Monthly Archives: April 2013

The Artists’ Rifles, London

Lord Ranelagh at the volunteer gathering in Brighton, 1863. Illustrated London News. (Photo: wikimedia.org)

By the summer of 1859 – as the ambitious 23-year-old Jacques Joseph Tissot, a member of the National Guard in Paris, was making his Salon début under the name James Tissot – the British feared a French invasion under Napoleon III because of an assassination attempt on the Emperor and Empress on January 14, 1858, with bombs made and tested in England by an Italian revolutionary, Felice Orsini (1819 – 1858).  A year later, on April 29, 1859, France and the Austrian Empire went to war.  On May 12, 1859, the British government authorized the formation of volunteer rifle corps to be called out “in case of actual invasion, or of appearance of an enemy in force on the coast, or in case of rebellion arising in either of these emergencies.”  By the end of the year, the volunteer corps comprised thousands of patriotic men all over Great Britain, and was said to be “a force potentially the strongest defence of England.”

The idea of a special corps of artists was conceived by Edward Sterling, an art student and ward of Scottish historian Thomas Carlyle.  In May, 1859, Sterling held a meeting at his studio of fellow students in the life class of Carey’s School of Art, Charlotte Street, Bloomsbury.  The rooms of artist Arthur Lewis (1824 – 1901) in Jermyn Street became a gathering-place for those who pursued the plan.

The Artists’ Rifles was established on February 28, 1860 as the “The 38th Middlesex (Artists’) Rifle Volunteers.”  The Corps met to elect officers at the St. George Street studio of portraitist Henry Wyndham Phillips (1820 – 1868), who became the regiment’s first commander.  [Phillips also served for thirteen years as Secretary of the Artists’ General Benevolent Institution, founded in 1814 to assist professional artists in financial distress due to illness, accident or old age.]  The regiment initially was headquartered at the Argyll Rooms, a notorious pleasure establishment in Windmill Street, just north of Piccadilly.  Members met for preliminary drills in plain clothes, learning the goose step, the “balance-step without gaining ground,” and other rudimentary soldiering skills such as musketry – how to use a ramrod.  The government had purchased Burlington House, a Palladian mansion in Piccadilly, in 1854, and the Artists’ Rifles was granted space in it until 1868, when the Royal Academy established itself there.  From 1868 until 1889, when members built a permanent headquarters at 17 Duke’s Road, Euston, the Artists’ Rifles met and drilled at various addresses in central London.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, October 7, 1863 (Photo: wikimedia.org)

Founding members of the Artists’ Rifles included painters George Frederic Watts (1817 – 1904), William Cave Thomas (c. 1820 – 1876), William Holman Hunt (1827 – 1910), Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828 – 1882), John Everett Millais (1829 – 1896), Edward Coley Burne-Jones (1833 – 1898), William Morris (1834 – 1896), Edward Poynter (1836 – 1919), and the 22-year-old Valentine (Val) Cameron Prinsep (1838 – 1904).  Members nominated friends as recruits.

James Tissot fled to London in late May or early June of 1871, after serving as a volunteer sharpshooter in the Artists’ Brigade in war-torn Paris.  During the decade that Tissot rebuilt his career in England, members of the Artists Rifles included Field Talfourd (1815-1874), portraitist Lowes Cato Dickinson (1819 – 1908), author and critic  John Ruskin (1819 – 1900), the German-born painter Carl Haag (1820 – 1915), Ford Madox Brown (1821 – 1893), George Price Boyce (1826 – 1897), Robert Braithwaite Martineau (1826 – 1869), William Wilthieu Fenn (1827 – 1906), portraitist Henry Tanworth Wells (1828 – 1903), John Bagnold Burgess (1829 –1897),  Edwin Longsden Long (1829 –  1891), John Roddam Spencer Stanhope (1829 – 1908), Frederic Leighton (1830 – 1896), watercolorist and War Office clerk Joseph Middleton Jopling (1831 – 1884), Arthur Hughes (1832 –1915), George Vicat Cole (1833 – 1893), Henry Holiday (1839 –1927), Charles (Carlo) Edward Perugini (1839 – 1918), Simeon Solomon (1840 – 1905), Marcus Stone (1840 – 1921), Frederick Walker (1840 – 1875), Albert Joseph Moore (1841 –1893), William Blake Richmond (1842 – 1921), Samuel Luke Fildes (1843 – 1927) and his friend Henry Woods (1846 – 1921), Walter William Ouless (1848–1933), and John William Waterhouse (1849 – 1917).

Charles Edward Perugini (1855), by Frederic Leighton (Photo: wikimedia.org)

Frederick Walker (Photo: wikimedia.org)

Robert Braithwaite Martineau (1860) by William Holman Hunt (Photo: wikimedia.org)

Self-portrait, William Holman Hunt (1867) (Photo: wikimedia.org)

Simeon Solomon, 1866 (Photo: http://www.simeonsolomon.org)

Members of the “The St. John’s Wood Clique” – a group of gentlemen painters who resided in that affluent suburb north of London – joined the Artists’ Rifles, including Frederick Goodall (1822 – 1904), Henry Stacy Marks (1829 – 1898), John Evan Hodgson (1831 – 1895), Philip Hermogenes Calderon (1833 – 1898), George Adolphus Storey (1834 – 1919), George Dunlop Leslie (1835 –1921), William Frederick Yeames (1835 –1918) and the photographer who recorded images of many of the artists of his day, David Wilkie Wynfield (1837–1887).

William Frederick Yeames in fancy dress (c. 1860), by David Wilkie Wynfield (Photo: wikimedia.org)

George Frederic Watts in fancy costume, by David Wilkie Wynfield (Photo: wikimedia.org)

Valentine Cameron Prinsep, by David Wilkie Wynfield (Photo: wikimedia.org)

Self-portrait, David Wilkie Wynfield (Photo: wikimedia.org)

Sculptors who were members of the Artists’ Rifles included Thomas Woolner (1825 –1892), Charles Bell Birch (1832 – 1893), Thomas Brock (1847 – 1922) and William “Hamo” Thornycroft (1850 – 1925).  The regiment also included illustrators and engravers, architects, musicians, vocalists, composers, engineers, actors, authors, journalists, and at least one caricaturist, John Leech (1817 – 1864).  Drama critic and author Edward Dutton Cook (1829 – 1883) was a member, as was poet Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837 – 1909).  While French-born photographer Camille Silvy (1834 – 1910) lived in London from about 1859 to 1868 and became a member of the Artists’ Rifles, there is no indication that James Tissot joined.

Caricature of Algernon Charles Swinburne, Vanity Fair, November 21, 1874. Caption reads, “Before sunrise.” (Photo: wikimedia.org)

There were two classes of membership in the Artists’ Rifles:  active members enrolled in military service paid an entrance fee of 10s.6d. and an annual subscription of £1.1s., providing their own uniform and firearms (subject to approval of the War Office for the sake of uniformity).  Honorary Members were not committed to military service.  They paid an additional 10s.6d. entrance fee and an annual subscription of £2.2s. (or a one-time payment of £10.10s.).

Members served with various levels of commitment.  In Katey: The Life and Loves of Dickens’s Artist Daughter (2006, Doubleday U.K.), author Lucinda Hawksley notes that Carlo Perugini, who joined the Artists’ Rifles in 1860 and served for twelve years, sent the occasional reminder letter to members who missed drill sessions.  To be considered active by the government, volunteer riflemen needed to attend eight days of drill and exercise in four months, or 24 days within a year.

English: Photograph of Sir John Everett Millai...

John Everett Millais, 1854 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Painter William Wilthieu Fenn, who became blind and was grateful for Millais’ kindness and practical assistance in alerting his friends to his inability to earn a living, later recalled that “Millais never quite took to” volunteering.  The drills at Wimbledon, where the National Rifle Competition was held, amused Millais, Fenn wrote, “but he tired of it soon, I suspect, and was at any rate very irregular in his attendances.”  Millais displayed “a flash of enthusiasm” when rifles were first served out, “but it was not sustained.”  Fennn had no memory of Millais ever wearing a uniform:  “I don’t think he ever did more than order one, even if he did that.  The discipline, loose though it was in all conscience at that date, seemed to irk him; it was not consonant with his painter’s disposition, and besides, it made too long-drawn demands upon his time, hard worker that he was, especially after his family increased as it was rapidly doing by 1860.”  Fenn added, “Beyond a few  visits to the camp at Wimbledon [in 1861], and a few shots at the targets of various ranges, soldiering did not suit him, and he very soon, I suspect, vanished from the ranks of the active volunteers.”  But Millais and fellow rifleman Joe Jopling – who won the Queen’s Prize at Wimbledon in 1861 for his bulls-eye – became great friends during this time.

Officers were drawn from the ranks.  Frederic Leighton, who joined on October 5, 1860, was promoted to command A Company within a few months.  Henry Wyndham Phillips died in 1868, and on January 6, 1869, Leighton was elected to command the Artists’ Rifles.  He was promoted from Captain to Major, and in 1875, he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel.  Three years later, Leighton was elected President of the Royal Academy, and he resigned as Commanding Officer of the Artists’ Rifles in 1883.  [At his funeral in 1896, his coffin was carried into St. Paul’s Cathedral past an honor guard of The Artists’ Rifles.]

Frederic Leighton in Renaissance costume, by David Wilkie Wynfield (Photo: wikimedia.org)

The Artists’ Rifles regimental badge (Photo: artistsriflesassociation.org)

The regimental badge was designed by another member, Leonard Charles Wyon (1826 – 1891), the Queen’s medallist.  It depicted the profiles of Mars, the god of War, and Minerva, the goddess of Wisdom.  The men recited a regimental rhyme:  “Mars, he was the God of war, and didn’t stop at trifles. Minerva was a bloody whore. So hence The Artists’ Rifles.”

Monet The Thames at Westminster 1871 Westminster

The Thames below Westminster (c. 1871), by Claude Monet (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ironically, the “French invasion” from which the Artists’ Rifles were protecting Britain turned out to be artistic, as many painters – including Claude Monet and Camille Pissarro – fled Paris in 1870 and 1871 and sought success in London’s competitive art market.  With the exception of French etcher Alphonse Legros (1837 – 1911), who emigrated to England in 1863, married an English girl in 1864, and assimilated easily into British circles, these foreign artists were not exactly welcomed with open arms by the British public nor the close-knit community of painters who bonded in the Artists’ Rifles as well as in London’s many gentleman’s clubs.

In fact, the members of the Artists’ Rifles so enjoyed socializing with each other that, in 1863, they established the Arts Club in a beautifully preserved Adams-style mansion at 17 Hanover Square.

The Artists’ Rifles served with great distinction in the Boer War and The Great War.  The apostrophe was dropped in 1937, when the regiment’s title was officially simplified to “The Artists Rifles.”  During the Second World War, the regiment functioned as an Officer Cadet Training Unit, supplying officers to other regiments.  The regiment was disbanded in 1945 but was re-established two years later as the Special Air Service Regiment, now the 21 Special Air Service Regiment (Artists) (Reserve).

For more information on The Artists’ Rifles, past and present, see:

Artists Rifles Association

Artists Rifles Clubhouse

A History of The Artists Rifles 1859–1947, by Barry Gregory (2006, Barnsley: Pen & Sword Books)

Speaker, writer and self-described “thoroughly good egg and ex-soldier,” Patrick Baty:

© 2013 Lucy Paquette.  All rights reserved.

View my videos, “The Strange Career of James Tissot” (Length:  2.33 minutes) and

Louise Jopling and James Tissot” (Length:  2.42 minutes).

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.

London, June 1871

THE DERBY DAY.—While Paris was burning on Wednesday, the 24th of May, the great annual race came off as usual, reported a London newspaper in 1871, adding, “There were more people than ever on the Downs, and the spectacle they presented to the many émigrés must have been striking in the extreme.”

Indeed, the French émigrés who had arrived in London from the outbreak of war in 1870 through the suppression of the Paris Commune in late May, 1871, found in London a very different world.

Queen Victoria on “Fyvie” with John Brown, photographed by George Washington Wilson (1863). [Photo:  Wikimedia.org]

Queen Victoria (1819 – 1901), monarch of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, had been a widow for nine and a half years.  In 1867, the Queen supported the Reform Act extending the vote to many urban working men.  But  the Queen had been invisible to her people since Prince Albert’s death in 1861, and with France’s Second Empire now replaced by a new republican government, public sentiment in her own country was against her.

Republican clubs forming all over the country demanding the removal of the queen who had reigned since 1837.  [It was on Christmas Eve, 1870, that Queen Victoria made a special gift of a large, two-volume folio of Scottish watercolors to her Highland servant, John Brown; their relationship was the subject of the 1997 British film, Mrs. Brown, starring Judy Dench and Billy Connolly.]

A pensive Gladstone.

A pensive Gladstone. (Photo: Wikipedia)

William Ewart Gladstone, (1809 –1898), a Liberal, had been Prime Minister since 1868, the year of the last public execution at Newgate Prison.  Gladstone (taking a break from his attempts to personally reform individual prostitutes in London) had overseen a number of reform bills enacted increase personal freedom and improve the economy.  The 1871 session of Parliament saw debates on army reforms and the Ballot Bill (introducing secret voting; it was not passed – at this time).  For his commitment to reform and his thrift with the public purse, Gladstone had become known as “the People’s William.”  The Queen, in her seclusion, resented Gladstone.  But Albert Edward, Prince of Wales (1841 –1910) liked him – though Gladstone had proposed in June 1871 that the thirty-year-old, married Prince be installed in Dublin as the permanent Viceroy to pacify Ireland (and to keep the Prince out of trouble at home).  Queen Victoria objected to this plan, as she had no intention of sharing her authority with “Bertie,” considering him incapable and indiscreet.

As of the Census of April 2-3, 1871, the population of London – that 122 square miles from Hammersmith to Woolwich and from Norwood to Hampstead – was 3,251,804.  By comparison, as of 1870, Paris had fewer than two million inhabitants, Berlin about 800,000, Rome 300,000, and New York 1,250,000.

About 57% of London residents worked for income.  A small percentage of them were lawyers, physicians, surgeons, bankers, stockbrokers and merchants.  The remainder of the population included the titled and leisured classes, the wives and children of the residents working in the professions, trade or service, students and everyone who did not report an occupation.

The total number of domestic servants, coachmen and grooms amounted to 30 per cent of the entire population – 54% of the working residents of the capital; 36% of them were male.  The demand for domestic service actually declined over the previous three decades, but Londoners’ demand for dressmakers, tailors, milliners, drapers, hosiers, hatters, haberdashers, boot makers, dyers, waistcoat-makers, hairdressers, lace merchants and lace cleaners increased to 16 per cent of the working population, providing the largest source of employment for women apart from domestic service.

Victoria Embankment, The Illustrated London News, June 1867. Cross section showing the Metropolitan District Railway, sewers and pipes buried in the embankment, Charing Cross station and Hungerford Bridge. [Courtesy wikimedia.org]

While Paris’ transformation from a dirty medieval city to the City of Light had been an imperial vision by Napoleon III and civic planner Baron Haussmann, London’s renovations and modernizations were a result of the Victorian’s confident pursuit of innovations in science and engineering.  After 1866, when 6,000 Londoners died of cholera from the drinking water, many miles of sewers were constructed within the Victoria Embankment (completed in 1870).

Sir John Fowler, 1st Baronet

John Fowler (c. 1868), by J.E. Millais (Photo: Wikipedia)

With the center of town being crowded, expensive and congested with horse traffic, the suburbs expanded, and many Londoners needed transportation.  Victorian engineers – led by John Everett Millais’ friend, the self-made millionaire John Fowler (1817 – 1898)  –  constructed the first underground railway in the world.  The Metropolitan Railway (now the Metropolitan Line) – a stretch of four miles between Bishop’s Road (now Paddington) and Farringdon – opened on January 10, 1863.  At the Paddington end there was a connection to the Great Western Railway.  In 1864, the line was extended to Hammersmith Station, which was operated jointly by the Metropolitan Railway and the Great Western.  The line was extended east to Moorgate in 1865, and in the other direction, to South Kensington in 1868.  On Christmas Eve 1868, the District Railway’s first section opened between South Kensington and Westminster Bridge.  This line was extended to Blackfriars in 1870 and to Mansion House in 1871 (completing the southern section of the Circle Line).  St. John’s Wood Railway (referred to as “the Wood Line,” “the branch,” or “the extension”), running northward from Baker Street to St. John’s Wood Road and Swiss Cottage, opened in 1868.  The engines were steam-operated; the first “tube” railway, cable-operated and running between Tower Hill and Bermondsey, opened in 1870.  All the locomotives built from 1871 were painted a smart olive green with polished brass dome covers and were lit by gas.  The passenger coaches were divided into first, second and third class compartments; first-class cars were roomy and fitted with carpets, mirrors and well-upholstered seats.

gentleman-in-a-railway-carriage-jpglarge

Gentleman in a Railway Carriage (1872), by James Tissot. (Photo: Wikiart.org)

James Tissot fled a burning, horrific Paris strewn with Communard cadavers and arrived in London in the midst of the Season – four months of débutante balls, exclusive dinner parties, the annual Royal Academy Exhibition and other large social events dominated by “Bertie,” the Prince of Wales, and the “Professional Beauties,” or P.B.s.

Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, carte de visite [Photo:  Wikimedia.org]

English: Georgina Countess of Dudley, noted Vi...

Georgina, Countess of Dudley, noted Victorian beauty (Photo: Wikipedia)

In 1871, the P.B.s included Susan Charlotte Lascelles, Lady Wharncliffe (1834-1927, daughter of the 3rd Earl of Harewood and wife of Edward Montagu Granville Montagu-Stuart Wortley-Mackenzie, 3rd Baron Wharncliffe (1827 – 1899); Georgina Elisabeth Ward, Countess of Dudley (1846 – 1929; in 1865 she married William Ward, 1st Earl of Dudley, 1817 – 1885); and Edith Peers-Williams, Lady Aylesford (? – 1897; daughter of Lt.-Col. Thomas Peers Williams and wife of Heneage Finch, 7th Earl of Aylesford, 1849 – 1885).  Though the Prince of Wales did not confine his sexual liaisons to the well-bred, the P.B.s were ladies who, having borne their husbands an heir, were permitted a discreet affair with the Prince of Wales.  They were dangled by Society hostesses eager for the Prince’s attendance at their parties.  As their photographs were sold in shops and collected, and their fashions, hairstyles and mannerisms were widely imitated, the P.B.s were lent or given the most expensive gowns, jewelry and accessories for the free publicity they could provide.

The Earl of Dudley, Vanity Fair, June 18, 1870 [Photo:  Wikimedia.org]

Annie Miller (1860) , by Dante Gabriel Rossetti [Photo:  Wikimedia.org]

Men who were members of the Prince of Wales’ smart, fast Marlborough House set included Lord Ranelagh (Thomas Jones, 7th Viscount Ranelagh, 1812 – 1885), who had had an affair with Holman Hunt’s fiancée, the Pre-Raphaelite model Annie Miller, ending their engagement in 1859.  She married a first cousin of Ranelagh’s in 1863.  Henry Chaplin (1840 – 1923) was a racehorse owner and Conservative MP from 1868.  Prior to Chaplin’s wedding to a celebrated Society beauty in 1864, she left him for Lord Hastings (Henry Weysford Charles Plantagenet Rawdon-Hastings, 4th Marquess of Hastings, 1842 – 1868).  In the 1867 Derby, Hastings wagered thousands of pounds against Chaplin’s horse, which won.  Hastings, an alcoholic, died in severe debt at age 26 in 1868.   Lord Rosebery (Archibald Philip Primrose, 5th Earl of Rosebery, 1847 – 1929) inherited his title in 1868, at age 21 – along with an income of £30,000 a year.  He immediately bought a racehorse, which was against the rules for undergraduates at Christ Church, Oxford.   When offered the choice to sell the horse or abandon his studies, he chose to keep the horse.  In 1870, he was elected a member of the Jockey Club.  Rosebery succeeded to his grandfather’s seat in the House of Lords, making his maiden speech in 1871.

Viscount Ranelagh, Vanity Fair, June 25, 1870 [Photo:  Wikimedia.org]

220px-archibald_primrose_5th_earl_of_rosebery_-_1890s

Portrait of Archibald Primrose, 5th Earl of Rosebery (Photo: Wikipedia)

British Conservatives feared the results of the combination of popular frustration with the Queen’s absence, the collapse of the Second Empire in France and the growing republican movement at home, and scandals among the Prince of Wales’ set.  Worst of all, the Prince had to appear in court in February 1870 during sensational divorce proceedings against  Harriet Sarah, Lady Mordaunt (1848 – 1906, wife of baronet and Conservative MP Sir Charles Mordaunt (1836 – 1897), who unwisely had named the heir to the British throne (among others) as the possible father of her child.  Lady Mordaunt was committed to a lunatic asylum for the rest of her life, while Gladstone, as Prime Minister, appears to have played an “indirect” role in protecting the Prince of Wales.

After surviving the starvation of the Siege of Paris, the atrocities of the war with Prussia and the Commune, such a personal scandal may have seemed insignificant to James Tissot, arriving in London nearly penniless.  But by the end of the decade, his personal behavior would offend British morality and embroil him in a scandal of his own….

© 2013 by Lucy Paquette.  All rights reserved.

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

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

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

Courtesy of The Bridgeman Art Library  

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

Paris, June 1871

James Tissot fought with the National Guard to defend Paris from the Prussian troops during the months of the Siege through the armistice on January 28, 1871.  Unlike Manet, Degas and the other artists who later would be known as Impressionists and the 300,000 residents who had left Paris by mid-April, Tissot was in Paris during The Bloody Week – la semaine sanglante.

After the Prussian victory, the new French government was despised by Parisians, particularly the working class, who felt betrayed by the new government for its humiliating concessions to the Germans after the war, its disregard of the suffering of Parisians, and its imposition of inhumane financial pressures on the starving, impoverished survivors.  

Out of anger and desperation, the Commune was formed on March 19, as a republic  to govern Paris.  The new French government established itself at Versailles on March 20.

On March 30, the Commune absorbed the demobilized National Guard.  The Communards installed themselves at the Hôtel de Ville (City Hall) and barricaded Baron Haussmann’s wide, “revolution-proof” streets with enforced assistance from every passing man, woman and child.  The barricade by the Arc de Triomphe, initially constructed in October 1870 as a defense against the Prussian troops, now was nearly thirty feet high.

On April 2, the French government began to bombard Paris.  Two days later, the Communards arrested the Archbishop of Paris and ten monks and imprisoned them as hostages.

A barricade in the Paris Commune, March 18, 1871.

A barricade in the Paris Commune, March 18, 1871. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Barricade, from above, Paris, 1871 Pa...

Barricade, from above, Paris, 1871. (Photo: wikipedia.org)

Français : Barricade rue Royale, vue vers la M...

Barricade on the rue Royale, looking toward La Madeleine, Paris 1871 (Photo: Wikipedia Commons)

Barricade on the rue d’Allemagne, Paris, 1871 (Photo: wikimedia.org)

Barricade at the Place Vendôme, rue de la Paix, during the Paris Commune, 1871. (Photo: wikimedia.org)

Barricade at the rue de Rivoli during the Paris Commune, 1871 (Photo: wikimedia.org)

Français : Barricade à l'angle des boulevard V...

Paris barricade, 1871 (Photo: wikipedia.org)

By the end of April, Paris was almost surrounded by the better-equipped French army, which stepped up its bombardment of the city on May 1.  On Sunday, May 21, the Versailles troops poured through the unguarded Porte de Saint-Cloud in the ring of fortifications around the capital — less than three miles south of Tissot’s villa near the Porte Dauphine.  As the soldiers battled their way into the city, they arrested anyone suspected of being a Communard and shot anyone at a barricade or in a National Guard uniform.  Others were taken prisoner – or shot on sight.  Paris became a bloodbath as the French government massacred its citizens to suppress the Commune.

elihu_b-_washburne_seated_-_brady-handy

Elihu B. Washburne (Photo credit: Library of Congress, public domain)

Still, on Monday, May 22, 1871, Elihu Washburne (1816 – 1887), the United States Minister to France, wrote in his journal, “The day is magnificent and thank Heaven we are safe in our quarter as it is all in possession of the troops.  I can now go back to my house and we will have no more bombs.”  Washburne, a neighbor of James Tissot on the former avenue de l’Impératrice [renamed avenue Uhrich by the Communards], added, “Our house has escaped wonderfully.  The piece of shell that entered it did but little harm further than smashing some windows.”  [James Tissot owned his Paris villa for the rest of his life, so whether or not it was damaged, it did survive the war and the Commune.]

By 9 p.m. on Tuesday, May 23, the Tuileries Palace — formerly the residence of Napoleon III — was ablaze.  An eyewitness wrote, “The immense column of fire went up into the sky, as straight as an arrow.”  The Tuileries burned the whole next day and night.  A wing of the Louvre – the library, housing 100,000 books — also went up in flames. 

The Communards became savage.  Twelve soldiers who had been imprisoned at Montmartre for refusing to fight for the Commune were set free – after they each had both their hands cut off at the wrists.

By the early hours of Wednesday, May 24, the Hôtel de Ville (City Hall) was on fire.  By 9 p.m., the Prefecture of Police was burning.  It had not rained for weeks, and the flames spread to the Palais de Justice and the Palais Royal.  Heavy winds carried the flames to the splendid residences along the rue de Rivoli and half of the rue Royale.  The Audit Office, where Berthe Morisot’s father worked, also burned down.  At the time, the French government blamed the Communards for arson; recent scholarship argues that this was propaganda to galvanize loyalist forces.  With the exception of the Hôtel de Ville, which was destroyed by members of the National Guard as they retreated, government buildings caught on fire by street fighting and incendiary shells.

The Burning of the Tuileries Palace, May 24, 1871 (Photo: wikimedia.org)

On the evening of May 24, the Communards executed the archbishop of Paris by firing squad.  When government soldiers retaliated by executing Communard prisoners, the Communards killed more of their prisoners — ten monks and 36 government soldiers.

On Thursday, May 25, the Grenier d’Abondance burned down.  This storehouse for four months’ supply of grain, flour, corn and sugar for the inhabitants of Paris had stood on the Boulevard Bourdon near the Place de la Bastille since 1816.  Montmartre was destroyed, and on the Left bank of the Seine, part of the Gobelins factory burned down.  All the tapestry and looms of the great workshops were reduced to ash. 

Berthe Morisot had been staying with her married sister, Edma, in Cherbourg on the English Channel, since early May.  But her mother wrote to her from Saint-Germain-en-Laye, west of Paris:

“Paris is on fire.  It is unimaginable.  Half-burned papers, some of them still readable, have been carried here all day long by the wind.  A vast column of smoke covers the city, which at night is a red, luminous spot, horrible to look at, like a volcanic eruption.”  Resentful that Edgar Degas sympathized (from afar) with the Communards, she added, “If Monsieur Degas could be roasted a little in it, he would have what he deserves.”  Manet also was disgusted with the new French government, calling its monarchist leaders “doddering old fools.” 

Elihu Washburne noted in his journal on May 25, “The state of feeling now existing in Paris is fearful beyond description.  Passing events have filled the whole population opposed to the Commune with horror and rage.  Arrests are made by the wholesale, of the innocent as well as the guilty.”

A heavy rain – the first in several weeks — fell all day on Friday, May 26, extinguishing the fire at the Louvre.

Government troops now occupied the Left Bank.  They piled up Communard corpses in the streets, and the carnage continued.  By Saturday, May 27, the Communards had executed 92 of their prisoners.  At dawn on Sunday, May 28, the last organized Communards – 147 of them — were lined up with their backs against a wall at Père Lachaise Cemetery and executed.  The sun broke out that day, and around noon, the French government declared that Paris had been saved:  “Order, labour, security will be reborn.”  By 4:00 p.m., government troops marched thousands of Communards (and suspected Communards) tied together with rope along the boulevards of the city, west to Versailles.  The prisoners were former soldiers in uniform, some in the tunics of the National Guard, deserters, civilians, women of all classes – some in silk gowns and some dressed as men — and even boys of 14 or 15.  They were marched through the Porte Dauphine, right past James TIssot’s villa.

Prisoners of the Versailles government, June 24, 1871 (Photo:  wikimedia.org)

There was no mercy.  Tissot’s neighbor, Elihu Washburne, wrote, “The rage of the soldiers and the people knows no bounds.”  He recorded an incident in which a “well-dressed respectable looking man was torn into a hundred pieces” for expressing a word of sympathy for a suspected Communard being savagely beaten.

The French government massacred thousands in retribution; the total is estimated at 20,000.  Corpses were everywhere, and the stench of decomposing bodies was overwhelming.  On Monday, May 29, the French government officially disbanded the National Guard.  This is the Paris that James Tissot fled, sometime between May 29 and June 19, 1871.

Français : Cadavres de soldats fédérés durant ...

Dead Communards, Paris 1871 (wikipedia.org)

Paris Commune. Photo taken on May 29, 1871, af...

Paris on May 29, 1871 (Photo: wikipedia.org)

By Wednesday, May 31, residents displayed the tricolor at their homes and even on their carriages, to forestall searches by the authorities.  Within the next few weeks, Parisians who had fled after March 18 returned.  Cook’s Tours of London began offering special trips to Paris to see the still-smoking ruins, considered hauntingly beautiful and magnificent.  Photographers’ images of the charred remains of the capital appeared in the shop windows, purchased by Parisians and tourists alike.

Pariscommune1870

Paris ruins, 1870 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Burnt stone shell of the Tuileries Palace afte...

Burnt stone shell of the Tuileries Palace after the 1871 fire — as seen from the Louvre courtyard (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ruins, La Place, Saint-Cloud 1871, by Adolphe Braun (1811 – 1877). Photo: wikimedia.org

Paris ruins, by Adolphe Braun, 1871 (1811 – 1877). Photo: wikimedia.org

Curious foreigners visit the ruins of Paris, 1871 (Photo: wikimedia.org)

Berthe Morisot’s mother returned to Paris.  “It’s unbelievable,” she wrote, “you rub your eyes, wondering if you are really awake.”  On June 5, 1871, she wrote to Berthe:  “I saw only the Hôtel de Ville on the morrow of my arrival.  It’s a beautiful ruin.  Your father wants to have the debris preserved as historical evidence and as a sacred reminder of the horror of popular revolutions.”  She added that their son, Tiburce (a lieutenant in the Versailles army who had been captured, imprisoned in Germany and just released), encountered two Communards – Manet and Degas!  “Even now, they blame the authorities for having resorted to energetic means of repression.  I think they are insane.  What do you think?”

Gustave Courbet

Gustave Courbet (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Gustave Courbet, not quite 52, was arrested on June 7, 1871.  On September 6, 1870, Courbet had been designated president of the Art Commission charged with the protection of works of art in Paris and its outlying districts.  After the war and the armistice, Courbet was as bitter against the new French government as other Parisians, but he saw an opportunity to reform the arts and the annual Salon.  He was elected to the Commune on April 16 to work toward this end, and he happily spent twelve hours a day in committee meetings.  “I am in heaven,” he wrote to his parents at Ornans on April 30.  “Paris is a true paradise; no police, no nonsense, no oppression of any kind, no disputes.  Paris runs by itself as if on wheels. It should always be like this.”   He added, “The Commune of Paris is more successful than any other form of government has ever been.”  Now, just five weeks later, he was being taken to Versailles to be court-martialed for his involvement in the Commune and the destruction of government property.

Édouard Manet, who had left Paris on February 12, 1871 for Oloron-Sainte-Marie to be reunited with his wife, Suzanne, his mother and his 19-year-old godson, Léon Leenhoff, was now with them at villa in Arcachon, a seaside resort in southern France.  On March 2, Manet’s brother, Gustave, urged him not to return to Paris, as “the state of the sanitation in the city is far from reassuring.”  A few days after the Commune was established, Manet wrote to a friend, “I’m not looking forward to the return to Paris at all.”

When Manet did return, in early June, he found that his studio in the rue Guyot had been destroyed during Bloody Week, but he was able to rescue his paintings there as well as those he had left in a friend’s cellar.  He moved them to a new studio on the ground floor of 51, Rue de Saint-Pétersbourg, next door to his mother’s apartment.

On June 10, Manet wrote to Berthe Morisot that he was glad that her family’s house in Paris had been spared.  “I hope, Mademoiselle,that you will not stay a long time in Cherbourg.  Everybody is returning to Paris; besides, it’s impossible to live anywhere else.”

In some of the only good news from this time – good for Berthe Morisot, still so attracted to Édouard Manet — Berthe’s mother wrote to her that Suzanne had grown fat and “Mademoiselle Gonzalès [his attractive young student] has grown ugly.”

Edgar Degas had been in Paris through February and early march, but in mid-March, accepted an invitation to stay with friends in Normandy, where he sketched, rested and ate very well.  By May, he was making studies of horses and painting portraits of his friends’ children.

Edgar Degas, Portrait of Mlle. Hortense Valpin...

Portrait of Mlle. Hortense Valpinçon, by Edgar Degas, 1871 (Photo credit: 16 Miles of String)

Tissot, unlike his friends Manet and Degas, had endured life in Paris throughout the war and the Commune.  Now, he alone did not find it “impossible” to live anywhere else.  There is almost no documentation on his life at this time.  Exactly when and why James Tissot fled, and whether he had a choice, we may never know.

© 2013 Lucy Paquette.  All rights reserved.

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

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

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

Courtesy of The Bridgeman Art Library  

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

James Tissot and The Artists’ Brigade, 1870-71

James Tissot enlisted in the National Guard of the Seine, the Fourth Company of the Eighteenth Battalion, in 1855 – as soon as he had arrived in Paris at age 19.  (His father might have purchased an exemption from military service for him, but did not.)

When France declared war on Prussia, Tissot soon became a Franc-tireur.

A Franc-tireur was a sharpshooter, or sniper, fighting independently of the regular army.   They were also referred to as tirailleurs.

French soldier with a chassepôt rifle (Photo:  wikimedia.org)

But the French army needed every man and organized the Volunteers of the Seine by August 15, 1870.  The Éclaireurs (Scouts) of the Seine was an elite unit of Franc-tireurs founded to defend Paris.  James Tissot, the elegant painter of the avenue de l’Impératrice, became a sharpshooter.  In addition to his rifle, Tissot also carried a small sketchbook (17 x 10 cm or about 6 3/4 x 3 7/8”) In the field.  Click here to see Tissot’s drawing of the Éclaireurs.

When not on duty, the Éclaireurs, like other National Guard units, could live at home.  On Friday, September 9, British war correspondent Tommy Bowles [Thomas Gibson Bowles, 1841 – 1922, who founded the British Society magazine Vanity Fair in 1868] was surveying the scene of Garde Mobile squads drilling or wandering around along the avenue de l’Impératrice [near Tissot’s sumptuous villa at No. 64], when he encountered James Tissot, in the blue uniform of the National Guard.

On October 21, 1870, 62 of the Éclaireurs of the Seine – “one and all Parisians of the purest type” according to Tommy Bowles – were sent to fight in the Battle of Malmaison (also referred to as the Battle of Rueil-Malmaison, or La Jonchère, for the nearby towns), west of Paris.

As unbelievable as it may be that the refined, cultured painter James Tissot became a sniper during the Franco-Prussian War, he was hardly alone.  Others who served with Tissot in the Artists’ Brigade at the Battle of Malmaison on October 21, 1870 included:

Paul Baudry (Photo: wikimedia.org)

Paul-Jacques-Aimé Baudry (1828 –1886).  Like many artistic children from the provinces in 19th-century France, Baudry went to Paris with a grant from his municipality to pay his tuition fees.  He began studying painting at 16, in 1844, and enrolled at the École des Beaux-Arts in 1845, studying under French Neoclassical painter Michel Martin Drolling (1789 – 1851.)  Baudry made five successive attempts at the coveted Prix de Rome, finally sharing the award with William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825 –1905) in 1850; his winning painting was Zenobia Found by Shepherds on the Banks of the Araxes (c. 1848).

Zenobia found. Paul-Jacques-Aimé Baudry, c. 1848

Zenobia Found by Shepherds on the Banks of the Araxes (c. 1848), by Paul-Jacques-Aimé Baudry  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Among the works Baudry sent from Rome to Paris was Fortune and the Child (1853–54, Paris, Musée d’Orsay), inspired by Titian’s Sacred and Profane Love (Galleria Borghese, Rome).

At the 1857 Salon, he exhibited The Martyrdom of a Vestal Virgin and The Child, which were purchased for the Luxembourg, while his Leda, St. John the Baptist, and a Portrait of Beul both won him first prize.  In 1861, Baudry exhibited his only historical painting, Charlotte Corday after the murder of Marat, and in 1862, he painted The Wave and the Pearl.

The Wave and the Pearl (1862), by Paul-Jacques-Aimé Baudry (Photo: wikimedia.org)

In 1865 or 1866, Baudry began work at the Opéra Garnier (the Paris Opera house under construction), painting the ceilings of the Grand Foyer with scenes from the history of music — more than thirty paintings that would occupy him for a decade.

Garnier's Paris Opéra, The Grand Foyer With Ce...

Garnier’s Paris Opéra, The Grand Foyer With Ceiling Paintings by Paul Baudry (Photo credit: profzucker)

Still, Baudry found time to paint portraits of eminent men such as the architect of the new opera house, Charles Garnier (1825 – 1898), in 1868.

Charles Garnier (1868), by Paul Baudry (Photo: wikimedia.org)

At the Battle of Malmaison in October, 1870, the 42-year-old Baudry was seen standing guard on the ramparts (as was Bouguereau).

Louis-Eugène Leroux (1833 – 1905) studied with the distinguished history painter François-Édouard Picot (1786 – 1868).  Leroux was described at the time as a “young artist of great promise, standing over six feet high, and as handsome as Apollo.”  At the 1870 Salon, his painting, The New Born Baby (Breton Interior), won medal and was purchased for the Luxembourg Museum by the French government.  At the Battle of Malmaison, the 37-year-old Leroux was severely wounded in both legs and taken prisoner by the Prussians.

Jules Ferdinand Jacquemart (1837 – 1880), considered the undisputed genius of etching, was the son of Albert Jacquemart (1808 – 1875), an amateur artist, botanical illustrator, collector and author.  Jules executed some of his finest etchings for his father’s books, The History of Porcelain and The Gems and Jewels of the Crown.  In 1859, he made an etching of Japanese and Chinese artifacts and, with a few like-minded artists, he founded a society to study and promote Japanese culture, all the rage after the signing of the first commercial treaty between Japan and America in 1854, when more than 200 years of Japanese seclusion came to an end.  Also in 1859, Jacquemart also began contributing engravings for the Gazette des beaux-arts illustrating objets d’art from the Louvre and from prominent collectors such the Rothschilds.  In the 1860s Jules Jacquemart was commissioned by the Louvre to produce sixty etchings of the French crown jewels.

Engraving by Jules-Ferdinand Jacquemart (Photo: wikimedia.org)

Engraving by Jules-Ferdinand Jacquemart (Photo: wikimedia.org)

The Lover (1869), by Étienne Prosper Berne-Bellecour. Brooklyn Museum. (Photo: wikimedia.org)

Étienne Prosper Berne-Bellecour (French, 1838 – 1910), studied painting under Félix-Joseph Barrias (1822 – 1907), Emile Signol (1804 – 1892) and, like Leroux, under François-Édouard Picot.  Berne-Bellecour made his Salon début in 1864 with Low Road on the Coast of Normandy (1864).  In 1869, he painted The Lover.  Berne-Bellecour was described by a contemporary as being “tall and well-proportioned [with] a fine, military bearing, and might easily be an officer of the legions he depicts.”  He was 32 during the Battle of Malmaison and made quick pen and ink sketches of scenes during the lulls in fighting.  He later gained a reputation as a military painter with works like The Tirailleurs de la Seine at the Battle of Rueil-Malmaison, 21st October 1870 (1875), in which he depicted Leroux wounded, Jacquet firing a last shot, and Cuvelier supported by his comrades.

Jehan Georges Vibert (Photo:  wikipaintings.org)

Jehan Georges Vibert (1840 – 1902), was born in Paris and entered the École des Beaux-Arts at age 16, in early 1857.  He  studied under Félix-Joseph Barrias (1822 – 1907) and then, for six years, under François-Édouard Picot.  Vibert painted mythological and religious subjects including The Death of Narcissus and Christian Martyrs in the Lion Pit, as well as subjects such as Young Girl Arranging Flowers (1862).  Vibert made his Salon début in 1863 with The Siesta and Repentance, then won his first medal at the 1864 Salon for Narcissus Transformed into a Flower – though its nudity caused a scandal.  At the 1866 Salon, his Daphnis and Chloë (1865, Chrysler Museum, Norfolk, Virginia) received harsh criticism; one critic advised him, “Take on a live model.”  Beginning in 1860 – 61, Vibert traveled a number of times to Spain with a young Spanish artist, Eduardo Zamacois * (c. 1841 –1871), who was in Paris studying with the illustrious Ernest Meissonier.  The two friends collaborated on their 1866 Salon entry, Entrance of the Toreros.  A critic noted that this painting was “new and interesting with lively bold coloring,” and around 1867, Vibert began painting less serious subjects, such as The Barber of Ambulart.  He won a financial prize at the 1867 Paris International Exposition as well as another medal in 1868, when he painted a Napoleonic picture, Convent under Arms.

The Naturalists (1870), by Jehan Georges Vibert. (Photo, flickr)

At the 1870 Salon, he exhibited Gulliver Fastened to the Ground and Surrounded by the Army.  He traveled to the East, returning to France just before war broke out in 1870, when he joined the sharp-shooters in the Éclaireurs of the Seine.  For suffering a wound at the Battle of Malmaison in October 1870, Vibert was made a Knight of the Legion of Honor.  Vibert was an out-sized personality with diverse interests including play-writing and cooking, and he had a penchant for merriment and boasting.  It is curious that although Vibert only received a slight wound in the knee, the reserved James Tissot, who was wounded in the same battle, did not receive the Legion of Honor.  [*Meanwhile, Vibert’s friend Eduardo Zamacois traveled back to Madrid and died there of pneumonia on January 14, 1871.]

Gustave Jean Jacquet (1846 – 1909), born in Paris, was one of Bouguereau’s best students.  He made his Salon début at 19, in 1865, with Modesty and Sadness.  He gained immediate recognition, and received further notice with his 1867 Salon entry, Call to Arms in the Sixteenth Century.  By 1867, a prominent art critic wrote of him, “Behold an artist, unknown today, who will be celebrated tomorrow.”  Jacquet was a fine horseback rider, and his studio was crammed with a museum-quality collection of ancient arms and armor in his studio.  His painting Sortie de Lansquenets was purchased by the French government for the royal Château de Blois in the Loire Valley.  In 1868, he won a third class medal with a military painting set in the 1700s, Sortie d’armée au XVI siècle.  When the war broke out, Jacquet, 24, became a sharpshooter in the same company as James Tissot, fighting in the Battle of Malmaison on October 21, 1870.  Jacquet reportedly went into the battlefield with some of the weapons and armor he kept in his studio, and he nearly lost his life trying to rescue Leroux, a rival painter who was seriously wounded and taken prisoner by the Prussians.  [I am indebted to Kara Lysandra Ross for her recent, fascinating article on Jacquet:  click here  to read it.]

Girl in a Riding Habit, by Gustave Jean Jacquet (Photo wikimedia.org)

Louis-Alfred-Joseph Cuvelier (? – 1870), the equestrian sculptor, was Edgar Degas’ great friend from the 1860s.  His work included small bronzes such as Jockey (1869, 19 x 15 x 11 in./48.3 x 38.1 x 27.9 cm).  Cuvelier, full of innovation and promise, was a source of inspiration to Degas.  He was killed at the Battle of Malmaison on October 21, 1870.  It is said that Leroux witnessed Cuvelier’s death, and that Tissot’s drawing, The First Killed that I Saw (1870), was of Cuvelier – much to Degas’ disgust.

Le premier homme tué que j'ai vu (Souvenir du siège de Paris) (The First Killed I Saw (Souvenir of the Siege of Paris)), by James Tissot.  Courtesy www.jamestissot.org

Le premier homme tué que j’ai vu (Souvenir du siège de Paris) (The First Killed I Saw (Souvenir of the Siege of Paris)), by James Tissot. Courtesy http://www.jamestissot.org

Five days later, Berthe Morisot’s mother wrote to another daughter, Yves:  “Monsieur Degas was so affected by the death of one of his friends, the sculptor Cuvelier, that he was impossible.  He and Manet almost came to blows arguing over the methods of defense and the use of the National Guard, though each of them was ready to die to save the country.”

Tommy Bowles left Paris on February 8, 1871 (a week after Paris surrendered to the Prussians on January 28) and returned to London, where he would see James Tissot by June – without living through the horrors that Parisians suffered in the meantime.

The Tirailleurs de la Seine at the Battle of Rueil-Malmaison, 21st October 1870 (1875), by  Étienne-Prosper Berne-Bellecour.  (Oil on canvas,  103x203 cm; Château de Versailles, France; Giraudon).  Photo courtesy of The Bridgeman Art Library for use in "The Hammock:  A novel based on the true story of French painter James Tissot," by Lucy Paquette © 2012

The Tirailleurs de la Seine at the Battle of Rueil-Malmaison, 21st October 1870 (1875), by Étienne-Prosper Berne-Bellecour (1838-1910). Oil on canvas, 103×203 cm; Château de Versailles, France. Giraudon photo courtesy of The Bridgeman Art Library for use in “The Hammock: A novel based on the true story of French painter James Tissot,” by Lucy Paquette © 2012

© 2013 Lucy Paquette.  All rights reserved.

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

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

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

Courtesy of The Bridgeman Art Library  

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

 

The Missing Tissot Nudes

Since today is April Fool’s Day – and my birthday * – let’s have some fun and look at James Tissot’s nude pictures.

Tissot seldom painted nudes, and when he did, they often were awkward and lacking in sensuality.

In 1863, at age 27, Tissot painted a circular picture, Nymphs and Satyr, showing three rubbery nude women frolicking in the woods.

The Bather/Japonaise au bain (c. 1864), by James Tissot (about seven by four feet, or 208 by 124 cm), Musée de Dijon, France. (Photo: Wikimedia.org)

A year later, he painted The Bather/Japonaise au bain (c. 1864, about seven by four feet, or 208 x 124 cm.).  The model clearly is a local professional paid to stand for hours in a kimono that Tissot had just purchased from Madame Desoye’s import shop, “La Jonque Chinoise” (The Chinese Junk) in the rue de Rivoli.  You sense Tissot laboring over exactly where to drape the edges of the garment; it’s less a nude than an exercise in japonisme.

In 1875, at age 39, Tissot created three Frontispieces, featuring symbolic (and rather graceless) nudes, to publish in a portfolio of his drypoint prints.  He decided not to use them:

First Frontispiece (with the Monogram)/Premier frontispice (avec le monogramme)

First Frontispiece (with the Monogram)/Premier frontispice (avec le monogramme), 1875, by James Tissot. (Photo: Wikipaintings.org)

Second Frontispiece (Sitting on the Globe)/Deuxième frontispice (Assise sur le globe)

Second Frontispiece (Sitting on the globe)/Deuxième frontispice (Assise sur le globe), 1875, by James Tissot. (Photo: Wikipaintings.org)

Third Frontispiece/Troisième frontispice, depicts a flat-footed woman from the back, holding up a placard reading, “Ten Etchings, J.J. Tissot.”  Her left bicep is not where it should be, and the shoulders of the woman lying on the globe beneath them are even less biologically plausible.

As a student in Paris, James Tissot’s first painting instructor was Jean-Hippolyte Flandrin (1809 – 1864), who had studied under Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780 – 1867).  Among Ingres’ many lush paintings of the female form was The Turkish Bath (1862).

The Turkish Bath (1862) by Jean-Auguste-Domini...

The Turkish Bath (1862) by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres.  Louvre, Paris.   (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Eve, by Jean-Hippolyte Flandrin (1809 – 1864). (Photo: http://www.all-art.org)

But Flandrin, mainly celebrated for his monumental church murals in Paris, Lyon, and Nîmes, was so busy that he increasingly directed his students – including James Tissot and Henri Regnault (1843 –1871) – to the studio of his former student, Louis Lamothe (1822 –1869).  Lamothe must have learned little about painting nude women from Ingres.  Lamothe was described as a timid and sickly man who had never met his potential, but he was a clear and precise draftsman with a passion for detail.  One art historian has described Lamothe as a history painter “in a pious Christian tradition.”

Eventually, Tissot studied only under Lamothe and acknowledged that his own work was significantly influenced by Lamothe’s instruction.  Henri Regnault was highly capable of painting the nude – most often male – so Lamothe can’t be blamed for Tissot’s lack of skill painting human anatomy.  Regnaults’ work did not celebrate the female body, or depict nude women in a sensual way; his interest was in depicting other subjects (from mythology and history to horses and Oriental scenes).  See Regnault’s Thetis Giving the Weapons of Vulcan to Achilles (1866).

Anatomically perfect, as well as graceful and sensual, was The Birth of Venus (1863, 51 x 88 1/2/130 x 225 cm, Musée d’Orsay, Paris), by Alexandre Cabanel (1823 –1889)Exhibited at the 1863 Salon, it was such a hit that Cabanel, who that year served on the Salon jury and also was appointed to teach at the École des Beaux-Arts, sold the reproduction rights.  While the French government purchased the original for the collection of Empress Eugénie, Cabanel earned royalties on replicas and engravings.  The original also was displayed at the 1867 Paris International Exhibition.  [The Dahesh Museum of Art, New York owns a famous copy, c. 1864, which was sold as a Cabanel in 1870 for 20,000 francs.  The Metropolitan Museum of Art owns a second replica, commissioned in 1875 by American banker John Wolfe.]

The Birth of Venus by Alexandre Cabanel, 1863 ...

The Birth of Venus (1863), by Alexandre Cabanel.  Musée d’Orsay, Paris. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Bather (1870), by William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825 –1905) (Photo: Wikimedia.org)

The first painting that Tissot’s friend Édouard Manet (1832 –1883) submitted to the Salon jury, The Absinthe Drinker (1859), showed a shaky understanding of anatomy, only part of the reason it was rejected.

By the time the rebellious Manet submitted The Luncheon on the Grass/ Le déjeuner sur l’herbe to the jury of the 1863 Salon, Alexandre Cabanel and William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825 –1905) refused to allow him, as well as artists who later would become known as the Impressionists, from exhibiting their work.

The French government authorized the Salon des Refusés, where Manet showed his picture to a shocked public.

Meanwhile, he painted the perfect figure of Olympia (1863) – which caused a scandal as “filth” at the 1865 Salon.

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

Olympia (1863), by Édouard  Manet, Musée d’Orsay, Paris.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A esposa de Candaules

Candaule’s Wife, by Edgar Degas.  Oil on canvas.  Private collection.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)  Degas was about 22 when he painted this.  It was not exhibited.

Edgar Degas (1834 –1917), like Tissot and Regnault, studied for a time with Lamothe.  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), featuring several nude figures.  In the 1860s, Degas pursued his interest in painting race horses, and in the 1870s, he began painting ballet dancers, but he did not begin his series of nude women bathing until the 1880s.

Gustave Courbet (1819 –77) routinely painted nude women who are alive and exuberant in  their sexuality.  While his first attempt to exhibit a nude was rejected for indecency by the 1864 Salon jury, Courbet’s Woman with the Parrot (1866) was accepted for display at the 1866 Salon.  It was a tremendous success. 

Woman with a Parrot

Woman with the Parrot (1866), by Gustave Courbet.  Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.  (Photo credit:  Flickr, jaroslavd)

Gustave Courbet - The Woman in the Waves - WGA5507

The Woman in the Waves (1868), by Gustave Courbet.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Courbet painted several female nudes in 1868:  The Source, or Bather at the Source (Musée d’Orsay, Paris); Woman in the Waves (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York), two versions of a Sleeping Woman; The Three Bathers (Musée Du Petit Palais, Paris, France), and Nude Reclining by the Sea (Philadelphia Museum of Art).

The Beautiful Irishwoman/La Belle Irlandaise (1865), by Gustave Courbet. (Photo: Wikimedia.org)

And, of course, in 1866, Courbet painted The Origin of the World, but it was a small picture (18 x 22 in./46 x 55 cm), painted just for Khalil Bey (1831 –1879), a Turkish diplomat.  (Bey, who collected erotic paintings, bought Ingres’ The Turkish Bath in 1865 and commissioned a version of Courbet’s The Sleepers in 1866.)  Courbet’s little picture was untitled at that time.  Bey kept it in a locked cabinet, showing it only to his friends – until he was bankrupted by his gambling debts, shortly after he purchased it from Courbet.  The picture was sold privately in January 1868 and was not exhibited publicly until shown at the Brooklyn Museum in New York in 1988.  It now is on display at the Musée d’Orsay, where it has been only since 1995.  [It’s likely that the model was Joanna Hiffernan – the Irish mistress of James Whistler, who was in Valparaiso, Chile at the time it was painted.]

Nude Standing, by James McNeill Whistler

Nude Standing, by James McNeill Whistler. http://www.wikigallery.org

As a student in Paris, Tissot’s American friend James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834 – 1903), made an etching of a nude woman asleep in bed, Venus (1859, Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.)  Later, living in London, Whistler made numerous studies of female nudes in chalk, crayon, pastel and watercolor, especially between 1868 and 1895, but despite his flamboyance and mistresses, he had a Puritan streak and never publicly exhibited a painting of a nude woman.  He did, however, produce a design in 1868 including one female nude, as part of a plan for a frieze commissioned the previous year by Liverpool shipping magnate Frederick Richards Leyland (1832 –1892) – the same patron who asked Whistler for help decorating his London dining room, which became The Peacock Room.

After Tissot first achieved success in Paris in 1864, he was a bit of a dandy and a man about town.  But the few times he painted nude women, he didn’t get their anatomy quite right.  Either he didn’t study enough from live models (female models had to be hired independently), or he just didn’t have the knack for – or interest in – drawing nudes.

James Tissot grew up in Nantes, thirty-five miles from the Atlantic Ocean on the banks of the Loire River.  His mother and aunt were partners in a successful millinery company, and his father was a trader in fabrics and dress trimmings to retailers and exporters.  Tissot clearly enjoyed painting the sights of his youth as the son of prosperous merchants in a bustling seaport:  architecture, nautical pictures, men’s uniforms, and women’s gowns, coiffures and hats.  That was his talent, and what he was drawn to (pun intended).

Raised by a devout Catholic mother and a father whom he later described as “a Christian of the old-fashioned sort,” Tissot preferred to paint women fully dressed – in elegance.  Scholar Willard E. Misfeldt writes that years later when Tissot was confronted with a forgery of a nude woman, he indignantly said he never would have painted such a vulgar subject.

La cheminée, (The Fireplace, 1869), by James Tissot. Oil on canvas, 20 by 13 in. (50.80 by 33.02 cm). (Photo: Wikimedia.org)

But he did like to paint his well-dressed women flashing some ankle, and in Partie Carée –  exhibited at the 1870 Salon, he depicts the gentleman on the left grasping his date’s right breast, while the woman across from them downs a glass of champagne at the side of another delighted young man.

La Partie Carrée (1870), by James Tissot. Oil on canvas, 47 x 57 in. (119.5 x 144.5 cm.) Private Collection. (Photo: Wikimedia.org)

And one of Tissot’s most vulgar images is also one of his most beautiful:  two elegant young women crouching on the floor, bustles aweigh.

Young Women Looking at Japanese Objects (1868), by James Tissot. (Photo: Wikimedia.org)

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© 2013 Lucy Paquette.  All rights reserved.

[*] Because it’s my birthday, my book is free to you today, April 1, 2013.

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.

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.