Monthly Archives: February 2013

“Napoleon is an idiot”: Courbet & the Fall of the Second Empire, 1870

Napoleon III (wikimedia.org)

On July 15, 1870, Napoleon III, Emperor of the French, heeding his advisors in a diplomatic quarrel regarding the succession to the Spanish throne, declared war on Prussia – and its well-equipped and impeccably-trained army of more than 500,000 men with 160,000 reserves.  France’s troops, disorganized and short of everything from maps to ammunition, numbered less than 300,000.  “We do not have sufficient troops.  I regard us already as lost,” the Emperor wrote to the Empress Eugénie, who was Regent in his absence.  Princess Mathilde Bonaparte, unlike the Empress Eugénie, did not want France to go to war, and she had told Napoleon III – her cousin – that he was unfit to take personal command of the French army.

English: Gustave Courbet Français : Gustave Co...

Gustave Courbet (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Gustave Courbet, at 51 was fresh from the glory of having refused the Legion of Honor, the highest decoration in France, from the minister of Beaux-Arts in the cabinet of Napoleon III’s reform-minded premier, Émile Ollivier, in late June.  On July 15, 1870, Courbet wrote his loving and loyal mother, father and sisters in Flagey, a village in eastern France:  “War is declared.  Everybody is leaving Paris.”  By the end of his letter, he added, “In everyone’s opinion I am the greatest man in France.  My sensation lasted three weeks in Paris, in the provinces, and abroad.  Now it is over.  The war has taken my place.”  On August 9, he wrote them, “We are passing through an indescribable crisis.  I do not know how we shall come out of it.  Monsieur Napoleon has declared a dynastic war for his own benefit and has made himself generalissimo of the armies, and he is an idiot who is proceeding without a plan of campaign in his ridiculous and criminal pride.”  He ended, “I cannot return home now.  My presence is needed here, and besides I have a good deal of property to protect in Paris.  Don’t worry about me.  I have nothing to fear from anyone.”

Napoleon, 62, surrendered himself — and the French troops accompanying him — to the Prussians on September 2, and the Second Empire collapsed.

Napoleon III Surrenders his Sword, 1870 (wikimedia.org)

Princesse Mathilde (1862), by Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux.  Philadelphia Museum of Art.  Photo by Lucy Paquette

Princess Mathilde (1862), by Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux. Philadelphia Museum of Art. Photo by Lucy Paquette

On the night of September 3, 1870, the fifty-year-old Princess Mathilde Bonaparte fled Paris at the insistence of her friends, first heading for Puys, near Dieppe on the English Channel, where her friend, the forty-six-year-old novelist and playwright Alexandre Dumas the younger,  offered his home to her.  France was proclaimed a Republic on September 4; a provisional French government, the Third Republic, was created, and it deposed Napoleon III on September 4.  In the French press, it was rumored that Princess Mathilde had stolen up to 51 million francs in her luggage, and that she had been arrested; it was further alleged that she had stolen diamonds and important paintings from the Louvre.  Meanwhile, Mathilde (with two servants) secretly made her way across the French border, to Belgium.  By September 12, she had stopped in the first town to she came to — Mons, an hour from Brussels.  By October, she wrote, “I am horribly sad and my heart is broken.  I remain here, not knowing where to go and not wishing to leave; besides, I really do not care.”  She added, “I am sadder than ever; there is nothing left but our complete ruin, and I have not even the hope of better days.”  [Mathilde did return to Paris, in mid-June of 1871, and she lived there until her death in 1904 at the age of 83.]

Her former lover, the faithless Comte de Nieuwerkerke, ordered the most valuable paintings removed from Paris on August 30.  Convoys from the Louvre left for Brest each day from September 1 to 4.  Nieuwerkerke was dismissed by the new government from his post as Superintendent of the Imperial Museums on September 5.  It was rumored that he was in prison until he could account for important paintings “which he may have lent to friends.”  In reality, Nieuwerkerke – who had been warned of his imminent arrest – fled Paris in September dressed as a valet.  He went into exile in England, at Eastbourne.  [In April, 1871, Nieuwerkerke sold his home to an American, William Henry Riggs (1837 – 1924) for 188,500 francs and his collection of armor and weapons for 400,000 francs to Sir Richard Wallace (1818 – 1890); it now is part of the Wallace Collection in London.  Nieuwerkerke then went to Northern Italy and retired beside a picturesque lake in a luxurious villa at Gattajola, near Lucca, which he bought in May, 1872.  He died there in 1892.]

Empress Eugénie, c. 1869-70 (wikimedia.org)

The forty-four-year-old Empress Eugénie had, with the help of her American dentist, Dr. Thomas Wiltberger Evans*, escaped incognito to London with a forged passport (and her lady-in-waiting) on September 5.  She settled at Camden Place, a secluded estate at Chislehurst, just southeast of London, and was reunited with her only child, the fourteen-year-old Louis Napoleon, Prince Impérial of France.  [After six months as a prisoner in Germany, Napoleon III spent the last few years of his life in exile in England with Eugénie and the Prince Imperial Napoleon, who was killed in the Zulu War in South Africa in 1879.  Napoleon III died of kidney disease in 1873; Eugénie, a Spanish countess when she married,  lived to the age of 94 and died among her relatives in Spain in 1920.]

In the meantime, while ordinary people were shocked and alarmed, mobs chanting “Vive la République!” and belting out the “Marseillaise” scrawled “Property of the People” across the entrance to the vacated Tuileries Palace and tossed statues of the emperor into the River Seine.  They changed street and shop names to obliterate all signs of the despised, now-fallen empire.  The avenue de l’Empereur became, with some paint, the avenue Victor Noir.  French journalist Victor Noir (1848 – 1870)  became a republican hero after being shot by Prince Pierre Bonaparte, a cousin of Napoleon III, in a duel in January.  At some point after the Siege of Strasbourg on September 28, 1870 – when General Jean Jacques Alexis Uhrich (1802 – 1886) tried in vain to defend the fortress considered one of the strongest in France — Tissot’s elegant avenue de l’Impératrice (Empress Avenue), the boulevard leading to the recreational grounds at the Bois de Boulogne, was renamed avenue Uhrich.

Although Tissot was too patriotic – or optimistic – to realize it for another eight months, his charmed life in Paris was over forever.

The Empress Eugénie’s rescuer, the influential American dentist, Thomas Wiltberger Evans (1823 –1897) was a neighbor of Tissot’s.  Dr. Evans’ elegant villa, “Bella Rosa,” stood at no. 43, at the intersection of avenue Malakoff; Dr. Evans also owned lot no. 41, across the street.

© 2013 Lucy Paquette.  All rights reserved.

How much do you know about the Impressionists & War?  Take my quiz on goodreads.com!


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.

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The calm before the storm: Courbet & Tissot in Paris, January to June, 1870

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.

 

 

At the 1870 Salon, Gustave Courbet earned universal praise for his two paintings, The Stormy Sea (also called The Wave) and The Cliffs at Etretat after the storm.  Purchasers flocked to Courbet’s studio:  in April he sold almost forty pictures for a total of about 52,000 francs, and he received additional commissions from ten collectors.

The Stormy Sea (also called The Wave), 1870, by Gustave Courbet. Courtesy www.gustavecourbet.org

The Stormy Sea (also called The Wave), 1870, by Gustave Courbet. Courtesy http://www.gustavecourbet.org

The Cliffs at Etretat after the storm, 1870, by Gustave Courbet. Courtesy www.gustavecourbet.org

The Cliffs at Etretat after the storm, 1870, by Gustave Courbet. Courtesy http://www.gustavecourbet.org

In June, 1870, the minister of Beaux-Arts in the cabinet of Napoleon III’s reform-minded new premier, Émile Ollivier, offered Courbet the Legion of Honor, the highest decoration in France.  But Courbet proudly refused it, in a letter that was published throughout the country and offered sentiments such as these:

My opinions as a citizen forbid me to accept an award that belongs essentially to a monarchical regime.  My principles reject this decoration of the Legion of Honor which you have bestowed on me in my absence.  At no time, in no circumstances, for no reason whatever, would I have accepted it.  I am fifty years old and I have always lived in freedom; let me end my life free; when I am dead let this be said of me:  ‘He belonged to no school, to no church, to no institution, to no academy, least of all to any regime except the regime of liberty.’

Courbet angered the Establishment but found himself very popular with those against the Emperor’s regime:

I am overwhelmed with compliments [for refusing the cross], I have received three hundred flattering letters such as no man in the world has ever received before.  In everyone’s opinion I am the greatest man in France…I have so many commissions [for pictures] at present that I cannot supply them.

Courbet had “taken nothing from the family purse for more than twenty years.”  As for Tissot’s friends Degas and Manet, at ages 35 and 38, they were still struggling and still being funded by their parents.  Tissot had made it in Paris on his own from the time he was 19, and was, at 33, so prosperous that he could continue to enjoy the lark of occasionally supplying his British friend Tommy Bowles with caricatures of prominent men for Vanity Fair, the new Society magazine that Tommy pitched as “A Weekly Show of Political, Social and Literary Wares.”  It débuted on November 14, 1868 at sixpence a copy, and its most popular feature was the weekly full-page, color cartoon of some man-of-the-moment that first appeared in February 1869.

Among people of this generation, especially in Paris, it was fashionable to mock tradition and ridicule authority or even oneself.  In 1869, there was a fad for the Grimatiscope, a patented French viewer for creating grotesquely, humorously distorted images from regular photographs.  Portraits of eminent people, friends or oneself could be squeezed into caricatures.  As Degas said, “a true Parisian…knows how to take a joke”; in contributing political cartoons to Vanity Fair, Tissot certainly seemed in his element.  He contributed his work under the pseudonym “Coïdé.”

Émile Ollivier, Vanity Fair, January 15, 1870 by “Coïdé” (James Tissot) . Caption reads “The Parliamentary Empire” (wikimedia.org)

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.  At 28 and already larger-than-life at six feet four inches, Gus Burnaby was looking for more adventure than his hot-air balloon ascents could provide.  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.  Queen lsabella II had been forced to abdicate her throne; the country, under the rule of a provisional government, was on the eve of a revolution.  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).

But Bowles’ staff writers were perhaps, too exceptionally trenchant: Vanity Fair – steadily increasing in circulation and beginning to turn a profit — had gained a reputation for unabashed impudence.  “These boys,” Bowles later observed, “were continually getting me into hot water.”  Around 1870, Burnaby ceased his involvement with Vanity Fair at the command of His Royal Highness The Duke of Cambridge (1819 – 1904), Field Marshal Commander-in-Chief of the British Army who supposedly rebuked an intelligent underling by crying, “Brains? I don’t believe in brains! You haven’t any, I know, Sir!”

The Duke of Cambridge, Vanity Fair, April 23, 1870, by Alfred Thompson. Caption reads: “A military difficulty” (wikimedia.org)

In 1870, Tommy Bowles, now 29, commissioned James Tissot to paint a small portrait of Burnaby.  Tissot presented Gus in his “undress” uniform as a captain in the 3rd Household Cavalry – and as an elegant gentleman in a relaxed male conversation.

Captain Frederick Gustavus Burnaby, 1870, by James Tissot. Oil on panel, 19.5 by 23.5 in. (Photo: Wikimedia.org)

All the while, Napoleon III was ill with gallstones and prostate trouble, aging and losing his grip on the Empire, but the Princess Mathilde continued to surround herself with all the most vital men in France.  Another young man of talent who had caught her attention, the poet and new playwright François Coppée (1842 – 1908), wrote of his first visits to her:

“She was still in enjoyment – but, alas!  Not for much longer – of all the privileges of her rank of Imperial Highness.  In the sumptuous saloons of her house in the Rue de Courcelles, as also in the pleasant shades of her château at Saint-Gratien, swarmed the official world of the Court, gold-laced generals, ambassadors and ministers covered with orders and ribbons, fair and charming ladies sparking with diamonds, and also, in their sober black coats, the famous writers and artists of the day.  They were all there, or nearly all; at least as many in number as the wonderful pearls in the Princess’ necklace, that famous ornament which was much less precious in her eyes than the intellectual aristocracy which her grace and goodness had succeeded in attracting to her and keeping at her side.”

Was the handsome and self-made James Tissot, whose painting Beating the Retreat in the Tuileries Gardens she had purchased out of the Salon just two years ago, one of the Princess Mathilde’s “intellectual aristocrats”?  It is strange, the life Tissot led – an exclusive address and titled patrons in Paris (and an ongoing friendship with that rising paragon of the British Establishment, J.E. Millais) and yet closer friends with the individualistic 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.

James Tissot’s friendship with the rebellious Édouard Manet is not well documented, especially during this period, but Tissot was not a defender worthy of inclusion in Henri Fantin-Latour’s A Studio in the Batignolles (Homage to Manet), exhibited at the 1870 Salon.  It shows Manet surrounded by the writer and critic  Émile Zola, the painters Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Claude Monet, and Frédéric Bazille, and the sculptor Zacharie Astruc.

English: Henri Fantin-Latour's art

A Studio in the Batignolles (Homage to Manet), by Henri Fantin-Latour (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Neither was Tissot included in Frédéric Bazille’s 1870 painting, The Artist’s Studio on the rue de la Condamine (which Bazille shared with Renoir from January 1st 1868 to May 15, 1870).  Bazille and Manet stand at the center in this criticism of the Salon, with rejected canvases hung on the studio walls; with them are Renoir, Monet, Astruc and Bazille’s friend Edmond at the piano.

The Artist’s Studio in the rue de la Condmine, 1870, by Frédéric Bazille (wikimedia.org)

Tissot appears to have been content to live well, contribute wicked caricatures of world figures to a slightly subversive London Society magazine, 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 receptions such as those hosted by Princess Mathilde on Fridays and the extremely successful and hospitable painter Alfred Stevens on Wednesdays.  It seems that James Tissot was a peaceable and refined gentleman, truly his own man, with all the advantages and disadvantages that accrue to an individual of independent temperament and means in a circle of talented and passionate associates – and rivals – in a world about to implode.

© 2013 Lucy Paquette.  All rights reserved.

Related posts:

Tissot’s Last Salon: Paris, 1870

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

Exhibition notes:

Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Art and Design, 1848-1900
February 17–May 19, 2013 at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

The first major survey of the art of the Pre-Raphaelites to be shown in the United States features some 130 paintings, sculptures, works on paper, and decorative art objects.

For more information, visit http://www.nga.gov/exhibitions/preraphaelites.shtm

and

                                                  Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity                                                           February 26 – May 27, 2013 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

A revealing look at the role of fashion in the works of the Impressionists and their contemporaries. Some eighty major figure paintings, seen in concert with period costumes, accessories, fashion plates, photographs, and popular prints, will highlight the vital relationship between fashion and art during the pivotal years, from the mid-1860s to the mid-1880s, when Paris emerged as the style capital of the world.

 For more information, visit

http://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2013/impressionism-fashion-modernity

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.

Watch my new videos:

The Strange Career of James Tissot” (2:33 minutes)

and

Louise Jopling and James Tissot” (2:42 minutes)

Mrs. Grundy Objects: Millais at The Royal Academy Exhibition, London, 1870 (Part III)

J.E. Millais. (wikimedia.org)

John Everett Millais, R.A. (1829 – 1896) was Great Britain’s Golden Boy; he had begun his studies at the Royal Academy when he was only eleven years old and first exhibited there with a painting he completed at sixteen:  Pizarro Seizing the Inca of Peru.  Two years later, in 1848, he was one of the founders of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, and as he moved past that youthful rebellion, Millais was made a full member of the Royal Academy in 1863.  But by 1870, Millais’ public was complaining that he was veering too much toward portraiture at the annual Royal Academy exhibitions.

This year, Millais pulled out all the stops; The Athenaeum called his works “unusually numerous and powerful” – six in all.  And for the first [and only] time, Millais presented a painting of a nude woman.  The life-sized The Knight Errant, painted in just six weeks, showed a knight in shining armor rescuing a nude maiden bound to a tree.  The Athenaeum wrote, “the woman [clothed only in her golden hair] is not over pure in character or refined in expression, somewhat feverish looking.”

The Knight Errant (1870), by J.E. Millais [the revised, “modest” version]. (Photo: Wikimedia.org)

Fata Morgana, by George Frederic Watts (wikimedia.org)

The Architect praised it to the skies:  “Mr. Millais has this year reached a point to which he had never before attained,” called his Knight Errant, “a work which we have no hesitation in determining as the grandest that this artist has yet produced.”  But Millais’ very realistic nude damsel-in-distress glancing demurely in the direction of her knight errant was offensive to many.  Millais was considered by his countrymen to be “a great jolly Englishman…Anglo-Saxon from skin to core” — but even he could not get away with nudity involving a female perceived to be immodest and a male together on the same canvas.  The Art Journal wrote that “the manner is almost too real for the treatment of the nude.”  Weirdly, George Frederic Watts’ Fata Morgana, displayed by the side of this painting by Millais, didn’t cause similar consternation although it portrays a seduction; Watt’s nude sorceress of Arthurian legend is making direct eye contact with the knight, while he is eyeing her backside.  Is the difference in the drapery, or purely in Millais’ skill at painting female flesh?

Millais’ youngest son and biographer, John Guille Millais (1865 – 1931), later called The Knight Errant “one of the finest examples of his art; and, to my mind, a more modest or more beautiful work was never limned; but the Pharisaic spirit of the age was against it.  Mrs. Grundy was shocked, or pretended to be, and in consequence it remained long on the artist’s hands, no one daring to buy it.  Millais originally painted the distressed lady who had been robbed, stripped, and bound by the thieves, as looking at the spectator, and I remember well this position of the head in the picture as it hung on the drawing-room walls at Cromwell Place; but after a while he came to the conclusion that the beautiful creature would look more modest if her head were turned away, so he took the canvas down and repainted it as we see it now.”

The Martyr of the Solway, by J.E. Millais (Wikimedia.org)

[In fact, Millais cut out the woman’s head and torso and sewed them into another canvas exhibited in 1872 as The Martyr of the Solway.  Millais sold the revised, more modest version of the Knight Errant in 1874.  The resulting position of the damsel’s head is reminiscent of Edward Poynter’s nude Andromeda, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1870.]

Millais, “never stronger than now” according to The Saturday Review, “paints the picture most talked about, that of The Marchioness of Huntly” – a life-sized wedding portrait of Amy, the daughter of the Conservative MP for East Cheshire, William Cunliffe-Brooks (1819 – 1900), who married Scottish Liberal politician Charles, 11th Marquis of Huntley (1847 – 1937) in 1869.  The critic continued, “And yet the picture is rather too showy to stand well in the historic future; works of enduring reputation have usually an element of severity and profundity.”  The Architect, however, persisted in its fulsome praise of Millais:  “The Marchioness of Huntly is, to our thinking, the best portrait in the Academy.”

The Marchioness of Huntly, by J.E. Millais (www.gogmsite.net)

A Widow’s Mite, by J.E. Millais (flickr)

Millais also exhibited A Widow’s Mite and A Flood, a reference to Charles Reads’ 1870 novel Put Yourself in His Place, in which the reservoir dam bursts (as it did in Sheffield in 1864), wreaking destruction while one baby in its wooden cradle floats downstream.  The Athenaeum approved:  “It is impossible to find fault with this picture; in its way it is perfect.”

Millais’ The Boyhood of Raleigh was described in The Athenaeum as “a work of extraordinary power.”  It depicts Sir Walter Raleigh, the Elizabethan explorer, as a boy captivated by the exotic tales of a sailor’ adventures.  Millais credited his wife, Effie, for the young models: “She has been good enough to produce numerous attractive and cooperative models, as you see.  Everett sat for Raleigh [on the left; he was 14], and George [who was 13] for the other boy.”

English: The Boyhood of Raleigh, 1871

The Boyhood of Raleigh, by J.E. Millais (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Architect reported in May, 1870 that the paintings of Mr. Millais at this year’s Royal Academy earned him over £11,000, and that he was paid £2,000 for one of the two portraits he exhibited (likely the The Marchioness of Huntly rather than the smaller John Kelk *). 

Charles Dickens died on June 9, 1870; of all the artists in Britain, it was Millais who drew a sketch of the great man on his death bed.

Millais’ father passed away on January 28, 1870, having lived to see the brilliant success of his son, now only 41 years old.

* John Kelk (1816-1886), an associate of Millais’ friend John Fowler, was a self-made civil engineering contractor who constructed projects including the 1851 Great Exhibition, the Victoria Station and Pimlico Railway, the Albert Memorial, Farringdon Street Station, the Smithfield Goods Depot and Meat Market.  Kelk, who purchased Millais’ oil paintings, Swallow!  Swallow!  Flying South (1864) and The Minuet (1866), was the Conservative MP for Harwich from 1865-68.  He was knighted in 1874.

© 2013 Lucy Paquette.  All rights reserved.

Related blog post:  Of Snobbery, Death & Parlormaids: Millais, Alma-Tadema & Whistler, 1869

Exhibition notes:

Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Art and Design, 1848-1900
February 17–May 19, 2013 at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

The first major survey of the art of the Pre-Raphaelites to be shown in the United States features some 130 paintings, sculptures, works on paper, and decorative art objects.

For more information, visit http://www.nga.gov/exhibitions/preraphaelites.shtm

and

Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity                                                                          February 26 – May 27, 2013 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

A revealing look at the role of fashion in the works of the Impressionists and their contemporaries. Some eighty major figure paintings, seen in concert with period costumes, accessories, fashion plates, photographs, and popular prints, will highlight the vital relationship between fashion and art during the pivotal years, from the mid-1860s to the mid-1880s, when Paris emerged as the style capital of the world.

 For more information, visit http://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/upcoming-exhibitions

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.

Watch my new videos:

The Strange Career of James Tissot” (2:33 minutes)

and

Louise Jopling and James Tissot” (2:42 minutes)

Genius, or only strange tricks? Tissot’s friends Whistler & Alma-Tadema at the Royal Academy, 1870 (Part II)

James Whistler, http://www.nndb.com

At the Royal Academy Exhibition of 1870, James Tissot’s friend from his student days, the American expatriate, James Whistler (1834 — 1903) showed Variations in Flesh Colour and Green: The Balcony.  It was so exotic that a critic commented, “It might have been painted in Japan.”

Another wrote, “The picture, though clever, is singularly slight for its place in the Academy; we may next expect to see on the walls the Japanese screens sold in Regent Street.”  Whistler was still in his long artistic crisis – he had not exhibited at the Royal Academy or the Salon since 1867 — and this picture is all he had to show for the last few years of struggle.

Whistler’s professional struggles were intertwined with his personal issues.  Over the past few years, and while his pious and adoring mother resided with him at 2 Lindsey Row, Whistler had begun what biographer Roy McMullen called “a lifelong process of losing friends.”

At the end of 1864, Whistler’s warm, six-year friendship with French artist Alphonse Legros ended when they quarreled about money – and Whistler mocked Legros’ marriage to Miss Frances Rosetta Hodgson, a British girl who was fifteen when he wed her.  As if that weren’t enough, in April 1867, when Legros accused Whistler of lying about a business matter, Whistler sent him to the floor with a fist to the face.

Whistler’s 45-year-old half-sister, Deborah (whom he called “Debo” or “Sis”), lived in London, but his once-close relationship with her became difficult after he pushed her husband, Seymour Haden, through a plate-glass window in Paris in 1867.  Haden, a surgeon, collector and etcher, had encouraged Whistler in his etching from 1858 on, but the two were no longer on speaking terms.

The fact that Whistler had any friends at all is perhaps explained by French painter Henri Fantin-Latour in July 1866:  “For to me, Whistler is like a wife, like a mistress whom one loves in spite of all the troubles she gives you.  He is, after all, seductive.”

It was about 1870, through D.G. Rossetti, that Whistler befriended the shipping entrepreneur and art collector Frederick R. Leyland (1832 – 1892) of Liverpool, who could be indulgent and generous as well as cold and bad-tempered.  Over the next decade, Whistler and Leyland – along with his wife — would form an interesting relationship.

On June 10, 1870, Whistler became a father.  His son was borne by Louisa Fanny Hanson, a 21-year-old parlourmaid from Clapham.  Whistler later referred to the boy as “an infidelity to Jo,” and it was Joanna Hiffernan – his former mistress – who adopted and raised the boy, Charles James Whistler Hanson, called John.

As for James Tissot’s Brussels-based Dutch friend, Lourens Alma Tadema, he by now styled himself Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1836—1912).  This shrewd move put him at the beginning of alphabetical catalog and exhibition listings as he showed three paintings at the Royal Academy in 1870:  The juggler/Un jongleur, (No 119), A Roman Interior/ Un Intérieur Romain, and A Roman art lover/Un Amateur Romain (No 120).

A Juggler/Un Jongleur (No 119), by Lawrence Alma-Tadema. Wikipedia Commons

A Roman art lover/Un Amateur Romain (No 120, 1870), by Lawrence Alma-Tadema. Milwaukee Art Museum

There were the British critics to contend with:

“The artist has not lacked literal truth so much as sincere conviction.  With Mr. Tadema, sneer and irony discolor truth; moreover, this eccentric Dutchman dresses up history in so grotesque a garb that he casts ridicule on scenes which he might seem to honor.  He paints a “juggler,” and he is himself a juggler; he astounds by startling feats.  Whether he has genius, or only strange tricks, the world can scarcely judge.  Genius lays hold of essential truth; pseudo-genius exaggerates accident.”  (The Saturday Review, June 18, 1870)

Nevertheless, in just his second exhibition in London, the short, blond and bespectacled Alma-Tadema – an extrovert with a pronounced Dutch accent – already was gaining a following among English collectors, thanks to his agent and advocate, Ernest Gambart.  Gambart also saw to it that Tadema’s work was included in an exhibition at St Mary’s Hall in Glasgow.  Scottish poet and artist William Bell Scott (1811 –1890) commented that Gambart was “working the oracle for Alma-Tadema very successfully.”

With his sister, Artje, helping him to raise his two young daughters, the recently-widowed Alma-Tadema worked toward completing the forty-eight paintings that Gambart had commissioned from him in late 1867.  He finished Catullus reading his poems at Lesbia’s house (No 121) in March and then, through August, worked exclusively on The vintage festival (No 122).

The Vintage Festival (No 122), by Lawrence Alma-Tadema

A reviewer for The Athenaeum commented extensively on Alma-Tadema’s work at the 1870 Royal Academy.  He expressed “regret that these works show signs of haste to reap the fruits of skill with less cost of study than usual.  [He] has soon begun to forget the steps by which he won honors and fame.”  After describing these paintings for his readers in minute detail regardless, the writer is exhausted with foreigners and writes, “It is time we turned to an English painter; and we may begin with the works of Mr. Millais.”

Stay tuned for The Royal Academy Exhibition:  London, 1870 (Part III) – featuring J.E. Millais

 © 2013 Lucy Paquette.  All rights reserved.

Exhibition notes:

Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Art and Design, 1848-1900
February 17–May 19, 2013 at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

The first major survey of the art of the Pre-Raphaelites to be shown in the United States features some 130 paintings, sculptures, works on paper, and decorative art objects.

For more information, visit http://www.nga.gov/exhibitions/preraphaelites.shtm

and

Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity                                                                          February 26 – May 27, 2013 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

A revealing look at the role of fashion in the works of the Impressionists and their contemporaries. Some eighty major figure paintings, seen in concert with period costumes, accessories, fashion plates, photographs, and popular prints, will highlight the vital relationship between fashion and art during the pivotal years, from the mid-1860s to the mid-1880s, when Paris emerged as the style capital of the world.

 For more information, visit http://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/upcoming-exhibitions

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.

Watch my new videos:

The Strange Career of James Tissot” (2:33 minutes)

and

Louise Jopling and James Tissot” (2:42 minutes)

Welcome to the Royal Academy Exhibition: London, 1870 (Part I)

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.

Charles Dickens delivered the speech at the dinner in honor of the 102nd Royal Academy Exhibition in 1870, held for the first time in its new galleries in Burlington House, Piccadilly.  Painter George Dunlop Leslie said it was by far the most eloquent and impressive speech he had ever heard at an Academy banquet:  “It was the last public speech that he delivered, and possibly the finest.”  It was followed by toasts to “The Sovereign,” “The Army and Navy,” and the health of Her Majesty’s Ministers, the officials’ required responses despite their knowledge of art or the patience of their audience, and finally the band of the Royal Artillery in the lecture-room.

Among the paintings crammed from floor to ceiling throughout the galleries were five pictures by the venerable Sir Edwin Landseer, R.A. (1802 – 1873), who had sculpted the lions in Trafalgar Square even as he was slipping into insanityOne of his paintings, Queen and Prince Albert in the Highlands, already had been shown – unfinished – in 1854 by Royal Command, and Landseer had been repainting it over the past sixteen years, with disastrous results.

George Frederic Watts, R.A. (1817 – 1904) exhibited Daphne, standing naked in the laurels, along with Fata Morgana and a portrait of painter Edward BurneJones (1833 –1898).

English: George Frederick Watts - Fata Morgana

Fata Morgana, by George Frederick Watts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Edward Burne-Jones, by George Frederic Watts. Courtesy http://www.georgefredericwatts.org

John Callcott Horsley, R.A. (1817 –1903) – who had designed the first Christmas card in 1843 – showed The Banker’s Private Room – Negotiating a Loan.  The Saturday Review wrote, “This quiet unobtrusive study of texture, light, shade and color can scarcely be praised too highly.”

The Banker's Private Room, by  John Callcott Horsley, R.A. (1817 –1903)

The Banker’s Private Room, by John Callcott Horsley, R.A. (1817 –1903) Courtesy wikigallery.org

Frederick Leighton, R.A. (1830 – 1896) had only a small picture, A Nile Woman, because an illness had prevented him from completing his large painting called Hercules Struggling with Death for the Resuscitation of Alcestes.   

A Nile Woman, Frederick Leighton

The self-effacing Arthur Hughes (1832 – 1915), a well-liked man whose paintings – if not rejected – were never advantageously hung at the Royal Academy, had Sir Galahad and Endymion.

English: Sir Galahad

Sir Galahad by Arthur Hughes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Age of Gallantry, by George Henry Boughton (1833 – 1905), was described as “a bit of last-century life treated with elegant humor and set in a pleasing effect of silvery haze.”  Edward Poynter, A.R.A. (1836 – 1919) showed Andromeda and St. George and the Dragon, his drawing for the design of the glass mosaic in the Central Hall at Westminster.

Christie's, 24 June 1983, Lot 101

Andromeda, by Edward Poynter [Christie’s, 24 June 1983, Lot 101] (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

John Evan Hodgson (1831 – 1895) painted Algerian subjects, The Basha’s Black Guards and Arab Prisoners.

Arab Prisoners, by John Evan Hodgson (1831 – 1895)

Arab Prisoners, by John Evan Hodgson (1831 – 1895)  Courtesy wikigallery.org

Philip Hermogenes Calderon, R.A. (1833 – 1898) exhibited Virgin’s BowerOrphans, and Spring Driving Away Winter (the figure of Spring, according to one matter-of-fact reviewer, is an “exuberant, flushed damsel” – a “blooming virgin” – who “pelts” an old woman, representing Winter, with fresh lilacs).

The Virgin’s Bower, Philip Hermogenes Calderon

Orphans, by Philip Hermogenes Calderon.  Wikipedia

George Adolphus Storey (1834 – 1919) exhibited Only a Rabbit (a picture of hunters returning home with little to show) and A DuetWilliam Yeames, A.R.A. (1835 – 1918), a gentleman painter who enjoyed playing tennis and spent holidays south-east of London at Hever Castle, had Maunday ThursdayVisit to the Haunted Chamber and Love’s Young DreamGeorge Dunlop Leslie, A.R.A. (1835 – 1921), a favorite of John Ruskin, exhibited Fortunes, in which a group of damsels try to divine their nuptial fortunes by throwing flowers in the water and watching as the flowers sink, stay or float away (meaning the marital fate is as yet unknown).  According to one newspaper critic, this painting features “a gold brunette, with amorous eyes” gazing over the shoulder of another girl, who has a puppy on her lap and who evidently does not desire to know her connubial future.  “It is Mr. Leslie’s best picture,” proclaimed this writer.

Among the younger artists represented at the Royal Academy in 1870 were Val Prinsep (1838 – 1904), who had The Death of CleopatraThe Dish of Tea and Reading ‘Sir Charles Grandison.’

The Death of Cleopatra, by Val Prinsep

The Dish of Tea, by Val Prinsep

Simeon Solomon (1840 – 1905) exhibited A Youth Relating Tales to Ladies, which the reviewer for the Art Journal found “alarmingly lackadaisical,” sniping that “these ‘tales’ could not have sparkled with wit.”  

A Youth Relating Tales to Ladies, by Simeon Solomon. (Photo: Wikimedia.org)

Frederick Trevelyan Goodall (1848 – 1871), the son of Frederick Goodall (1822-1904), showed The Return of Ulysses, and Albert Moore (1841 – 1893) exhibited A Garden.

Albert Moore - A Garden - Google Art Project

A Garden, by Albert Moore [Google Art Project] (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Some foreigners and numerous women [who were not allowed to attend the annual Royal Academy dinner] provided a bit of diversity in the exhibition.  Mrs. E. M. Ward (Henrietta Mary Ada Ward, 1832 – 1924), “at her best” according to one critic, exhibited The First Interview with the Divorced Empress Josephine with the King of Rome [while her husband, Edward Matthew Ward, R.A. (1816 – 1879) showed The Trial of Baxter, of ‘The Saint’s Everlasting Rest’ by Judge Jeffreys]Miss Maria Spartali (1844 – 1927), a student of Ford Madox Brown (1821 – 1893), exhibited, along with his daughters:  Miss Catherine Madox Brown (1850 – 1927) with Thinking and Miss Lucy Madox Brown (1843-1894; she would marry English writer and critic William Michael Rossetti in 1874) with A DuetMiss Louise Romer (1843 – 1933), a determined 27-year-old painter just back from four years in Paris with her ne’er-do-well husband, Frank, submitted a three-quarters portrait of herself carrying a pot of azaleas that she called Bud and Bloom, which was rejected by the Hanging Committee.  Her painting Consolation also was rejected, but she persevered; Frank had served as secretary to Baron Nathaniel de Rothschild, and he had been sacked for gambling.  It was the Baroness de Rothschild who had encouraged Louise to pursue a career in art.

A Duet (1870), by Lucy Madox Brown. (Photo: Wikimedia.org)

Although many established British artists were of foreign ancestry or birth, “foreigners” in this Royal Academy exhibition included a number of French painters, such as Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824 – 1904), who displayed Jerusalem – and his lurid scene of Parisian violence in a controversial execution by firing squad after Napolean’s defeat, The Death of Marshal Ley (also known as December 7, 1815, 9 O’Clock in the Morning).  This picture must have seemed a jarring contrast on a wall filled with English damsels, British legends, genteel humor and sentimental slices of life, serene landscapes, allegories, and noble Classical history and mythology.

Alphonse Legros (1837 – 1911), a Frenchman who moved to England in 1863 and married Miss Frances Rosetta Hodgson (whom Dante Gabriel Rossetti described as a “nice little woman”), had three paintings; Scène de Barricade, Prêtres au Lutrin/ Two Priests at the Organ (now at the Tate Britain as Rehearsing the Serviceand another of an old priest praying, Viellard au Prière.  Though a foreigner, Legros was assimilating into the British Establishment as a respected teacher of etching at the South Kensington School of Art.

Nevertheless, the British maintained a skeptical view of the French.  The March 5, 1870 issue of the British weekly journal, The Architect, carried an article, “Forthcoming Pictures at the Royal Academy,” which offered this:  “Mr. Legros has this year chosen for the incident of his principal picture A Barricade, a subject which is dissimilar to those usually selected for illustration by this artist, but with which his nationality has doubtless made him familiar.”

Stay tuned for The Royal Academy Exhibition:  London, 1870 (Part II) – featuring James Whistler, Lawrence Alma-Tadema.  Part III will feature J.E. Millais

© 2013 Lucy Paquette.  All rights reserved.

 

Exhibition note:

Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Art and Design, 1848-1900
February 17–May 19, 2013 at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

The first major survey of the art of the Pre-Raphaelites to be shown in the United States features some 130 paintings, sculptures, works on paper, and decorative art objects.

For more information, visit http://www.nga.gov/exhibitions/preraphaelites.shtm

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.

Watch my new videos:

The Strange Career of James Tissot” (2:33 minutes)

and

Louise Jopling and James Tissot” (2:42 minutes)

 

Tissot’s last Salon: Paris, 1870

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.

On January 2, 1870, the Comte de Nieuwerkerke – the former lover of Princess Mathilde Bonaparte – lost his position of complete control over the arts in France. It was only due to the Princess’ reluctance to see him totally disgraced, after he abruptly ended their twenty-five-year liaison to marry a young girl, that he was not dismissed outright. Napoleon III’s reform-minded new deputy replaced him with a liberal Minister for the Fine Arts, and Nieuwerkerke was demoted from Superintendent of the Fine Arts to Superintendent of the Imperial Museums, under the young Minister.

For Manet, this was invigorating news.  Under new rules for the selection of the Salon jury, he campaigned for election but lost.  Two of his paintings, however, were accepted for exhibition, held May 1 through June 20, 1870:  The Music Lesson (modeled by his friend, the sculptor Zacharie Astruc, 1833 – 1907) and a portrait of his student, Eva Gonzalès.

Portrait of Eva Gonzalès, 1869-1870, by Édouar...

Portrait of Eva Gonzalès, 1869-1870, by Édouard Manet. The painting she is shown completing here demonstrates the mastery she had achieved at that age. However, this depiction of Gonzales is less than flattering in that her dress, her posture and technique are not actually those of a professional to painting. The painting that Gonzales is working on is not her own, but actually one of Manet’s. It is currently on display at the National Gallery in London. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Manet’s portrait of Eva Gonzalès was called a “flat and abominable caricature in oils.”  Other critics said Manet’s paintings were “the most ridiculous things you could imagine,” that his work “provokes only laughter or pity,” and that he was painting “in defiance of art, the public and the critics.”  The only encouragement Manet received was, ironically (or perhaps not?) from the critic he had injured in a duel in February over an unflattering review.  Now he called Manet “one of the first painters of the age.”

Eva Gonzalès, not quite 21, made her Salon debut in 1870 with three paintings including her take on Manet’s The Fifer (rejected by the 1866 Salon jury).  One critic said of Gonzalès’ full-length Little Soldier, “It is an astoundingly strong statement from such a pretty little author” – summarizing the struggle she faced to be taken seriously.

Enfant de troupe, Musée Gaston Rapin, Villeneu...

Enfant de troupe (1870), by Eva Gonzalès.  Musée Gaston Rapin, Villeneuve-sur-Lot, France (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Berthe Morisot, at 29, was extremely unhappy about the place Manet gave Eva in his life and art.  She wrote her sister, Edma, “Manet has been lecturing me and sets up that eternal Mademoiselle Gonzalès as an example to me.”  As Berthe’s mother was trying to marry her off, Berthe wrote, “I feel sad; I feel alone, disillusioned and old into the bargain.”

The Mother and Sister of the Artist by Berthe ...

The Mother and Sister of the Artist by Berthe Morisot (Photo credit: cliff1066™, Flickr)

Manet did not take her art as seriously as he took Eva’s.  Berthe had made her Salon début six years ago, in 1864; at the Salon this year she exhibited The Harbor at Lorient, and The Mother and Sister of the Artist (also called Reading).  When she completed Reading in March, she made the mistake of asking Manet’s opinion of it – whereupon he took her brushes and palette and spent hours redoing the mother’s face and black gown.  Her mother, standing by, was amused.  Berthe, very upset but unable to protest, watched “her” painting carted off to the Salon, where it met with admiration.  “The one exception is Degas, who has supreme contempt for everything I do,” Berthe wrote.  She, however, appreciated his work, and wrote to her sister Edma, “Degas sent a very pretty painting [Mme. Camus, a brilliant pianist who was the wife of his and Manet’s doctor] but his masterpiece is the portrait of Yves [the eldest Morisot sister] in pastel.”

Madame Camus by Edgar Degas

Madame Camus in Red by Edgar Degas (Photo credit: cliff1066™, Flickr)

Degas’ oil portrait, Madame Camus in Red, received mixed reviews from the critics.  This would be the last year Degas exhibited in the Salon:  in April, his letter to the Paris- Journal was published, listing numerous specific, logical suggestions on how to improve the exhibition for artists and the viewing public.  Since Degas’ name was virtually unknown in the capital, his letter was prefaced by a friend, a sympathetic art critic – the same one whom Manet stabbed in their February duel.

Among the 3,000 canvases exhibited in the 1870 Salon were paintings by artists well known to Degas and Manet:  Renoir, Pissarro, Sisley and the American Mary Cassatt submitted works that were accepted by the jury.  Pictures by Monet and Cézanne were rejected.  Frédéric Bazille had one painting rejected (La Toilette) and one accepted (Summer Scene (Bathers), 1869).

The Toilet

La Toilette, Bazille (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Other artists, outside their immediate circle, won the prizes.  The top prize, the Grand Medal of Honor, went to Tony Robert-Fleury (1837 – 1912), 33, the son of the director of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts; his The Last Day of Corinth was, presciently, a brutal scene of the sacking of the Greek city of Corinth by the Romans in 146 B.C.

Paris 454

The Last Day of Corinth, by Tony Robert-Fleury (Photo credit: Bifford The Youngest, Flickr)

Twenty-seven year-old Henri Regnault (1843 – 1871), son of the famous chemist and physicist Victor Regnault (1810 – 1878), won the coveted Prix de Rome, for his Salomé, considered a masterpiece of contemporary art.

Salomé, by Henri Regnault (1870).

Salomé, by Henri Regnault (1870). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A great honor – peer adulation – was accorded to Manet, with Henri Fantin-Latour’s 1870 Salon painting, A Studio in the Batignolles (Homage to Manet), which was caricatured as Jesus Painting Among His Disciples.

English: Henri Fantin-Latour's art

A Studio in the Batignolles (Homage to Manet), 1870, by Henri Fantin-Latour (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Clustered in admiration around Manet in this painting are the writer and art critic Zola, the young painters Renoir, Monet and Bazille, and the sculptor Astruc – but not the prosperous and accomplished artist James Tissot, whose Salon paintings this year were Young Lady in a Boat/Jeune femme en bateau and Partie carrée, a light-hearted and fully clothed eighteenth-century take on Manet’s Luncheon on the Grass (rejected by the 1863 Salon jury).

Young Lady in a Boat, 1870, by James Tissot.  Courtesy www.jamestissot.org

Young Lady in a Boat, 1870, by James Tissot. Courtesy http://www.jamestissot.org

Tissot surely enjoyed the fact that he was the sole painter among his peers from their student days who had achieved success.  He seemed to get along well with everyone while steering clear of controversy – a luxury he could not enjoy for much longer.

© 2013 Lucy Paquette.  All rights reserved.

Partie carrée, 1870, by James Tissot.  Courtesy www.jamestissot.org

Partie carrée, 1870, by James Tissot. Courtesy http://www.jamestissot.org

Exhibition note:

Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Art and Design, 1848-1900
February 17–May 19, 2013 at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

The first major survey of the art of the Pre-Raphaelites to be shown in the United States features some 130 paintings, sculptures, works on paper, and decorative art objects.

For more information, visit http://www.nga.gov/exhibitions/preraphaelites.shtm

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.

Watch my new videos:

The Strange Career of James Tissot” (2:33 minutes)

and

Louise Jopling and James Tissot” (2:42 minutes)