All prices listed are for general reader interest only, and are shown in this order: $ (USD)/£ (GBP). All prices listed are Hammer Price (the winning bid amount) unless noted as Premium, indicating that the figure quoted includes the Buyer’s Premium of an additional percentage charged by the auction house, as well as taxes.
James Tissot enjoyed an elegant life in his new suburban villa in Paris only from early 1868 to the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War in mid-1870. His home, with its chic studio, overlooked the social parade of pedestrians, horse traffic and carriages on the on the rue de l’Impératrice (Empress Avenue, now avenue Foch). Amid the profuse plantings of his glassed-in conservatory, Tissot painted beautiful women in the latest fashions.
Dans la serre (In the Conservatory) (c. 1869) was sold at Christie’s, New York in 1997 for $440,000/£ 270,986. In 2006, it was sold by the same auction house for $320,000/£ 170,475.
The Convalescent (1872, also called A Girl in an Armchair) was a gift to the Art Gallery of Ontario from R.B.F. Barr, Esq., Q.C., in 1966. This painting actually can be dated to 1870, meaning that Tissot painted it at his villa in Paris, in the conservatory.
Following the bloody end to the Paris Commune, James Tissot fled to London in May or June, 1871, arriving with only a hundred francs. By 1873, he was living in a comfortable suburban home at 17 (now 44) Grove End Road in St. John’s Wood, where he built an extension with a studio and conservatory in 1875 that doubled the size of the house. The plan for the extension, by architect J.M. Brydon, was featured in The Building News on May 15, 1874: “it is a large apartment, amply lighted, principally from the north and east. The whole of one side is open to a large conservatory, from which it is separated by an arrangement of glass screens and curtains. The floor is laid with oak parquet, and the walls are hung with a kind of tapestry cloth of a greenish blue color.”
In his new conservatory, Tissot painted some of his loveliest images.
Chrysanthemums (c. 1874-76) was owned by British cotton magnate, MP and contemporary art collector Edward Hermon (1822 – 1881) by 1877, the year his only daughter was married. In 1882, Hermon’s estate sold it through Christie’s, London to the prominent art dealership Arthur Tooth and Son. The painting next belonged to Surgeon-Major (the ranking surgeon of a regiment in the British Army) John Ewart Martin, South Africa and remained in a private collection of his descendants in South Africa until sold through Phillips, London,1993, to the Christopher Wood Gallery, London, for $ 372,125/£ 250,000. The painting was sold by that gallery to the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute at Williamstown, Massachusetts, in 1994. It is currently touring the world as part of the travelling exhibition, “Great French Paintings from the Clark.” Since Spring, 2011, it has been seen in Milan, Italy; Giverny, France; Barcelona, Spain; Fort Worth, Texas; London, England; Montréal, Canada; and Tokyo, Japan. The exhibition is at the Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art, Kobe, Japan, through September 1, 2013, and it will then travel to its final destination, the Shanghai Museum, Shanghai, China, from September 19 to December 1, 2013. Chrysanthemums should return to the Clark in July, 2014.
In the Conservatory (c. 1875) was sold at Sotheby’s, New York in 1999 for $150,000/£91,235. Tissot seems to be experimenting with the looser brushwork of his friends in Paris, Edgar Degas and Édouard Manet; the first exhibition of the painters who together became known as the Impressionists was in 1874. Note the black velvet ribbon at the neck of Tissot’s models in 1875; his friend, the British artist Louise Jopling (1843 – 1933), observed in her autobiography that a fashionable woman was not considered dressed “without her velvet.”
Another In the Conservatory, also known as The Rivals, (c. 1875-1876), was sold at Christie’s, London in 1981 for $ 109,848/£ 60,000. This highly detailed painting measures only 15 1/8 by 20 1/8 in. (38.4 by 51.1 cm). Tissot also painted twins in The Ball on Shipboard (c. 1874), in the collection of Tate Britain, London. No one knows why, but it could simply be that he knew a set of twins and was as fascinated by them as Mr. Eshton in Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre.
A theory suggested in the blockbuster exhibition, “Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity,” is that Tissot used twins to paint gowns from different angles, like fashion plates, or as a commentary on mass-produced, ready-to-wear clothing.
Would you like to own this painting? Gifted to the Metropolitan Museum of Art by New York socialite, philanthropist and fine arts collector Mrs. Jayne Wrightsman in 2009, In the Conservatory (Rivals) – which last was exhibited publicly in 1955 – will be sold by the Met at Christie’s 19th Century European Art sale in New York on Monday, October 28, 2013. It is estimated to sell for $2.5 million to $3.5 million USD. [See Tissot vs. Whistler, Degas, Manet & Morisot oils at auction and For sale: In the Conservatory (Rivals), c. 1875, by James Tissot.] Incidentally, the Christie’s auction catalog contains another theory for the matching gowns in this painting: “It is possible that the two young women in pale blue are intended to be siblings, as sisters (not just twins) often wore matching dresses at this time.”
The Fan (1875) was sold at Sotheby’s, London in 1982 for $ 73,974/£ 42,000 to Charles Jerdein (1916 – 1999). Jerdein was the trainer who officially received the credit when thoroughbred Gilles de Retz landed the 2,000 Guineas in 1956; the Jockey Club did not recognize the female trainer, Helen Johnson-Houghton. Jerdein left Mrs. Johnson-Houghton’s operation that year, trained on his own for a short time, then concentrated on his business as an art dealer in London, though he occasionally had a horse in training in Newmarket. By the early 1960s, Jerdein had pioneered the market for paintings by James Tissot’s friend, the Dutch-born Victorian painter Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1836 – 1912), before Alma-Tadema’s name became associated with the American television personality who collected his work, Allen Funt of “Candid Camera.”
Jerdein sold The Fan to the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, Connecticut. From March 23 to September 8, 2013, The Fan was in the Mississippi Museum of Art’s “Old Masters to Monet” exhibition, one of fifty master works of French art spanning three centuries from the Wadsworth’s collection. The Fan next will be on display at the Denver Art Museum’s exhibition, “Court to Café: Three Centuries of French Masterworks from the Wadsworth Atheneum,” in the Hamilton Building, Level 2, from October 27, 2013 to February 9, 2014. The exhibition will include furnishings from the Denver Art Museum’s collection and costumes on loan from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
The Bunch of Lilacs (1875) epitomizes grace and leisure. It measures 21 by 15 in. (53.34 by 38.10 cm) and was sold at Christie’s, London in 1975 for $ 15,249/£ 7,000. In 1982, it was sold again by the same auction house for $ 134,235/£ 75,000 – surely a bargain. If you look at Tissot’s The Rivals, above, you’ll see the elaborate birdcage and the small Chinese table in the background, near the woman in the white and yellow gown.
Update, March 17, 2015: In October, 2014, Tissot’s The Rivals (I rivali, 1878–79) was sold at Casa d’Aste Pandolfini, Florence, Italy. Set in Tissot’s conservatory, it depicts Kathleen Newton cast as a young widow, crocheting while taking tea with two suitors, one middle-aged and one old. Tissot exhibited it with a number of other works at London’s Grosvenor Gallery in 1879, and that same year, it was shown at the Royal Manchester Institution’s Exhibition of Modern Paintings and Sculpture, priced at £400. It was purchased by John Polson, of Tranent and Thornly [who also owned Tissot’s A Portrait (1876, Tate, London)], and sold by his executors at Christie’s, London in 1911. It then belonged to Sir Edward James Harland (1831–1895), head of the Belfast shipbuilding firm of Harland and Wolff and sometime M.P. for North Belfast, of Glenfarne Hall, near Enniskillen, Ireland and Baroda House in Kensington Palace Gardens, London, where it was sold by his executors at Christie’s upon his widow’s death in 1912. Since 1913, The Rivals has been in private collections in Milan, beginning with the Ingegnoli Collection. It was sold by Paul Ingegnoli’s executors at Galleria Pesaro in 1933 and purchased by a Milanese private collector. It was displayed in public again only in Milan, at the Palazzo della Permanente, La Mostra Nazionale di Pittura, “L’Arte e il Convito,” in 1957. At the 2014 sale, The Rivals was purchased for € 954,600 EUR (Premium) [$ 1,215,969/£ 753,715].
The Rivals, in pristine condition, is on display at the Stair Sainty Gallery booth at TEFAF in Maastricht, Netherlands (March 13-22, 2015), the world’s leading art fair. In 2014, TEFAF attracted 74,000 visitors; TEFAF 2015 includes 275 leading galleries from 20 countries.
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