James Tissot exhibited Too Early at the Royal Academy in 1873, where it was his first big success after moving to London from Paris two years previously.
Victorian art expert Christopher Wood (1941 – 2009) believed this painting was inspired by an illustration, The First to Come by Frederick Barnard, published in the Illustrated London News in 1872. He wrote that it depicted “a nervous young man launched into a drawing room by a superior butler…it was part of Tissot’s genius to see [in such scenes] a potential subject.” Wood commented that Too Early “has deservedly remained one of the most acclaimed of all Tissot’s pictures.”
According to Tissot’s 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 London art dealer William Agnew (1825 – 1910) – who specialized in “high-class modern paintings” – and sold in March, 1873 (before its exhibition at the Royal Academy that year) to Charles Gassiot for £1,155. Gassiot (1826 – 1902) was a London wine merchant and art patron who, with his wife Georgiana, donated a number of his paintings to the Guildhall Art Gallery, London from 1895 to 1902. Gassiot bequeathed Too Early to the Guildhall Art Gallery, where it is on view for visitors.
On my recent trip to London, I took these photos for you to enjoy!
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Courtesy of The Bridgeman Art Library
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