The Geffrye Museum of the Home and the Guildhall Art Gallery, two museums in east London, off the beaten tourist path, boast oil paintings by James Tissot. By 1873, two years after Tissot arrived in London, he had established himself in a Queen Anne-style villa at 17 (now 44), Grove End Road, St. John’s Wood. His garden was designed with a blend of English-style flower beds as well as plantings familiar to him from French parks. Gravel paths led to kitchen gardens and greenhouses for flowers, fruit and vegetables.
The Geffrye Museum of the Home has Tissot’s View of the Garden at 17 Grove End Road, c. 1882. Previously in a private collection, it was sold to Agnew’s by Sotheby’s, London in 2000 for $14,215 USD/£ 10,000 GBP (Hammer). In 2004, the Geffrye purchased the painting from Agnew’s for £21,000, with assistance from The Art Fund, the MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund and The Friends of the Geffrye Museum. It is not currently on view but may be later this year.
London’s Guildhall Art Gallery, which contains the art collection of the City of London, has three oil paintings by Tissot: The Last Evening, Too Early, and Civic Procession.
In The Last Evening (1873, oil on canvas), Tissot depicts a scene fraught with tension. The woman was modeled by Margaret Kennedy (1840 -1930), the wife of Tissot’s friend, Captain John Freebody, (b. 1834). Freebody was the master of the Arundel Castle from 1872-73, and his ship took emigrants to America. He is the younger man in the painting, and Margaret’s older brother, Captain Lumley Kennedy (b. 1819, the master of the Aphrodite in 1872), is the man with the red beard. Tissot exhibited The Last Evening and The Captain’s Daughter (1873, Southampton City Art Gallery) at the Royal Academy in 1873.
Tissot was represented, for a time, by the most influential art dealer in London, William Agnew (1825 – 1910), who was helping to create a market for contemporary British art. Agnew advertised these works as “high-class modern paintings.” The Last Evening was purchased from Agnew by Charles Gassiot (1826 – 1902), a London wine merchant and art patron who lived in a mansion in Upper Tooting, Surrey. Gassiot bought it in February, 1873, before it was exhibited at the Royal Academy, for £1,000. He and his wife Georgiana, a childless couple, donated a number of his paintings, including The Last Evening, to the Guildhall Art Gallery from 1895 to 1902. This picture is currently on view.
Tissot also exhibited Too Early (1873, oil on canvas, 71 x 102 cm.) at the Royal Academy in 1873, where it was his first big success after moving to London two years previously. According to his friend, the painter Louise Jopling (1843 – 1933), Too Early “made a great sensation…It was a new departure in Art, this witty representation of modern life.” One critic wrote that he “fairly out-Tissoted himself in his studies of character and expression. [The] truthfulness and delicate perception of the humor of the ‘situation’ [compares to that found] in the novels of Jane Austen, the great painter of the humor of ‘polite society’.” Too Early was purchased by Agnew and sold in March, 1873 (before its exhibition at the Royal Academy that year) to Charles Gassiot for £1,155. Gassiot bequeathed it to the Guildhall Art Gallery, where it is on view for visitors. You can glimpse it on the wall in this brief video from May 23, 2013, “Treasures in the Guildhall Art Gallery,” at :39, behind Assistant Curator Katty Pearce, then again at 3:13.
Tissot gave A Civic Procession Descending Ludgate Hill, London (c. 1879, oil on canvas, 84.5 x 43 in./214.6 x 109.2 cm.), previously called The Lord Mayor’s Show, to the Curator of the Musée du Luxembourg, Paris. The painting was purchased by the Corporaton of London through S.C. L’Expertise, Paris, from the curator’s granddaughter, Mme. Léonce Bénédite, in 1972 and is now in the collection of the Guildhall Art Gallery. It is not currently on view, but see James Tissot’s “A Civic Procession” (c. 1879).
I am grateful to the following individuals for providing some of the information from which I compiled this article:
Emma Hardy, Collections Manager (Care and Access), The Geffrye Museum of the Home
and the Social Media Staff at the Guildhall Art Gallery
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© 2014 by Lucy Paquette. All rights reserved.
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