The Artists’ Wives (1885, also called The Artists’ Ladies) depicts a gathering of artists and their wives on Varnishing Day, the evening before the official opening of the Salon, the annual art exhibition in Paris at the Palais de l’Industrie. The artists could put a final coat of protective varnish on their work, and they and their wives and friends could view the exhibition privately, when “the great effort of the year is over, and when our pictures are safely hung, and are inviting the critics to do their worst and the buyers to do their best!” Tissot depicts the celebratory luncheon on the terrace of the restaurant Le Doyen, with the entrance to the Palais de l’Industrie in the background.
Celebrities present include the sculptor Auguste Rodin (1840 – 1917), the man with the brown beard and spectacles standing in the center of the picture. The bearded man in the top hat, prominently sitting with two women in the lower left of the picture, is painter John Lewis Brown (1829 – 1890), described by James McNeill Whistler as “a dear good fellow.”
Tissot displayed The Artists’ Wives at the Galerie Sedelmeyer in Paris in 1885, in a set of fifteen paintings called La Femme à Paris (The Parisian Woman). The series was also exhibited in London, at the Tooth Gallery, in 1886.
In 1889, The Artists’ Wives was sold at Christie’s, London. It belonged to a Mr. Day, then to Philadelphia art dealer and critic Charles Field Haseltine.
By 1894, it was with the Art Association of the Union League of Philadelphia, and by 1981, it was with M. Knoedler and Co. in New York.
The Artists’ Wives was a gift of Walter P. Chrysler, Jr., and The Grandy Fund, Landmark Communications Fund, and “An Affair to Remember” to the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, Virginia, in 1981.
There is a lot going on in this painting, so here are some close-up photos I took.
© 2014 by Lucy Paquette. All rights reserved.
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