To cite this article: Paquette, Lucy. “James Tissot in the era of Abstract Expressionism.” The Hammock. https://thehammocknovel.wordpress.com/2014/07/15/james-tissot-in-the-era-of-abstract-expressionism/. <Date viewed.>
All auction 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.
Spending had ceased during World War II. But as they had even during the wartime years of recession, art museums continued to acquire James Tissot’s oil paintings.
In 1950, American-born international mining magnate Sir Alfred Chester Beatty (1875 – 1968) presented Marguerite in Church (1861), along with ninety-three other paintings, to the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin.
Museums in the continental United States acquired four more Tissot oils in the 1950s, for a grand total of eight.
In 1951, James Tissot’s London Visitors was acquired by the Toledo Museum of Art in Ohio. It was purchased with funds from the Libbey Endowment, the gift of Edward Drummond Libbey (1854 – 1925). Libbey founded the Libbey Glass Company in Toledo in 1888 and the Toledo Museum of Art in 1901.
In 1952, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), founded in Manhattan in 1929, held its ground-breaking exhibition, “Fifteen Americans,” including the work of Mark Rothko (1903 – 1970) and Jackson Pollock (1912 – 1956). The show was followed in 1956 with “Twelve Americans” and in 1959 with “Sixteen Americans,” which introduced Jasper Johns (b. 1930) and Frank Stella (b. 1936) . But the most influential of MoMA’s exhibitions was “The New American Painting,” which toured Basel, Milan, Madrid, Berlin, Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris, and London from March 1958 to April 1959, establishing the importance of contemporary American art for an international audience. A London newspaper headline read, “The New American Painting Captures Europe.” Once home, the exhibition was shown at MoMA.
Willem de Kooning (1904 – 1997), introduced to Europe in “The New American Painting,” began to explore the subject of women exclusively by 1950.
He completed Woman III (private collection) in 1953.
When de Kooning’s work was shown in New York that year, it caused a sensation, in part because his images were figurative rather than abstract.
In 1954, the Rhode Island School of Design Museum in Providence purchased The Dance of Death (1860), one of Tissot’s earliest paintings. It was exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1861 as Voie des fleurs, voie des pleurs (Path of Flowers, Way of Tears) and is about as abstract as Tissot gets.
Despite the mark being made by Abstract Expressionism and the fact that figurative art was passé, the Graves Art Gallery in Sheffield, England, held “James Tissot (1836-1902): An Exhibition of Paintings, Drawings and Etchings,” from May 28 to June 26, 1955.
Immediately after, from July 16 to November 12, 1955, “Paintings, Drawings and Etchings by James Tissot, 1836-1902, Selected from an Exhibition Arranged by the Graves Art Gallery, Sheffield,” toured various U.K. venues: the Bolton Art Gallery; Bristol City Art Gallery; Birmingham City Art Gallery; and Cartwright Memorial Hall in Bradford, West Yorkshire.
Other Tissot oil paintings were desirable enough to private collectors to change hands during this time. Waiting for the ferry outside the Falcon Inn (1874) sold at Christie’s, London in 1954 for $ 4,339/£ 1,550. The Cab Road, Victoria Station (also known as Departure Platform, Victoria Station, 1895), was sold at Sotheby’s, London, in early 1954, and then to J. Spencer in 1955.
In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Wall Street magnate John Langeloth Loeb (1902-1996) and his wife, Frances “Peter” Lehman Loeb (1907-1996), former New York City Commissioner to the United Nations, began to form what would become, over the next four decades, one of the greatest private collections of art in the United States. The Loebs bought paintings from well-known New York dealers, especially Knoedler and Company, and at auctions in New York and abroad. They displayed them in their Park Avenue apartment, which they opened to curators as well as art historians and their students.
The Loebs acquired James Tissot’s La cheminée (The Fireplace, c. 1869) from Knoedler and Company on January 31, 1955 and Dans la serre (In the Conservatory, 1867-69) from The Fine Arts Society, London on October 7, 1957. Both paintings almost certainly depict the interior of Tissot’s sumptuous villa on the avenue de l’impératrice (now avenue Foch) in Paris, which he moved into in early 1868.
When the Loeb Collection of twenty-nine French Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings, drawings and sculptures by twenty-one artists including Manet, Monet, Renoir, Cézanne, Toulouse-Lautrec, Matisse, Gauguin, van Gogh and Picasso was sold at Christie’s, New York in 1997, it brought $92.7 million. Dans la Serre (In the Conservatory, 1867-69) brought $ 440,000/£ 270,986 and La Cheminée (The Fireplace, c. 1869) was sold for $ 1,700,000/£ 1,046,991.
In London, the Leicester Galleries, which had held two exhibitions of James Tissot’s work in the 1930s, held Exhibition of Works by James Tissot in 1957. Tissot’s oil paintings continued to sell at auction for bargain prices. In 1957, Hide and Seek (c. 1877) [in the collection of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. since 1978] sold at Christie’s, London for $ 2,379/£ 850.
In 1958, Tissot’s October (1878) [a scaled-down replica of Tissot’s Octobre (1877) at the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Montréal, gift of Lord Strathcona and family, 1927] sold at Christie’s, London for $ 419/£ 150. In 1995, it set a record for the second-highest price paid for an oil painting by Tissot when it was sold by Sotheby’s, New York for $ 2,800,000/£ 1,775,185. [In 1994, Tissot’s The Garden Bench (1882) had sold at Sotheby’s, New York for $ 4,800,000/£ 3,035,093.]
Between 1883 and 1885, Tissot painted a series of fifteen large-scale pictures called La Femme à Paris (The Parisian Woman). They portrayed the fashionable parisienne in various incarnations using brighter, modern colors than he had in his previous work.
The Circus Lover (1885) was sold by Gerald M. Fitzgerald at Christie’s, London in mid-1957 to the Marlborough Fine Art Gallery for $ 3,219/£ 1,150. In early 1958, The Circus Lover was purchased from the Marlborough Fine Art by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts for $ 5,000 as Amateur Circus. By comparison, Edgar Degas’ Three dancers at a dancing class, (c.1888-90) sold for $ 61,599/£ 22,000 at Sotheby’s, London in 1959, when it was acquired by the Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, Australia.
The Women of the Chariots, also called The Circus, was exhibited in Paris in 1885 and in London in 1886 as Ces dames des chars (The Ladies of the Cars). It is the second in the La Femme à Paris series, painted sometime before mid-1884. The Women of the Chariots was sold by Julius H. Weitzner (1896 – 1986), a leading dealer in Old Master paintings in New York and London, to Walter Lowry, who gifted it to the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) Museum in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1958. Now hanging in the RISD museum director’s office, The Women of the Chariots will be the centerpiece of “Circus,” an exhibition to be held from August 1, 2014 through February 22, 2015.
In a decade of art defined by American Abstract Expressionism, private collectors continued to seek Tissot’s oil paintings. In 1959, an oil version of On the River (1876), measuring 33 by 19 in. (83.82 by 48.26 cm) sold at Sotheby’s, London for $ 615/£ 220. Another of Tissot’s medieval-style pictures, Marguerite at the well, (1861, oil on canvas, 50 by 40 in. (127.00 by 101.60 cm) sold at Sotheby’s, London that year for $ 1,819/£ 650. Such bargains were available throughout the next decade and beyond.
© 2014 by Lucy Paquette. All rights reserved.
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