilapidated Latin Quarter at 29, he was enjoying increasing professional success and was described as a boulevardier – a man-about-town.  In addition to painters, his friends included poets (Camille-André Lemoyne, 1822 – 1907, who dedicated a published poem to Tissot in 1860), writers (Alphonse Daudet, 1840 – 1897, who lived in the rented room below his), and composers (Emmanuel Chabrier, 1841 – 1894, whose portrait Tissot drew in 1861).

He was 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, perhaps, Tissot – a traditionalist at heart — had more closely allied himself with some of the most prominent figures of the Second Empire.

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

© Copyright Lucy Paquette 2012.  All rights reserved.

The Hammock is now available for Kindle e-readers!

James Jacques Joseph Tissot was born today, October 15, in 1836.  He lived an improbable life in a time of political, social and artistic upheaval, and his story has not been told — until now.

CH377762The Hammock:  A novel based on the true story of French painter James Tissot, is now available for Kindle e-readers* ($5.99, Electronic ISBN:  978-0-615-68267-9).  I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!  Read reviews.

The novel opens during the Battle of Malmaison, on October 21, 1870.  Join me each week as I catch you up on Tissot’s life, friends, and times, year by year, from his youth to his pre-war celebrity.  Thanks to each of you who has joined me to date; as of February 21, 2013, my blog has had visitors from 78 nations including the U.S., Canada, U.K. & Jersey, Ireland, Russian Federation, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Romania, Albania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Latvia, Lithuania, Georgia, Hungary, Ukraine, Armenia, Croatia, Azerbaijan, Iraq, Czech Republic, Serbia, Estonia, Italy, Malta, Greece, Israel, Poland, Spain, Portugal, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt, Namibia, South Africa, Thailand, Mongolia, Nepal, Australia, New Caledonia, Mexico, Chile, Columbia, Argentina, Peru, Costa Rica, Brazil, Venezuela, Uruguay, Bermuda, Malaysia, Indonesia, Bulgaria, Viet Nam, Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, the Philippines, Republic of Korea, Cambodia, New Zealand, Iceland, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark!

James Tissot’s friends included Jimmy Whistler, Louise Jopling, J.E. and Effie Millais, Lawrence Alma-Tadema, Edgar Degas, Édouard Manet, Berthe Morisot, and many other figures of the dynamic 1870s during the birth of modern art in London and Paris.  Follow my blog for the stories behind the story of this fascinating but little-known figure embroiled in the birth of Impressionism and modern art.

*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.

A Convalescent, c.1876 (oil on canvas) by James Jacques Joseph Tissot (1836-1902). Sheffield Galleries and Museums Trust, UK. Courtesy 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.

© Copyright Lucy Paquette 2012.  All rights reserved.

Modern Painter: Tissot’s Focus Shifts, 1864

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 on the rue Bonaparte.  Daudet was employed as a secretary to the Duc de Morny, the Emperor’s illegitimate half-brother who served as a powerful appointed minister.

Princess Mathilde Bonaparte’s salon at 24 rue de Courcelles, Paris (1859), by Giraud Sébastien Charles (1819-1892). Musée national du château de Compiègne. Photo:

The Duc de Morny treated Daudet kindly and helped him get a start in life; perhaps it was through Morny that Daudet attended the literary and artistic receptions held weekly by Princess Mathilde.

Mathilde may have taken an interest in Daudet’s friend, the handsome young painter James Tissot.

An event in 1863 that more immediately influenced Tissot’s career was the publication of the critical essay, The Painter of Modern Life, by poet and writer Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867).  Baudelaire exhorted artists to be flâneurs – passionate spectators of modern life, especially daily urban life.  Manet’s work already reflected Baudelaire’s ideas, as the two had been good friends for nearly a decade.  Tissot’s paintings in the 1864 Salon now reflected this trend toward capturing “modernity,” and he began to hit his stride as an artist.  The Two Sisters may have been a double portrait; the elder model reappears in Portrait of Mademoiselle L.L.   

Portrait of Mademoiselle L.L. (1864), by James Tissot. (Photo:

In this informal portrait, with her direct gaze, confident in her trendy red Zouave jacket and bookish pursuits, she is the epitome of contemporary womanhood.  One critic wrote, “Mr. Tissot, the crazy primitive of the most recent Salons has suddenly changed his manner and moved closer to Mr. Courbet, a good mark for Mr. Tissot.”

The Two Sisters, by James Tissot (Photo:

Tissot also exhibited work in London in 1864, choosing to show medieval pictures.  He had two pictures on display at the Society of British Artists (The Elopement and The Return of the Prodigal Son), and at the Royal Academy Exhibition, an oil painting called At the Break of Day.  Considering it was one little foreign submission among thousands of British works, he was fortunate to receive even this much critical notice:

Owing to its small dimensions and its place close to the floor, special direction is needed to point attention to Mr. James Tissot’s unnamed little picture of a snow-covered street in a medieval town at night.  The painting of this little picture, and the power with which its dreary incident has been conceived and expressed, should have earned it a better place.

Other critics wrote that Tissot was a “powerful observer of character,” but that his ancient subject matter was “bizarre.”

His modern Paris paintings were, on the other hand, unqualified successes.  Whether or not these two large portraits relied on professional models, they were meant to solicit commissions, establishing Tissot as a painter who deftly captured individuality and personal elegance.

And how did Tissot’s friends fare in the 1864 Salon?  Degas was not ready to exhibit, but Lourens Tadema (the Dutchman who later restyled himself Lawrence Alma-Tadema), at 28, made his Salon début with a painting he had shown the previous year in Brussels:  Pastimes in Ancient Egypt (18th Dynasty).  According to his biographer, “it caused a sensation and won a gold medal.  Napoleon III offered 3,000 francs for it, but the artist declined the offer, valuing it at 4,000.”

Manet and Whistler, but not Tissot, were included in a Salon picture of the new generation of French painters — Homage to Delacroix, by Henri Fantin-Latour (1836 – 1904).  Exhibited in the 1864 Salon, the painting featured the most prominent of the young artists who had earned a reputation in the previous year’s Salon des Réfuses, and Whistler was given center stage.

Hommage à Delacroix, by Henri Fantin-Latour (1864). Photo:

Though there was again a Salon des Réfuses in 1864, Manet had two pictures accepted to the regular Salon, to prevent him from becoming as celebrated an outcast he had been in 1863.  The critics were disgusted with his Incident in a Bull Ring and The Dead Christ with Angels, calling him “a frightful Realist” and condemning his grubby figure of Christ as “in bad taste.”  But the more they pummeled Manet – who had yet to sell a single painting — the more prestige he gained in Paris’ intellectual and artistic circles.

Meanwhile, Courbet’s Venus jealously pursuing Psyche — a picture with a mythological title and a lesbian theme — was rejected by the 1864 Salon jury as “indecent.”  Courbet countered, “If that picture is immoral, we ought to shut up all the museums in Italy, France and Spain.”  It didn’t hurt sales — a former Turkish ambassador to France wished to purchase this picture, but another patron already had snapped it up.

Whistler was in London collecting blue and white Japanese porcelain for his house.  His mother had moved in.  He missed the submission deadline for the Salon but exhibited two well-received oil paintings at the Royal Academy:  Wapping (which he had been working on for four years) and The Lange Leizen of the Six Marks, which sold for £60-80.

Wapping, by James McNeill Whistler. (Photo:

The Lange Leizen of the Six Marks (1864), by James Abbott McNeill Whistler. Philadelphia Museum of Art. (Photo:

Also in London, Millais exhibited My Second Sermon at London’s Royal Academy; he had exhibited My First Sermon in 1863.  The pair of paintings depicted an adorable little girl modeled by his daughter, Effie, first sitting attentively in church, then nodding off to sleep.

My Second Sermon, by J.E. Millais. (Photo:

Courting the public, Millais also exhibited a double portrait of the daughters of Sir John Pender called Leisure Hours.  One critic summed it up:  this was the type of portraiture that would prevent photography from taking over.  Millais was elected a member of the Royal Academy this year.

Leisure Hours, by J.E. Millais (Photo:

Tissot must have admired Millais – as a man, as a painter, and as a successful businessman.  The young French artist was shrewd enough to see how to get ahead – and he did.

© Copyright Lucy Paquette 2012.  All rights reserved.

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.

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

Reality Check: Tissot and the Salon des Réfuses, 1863

The next Salon was in 1863.  Charles Gounod’s grand opera, Faust, was revived in Paris in 1862, and on the heels of Tissot’s success at the 1861 Salon, he exhibited two Faust-themed paintings, The Departure and Departure of the Bridegroom (Depart du fiancé) as well as The Return of the Prodigal Son.  But the critics had had enough of Tissot’s medieval paintings and began to satirize him.  One prominent critic advised Tissot to “look at the calendar” and wrote, “When he has done enough archaeology, we will do as the father of the prodigal child he showed this year:  we will kill the fatted calf, and we will forgive him.”

The Return of the Prodigal Son, by James Tissot.

That is not to say the critics were ready for contemporary subject matter.  Nor was the all-powerful Director-General of Museums, the Comte de Nieuwerkerke, who decreed that artists could submit no more than three paintings to the Salons from now on.  He despised the Realism movement that was gaining ground, preached by the subversive Gustave Courbet.  Nieuwerkerke supposedly said of paintings in the Realist style, “This is the painting of democrats, of men who don’t change their underwear.”  He preferred that artists concentrate their efforts on a masterpiece, preferably one that was morally uplifting.  There was an outcry from painters who felt that the limit on submissions further reduced their chance of earning a living by having their work displayed at the Salon.

Courbet exhibited regularly at the Salon from the time he was 29, when he had ten paintings accepted.  The following year, the State bought his life-sized After Dinner at Ornans, and he was awarded the second-class gold medal; he won additional medals at the Salons in 1857 and 1860.  Courbet’s reputation extended to Berlin and Vienna, and his career was profitable.  He enjoyed defying convention and offending prevailing taste, as he did at the Salon of 1850-1851 with Burial at Ornans, his realistic depiction of his great-uncle’s ordinary, small-town funeral on a 10-foot by 22-foot canvas as if it were a historical painting of a heroic subject.

Burial at Ornans, by Gustave Courbet (1849-1850). Oil on canvas 10′ 3 1/2″ x 21′ 9″ (314 x 663 cm). Musee d’Orsay, Paris. Musée d’Orsay, Paris. (Photo:

Courbet said this painting was really “the burial of Romanticism.”  In 1863, amid rising fury over the number of paintings rejected from previous Salons and his own lost respect for the jury, he submitted Return from the Conference, a picture showing a merry little band of drunken priests stumbling down a country road.  It was refused by the 1863 Salon jury “as an outrage on religious morality” – and Courbet boasted, “I made the work to get it refused.  I’ve succeeded.  That’s the way it’ll bring me in money.”

In 1863, painters vociferously protested the rejection of 2,783 of the 5,000 canvases submitted to the Salon jury.  The Emperor, Napolean III, authorized the display of the rejects in an adjacent gallery; at the Salon des Refusés, visitors could judge these paintings for themselves.  Many artists did not want to subject their work to public derision and reclaimed their paintings; in the end, fewer than 500 artists participated.  But Whistler wrote to friend, “It’s delightful, it’s delightful for us, this business of the rejects’ exhibition!”  While he gleefully showed The White Girl, Manet merely resigned himself to showing his three paintings, including Luncheon on the Grass (Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe) in this embarrassing and risky venue.  Whistler’s painting provoked hilarity from the 7,000 visitors who streamed through, but Manet’s was condemned.  Though his painting seemed calculated to offend, Manet craved approval from Paris’ art Establishment.  Whistler, on the other hand, relished the public recognition of his picture that had been rejected by both the Royal Academy in London and the Paris Salon, and now had become a major attraction for whatever reason.  Yet he and Manet each earned the respect of many educated, influential critics, some of whose eyes were opened to the injustice of the Salon jury.  Some even perceived that these “rejects” showed the future of art.

Le déjeuner sur l’herbe (Luncheon on the Grass), originally titled Le Bain (The Bath), by Edouard Manet. (Photo:

As for Courbet, his painting of drunken priests was even rejected by the Salon des Réfuses – but he proudly displayed it to the enthusiastic admirers and defenders visiting his studio, and an American entrepreneur helped him capitalize on the scandal it created by showing the work in England that summer.  (The painting is said to have been bought in 1909 by a private citizen who, as a strict Catholic, destroyed it.)

Interior of the Office of Alfred Emilien, Count of Nieuwerkerke, Director General of the Imperial Museums at the Louvre, by Charles Giraud. (Photo:

The Emperor, who didn’t care as much about art as politics, instituted some reforms.  He announced that the Salon now would be held annually instead of biennially,and that the Salon des Réfuses would be repeated the next year.  He granted the Académie des Beaux-Arts independence from the government, and it was renamed L’Ecole des Beaux-Arts.  And he promoted the Comte de Nieuwerkerke to the position of Superintendent of Fine Arts at the request of his cousin, Princess Mathilde Bonaparte, a powerful woman James Tissot would have reason to be grateful to within five years.

© Copyright Lucy Paquette 2012.  All rights reserved.

London Début: Tissot explores a new art market, 1862

CH377762NOTE:  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.

While Tissot studied classical art in Italy, his friend, Edgar Degas, left Italy and returned to Paris.  From 1860 to 1862, Degas worked on four historical paintings in an attempt to appeal to the jury for the next Salon, in 1863.  One of his paintings, Semiramis Building Babylon, depicted the legendary Assyrian queen.

Degas and Tissot exchanged letters, with Tissot writing in 1862, “And Pauline?  What about her?  Where are you now with her?  That pent-up passion is not being wasted only on Semiramis.  I can’t believe that by the time I’m back your virginity in relation to her will still be intact.  You must tell me all about it.”

Also in Paris, Édouard Manet had earned a reputation as a rising leader of the avant-garde from his Salon début in 1861, where he exhibited a portrait of his parents and The Spanish Singer.  This painting, which won Manet an honorable mention, was such a success with the critics and the public that a group of younger painters made a pilgrimage to his studio to admire the elegant man with the innovative technique, including his bold use of black, flattened perspective, and visible brush strokes.

The Spanish Singer

The Spanish Singer, Edouard Manet (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tissot’s friend Jimmy Whistler was in Paris on a jaunt that year and met Manet.  Whistler had moved to London, where he had well-to-do relatives, after his painting At the Piano had been rejected by the 1859 Paris Salon jury.  But the Royal Academy, the English equivalent of the Salon, accepted At the Piano for its 1860 Exhibition.  It was called “the finest piece of painting in the Royal Academy” and immediately purchased, for £30, by an Academician.  Whistler rapidly made a name for himself in London by his flamboyant behavior – and some misbehavior.  In 1861, the Royal Academy exhibited The Thames in Ice and La Mère Gérard, which one critic noted was “replete with evidence of genius” while others indicated the American painter was not living up to his potential.

Whistler worked throughout the winter of 1861–62 on a highly individualistic painting he called The White Girl.  He described it as “a woman in a beautiful white cambric dress, standing against a window which filters the light through a transparent white muslin curtain – but the figure receives a strong light from the right and therefore the picture, barring the red hair, is one gorgeous mass of brilliant white.”  The Royal Academy’s Hanging Committee rejected The White Girl for its 1862 Exhibition, but accepted two other oil paintings (including  Alone with the Tide, later called The Coast of Brittany) and an etching that Whistler submitted.

James Abbott McNeill Whistler, Symphony in Whi...

James Abbott McNeill Whistler, Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl (1862), National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.. Hiffernan is the subject of this portrait. National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 1862, Tissot traveled to London, where the first exhibition of his work was not at the Royal Academy but the International Exhibition.  Over six million visitors viewed works by 28,000 exhibitors from 36 countries – a range of wonders in the arts, industry and technology.  Tissot showed one of his début paintings from the 1859 Salon, giving his medieval picture the English title, A Walk in the Snow.  By showing his work in England along with works by artists he had learned from, including Ingres, Flandrin and Leys, Tissot signaled his ambition and widened his reputation.

He also must have met Britain’s most popular painter, John Everett Millais (1829 1896), who at the 1862 Royal Academy Exhibition showed The Ransom to general critical disappointment.  A detailed historical picture of a medieval knight ransoming his two young daughters, it was stiffer and much less compelling than his acclaimed The Black Brunswicker from the 1860 Royal Academy Exhibition, which had sold for 1,000 guineas (a record in his career to date).

The Black Brunswicker by John Everett Millais,...

The Black Brunswicker by John Everett Millais, painted in 1860 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Upon that success, Millais had moved to London with his wife, Effie, who in 1854 had annulled her marriage to the influential art writer and early champion of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, John Ruskin.  With a wife and five children to provide for by this time, Millais 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).

English: First page of the first appearance of...

English: First page of the first appearance of Trollope’s Framley Parsonage in Cornhill Magazine. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Degas and Whistler were 28; Manet was 30.  James Tissot, at 26, having inherited his parents’ business sense, was cautiously exploring a new art market and prudently making useful contacts.

© Copyright Lucy Paquette 2012.  All rights reserved.