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.
Over sixty oil paintings by James Tissot have been sold at auction since 2000.
The record price for a Tissot oil (as well as a Victorian picture) was set in October, 1994, when British musical theater composer Andrew Lloyd Webber (b. 1948) purchased The Garden Bench (Le banc de jardin, c. 1882) from American millionaire Frederick Koch (b. 1933) for $ 4,800,000/£ 3,035,093 at Sotheby’s, New York. This was a favorite image of Tissot’s, depicting his happy half-dozen years with his young mistress and muse, Kathleen Newton (1854–1882), and her children in the garden of his villa at 17 (now 44) Grove End Road, London; Tissot kept this painting all his life. Kathleen Newton died of tuberculosis on November 9, 1882. [See James Tissot’s garden idyll & Kathleen Newton’s death.]
Since 2000, the highest price paid for a Tissot oil was $ 2,763,150/£ 1,500,000 for Preparing for the Gala (c. 1874-76, oil on canvas, 34 by 16 1/2 in./86.4 by 41.9 cm), which was sold at Christie’s, London in 2006. It is possibly the first of Tissot’s works painted in the extensive garden of his new home in Grove End Road in St. John’s Wood. It belonged to Lord Ghanely, and was with Leonard P. Lee by 1955, when it was exhibited in public (in Sheffield, England) for the first and only time. It then was with M. Newman Ltd., London before it was sold at Sotheby’s, New York, in 1996, for $1,650,000/£ 1,090,188.
Coincidentally, when Preparing for the Gala was sold in 2006, Tissot’s house was on the market for the first time in over fifty years (but the house and this painting were purchased by different buyers).
Still on Top (c. 1874), in the collection of the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki in New Zealand, is a slightly enlarged close-up of Preparing for the Gala. It depicts two women and an elderly male servant wearing a red liberty cap, a revolutionary symbol in France, and was painted only three years after Tissot had fled Paris – under some suspicion – during the French government’s suppression of the radical Paris Commune. The image is rather daring for an apparent French political refugee of the time, remaking his career in England.
Young Ladies Looking at Japanese Objects (c. 1869, oil on canvas, 24 by 19 in./60.96 by 48.26 cm) was sold in 2002 at Sotheby’s, New York for $ 270,000/£ 186,464. Tissot painted three versions of this subject in the same year, and one was gifted to the Cincinnati Art Museum, Ohio, in 1984, the year it was sold at Sotheby’s, New York for $ 75,000/£ 62,945. The other, which was exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1869, was in a private collection in Europe as of about 1900 and descended in the owner’s family until it was sold at Sotheby’s, New York, in 1999 for $ 2,100,000/£ 1,285,425. This version, known as Young Ladies Admiring Japanese Objects, has been on loan to the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, California, since about 2012.
On February 19 and 20, 2003, The Forbes Collection of Victorian Pictures and Works of Art was sold at Christie’s, London. It was the first major sale of a collection of Victorian Art since the sale of the Koch collection in 1993. The collection, a comprehensive overview of Victorian art, included 361 works by Holman Hunt, Millais and Rossetti, as well as G.F. Watts, Albert Moore and James Tissot, some of which belonged to Queen Victoria. In 2001, the Forbes family had decided to auction off the bulk of its renowned collection of Victorian paintings, fourth largest in the world after the collections owned by the Tate, the Victoria and Albert, and Andrew Lloyd Webber. Christopher (Kip) Forbes who, with the support of his father, Malcolm S. Forbes (1919–1990), had assembled the collection over a period of thirty years, said, “If I could have the money and not have to sell the paintings, I wouldn’t sell them.” But, he later added, “other than me, nobody else [in my family] was all that interested, and the market has been … pretty good for Victorian painting right now.” Tissot’s “Good bye” – On the Mersey (c. 1881), which Malcolm Forbes bought at Christie’s, London in 1970, was sold at the 2003 sale for $ 1,196,700/£ 750,000. [Incidentally, Andrew Lloyd Webber acquired the other known version of “Goodbye” – On the Mersey in 1997; this oil on panel version is smaller, measuring 34.2 by 22.8 cm.]
Tissot’s Spring (c. 1878), which depicts Kathleen Newton, was sold at Christie’s, London in 2003 for $ 1,572,556/£ 920,000, and became part of the largest private art collection in the world, owned by Juan Antonio Pérez Simón (b. 1941). Pérez Simón, a Spanish telecommunications billionaire and naturalized Mexican citizen, owns over 3,000 paintings representing artists from fourteenth-century Italy and the German Renaissance to El Greco, Rubens, Canaletto, Goya, Pissarro, Monet, Renoir, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cézanne, and Dalí. He plans to leave them to a museum to be built in Mexico City, but many of the paintings normally hang in his six homes.
Pérez Simón loans individual pieces to museums around the world but had not shown works from his collection together until the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid presented fifty-seven of his paintings, which traveled outside of Mexico for the first time, in From Cranach to Monet: Masterpieces from the Pérez Simón Collection, June 20 to September 10, 2006. Two rooms were dedicated to Victorian artists, whose work is not well represented in Spain, including Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s Venus Verticordia and Tissot’s Spring.
Edmond J. Safra (1932–1999), a Lebanese-born banker, founded the Republic National Bank of New York, the Republic New York Corporation and the Edmond J. Safra Philanthropic Foundation. In 1976, he married the former Lily Watkins (born 1934). She was the daughter of a British railway engineer and a Russian mother, and she grew up in Brazil, where her father made a fortune manufacturing railway carriages.
In 2005, Sotheby’s, New York offered works from the Collections of Lily and Edmond J. Safra, one of the greatest private collections assembled in the 20th century. The sale included more than 800 items from the Safra residences in London, Geneva, Paris and New York: French, Continental and English furniture, clocks, porcelain, paintings, carpets, Fabergé and Russian works of art. Tissot’s Study for “Le sphinx” (Woman in an Interior), sold for $ 650,000/£ 364,023. Tissot’s oil, Le sphinx, unlocated, was one of the fifteen large paintings in Tissot’s Femme à Paris series, 1883-85, and the Safras had acquired it from collectors Joey and Toby Tanenbaum, Toronto, at Sotheby’s, New York in 1993.
In 2011, Sotheby’s, New York offered more property from the Safra collections, including Tissot’s Sur la Tamise (Return From Henley), expected to bring $1.5 million to $2.5 million. The painting brought $ 370,000/£ 293,860 at Sotheby’s New York in 1985, when The Newark Museum, Newark, New Jersey sold it to benefit the acquisition fund, but it did not find a buyer at the 2011 sale. Neither did Tissot’s pastel portrait of the Princesse de Broglie, estimated at $500,000 to $700,000, which the Safras bought from Joey and Toby Tanenbaum at Sotheby’s, New York in 1989.
The Japanese Scroll (c. 1874), provides a glimpse of an interior from Tissot’s home in London, either 73 Springfield Road (now demolished), where he lived for a year from March 1872 to 1873, or the house he lived in from early 1873 to late 1882, in nearby Grove End Road. The Japanese Scroll belonged to Isaac Smith, J.P., Bradford, England and was sold as A Question of Colour by his executors at Christie’s, London, in 1911, to Gaunt. The painting later was with The Leicester Galleries, Ernest, Brown and Phillips, Ltd., London. In 1985, it was sold at Sotheby’s, London for $ 285,802/£ 220,000, and it then was with Paul Rosenberg, New York. In 2009, it was sold at Christie’s, New York for $722,500 /£ 446,787 (Premium).
Hélène Violette de Talleyrand-Périgord (1915–2003), Duchesse de Sagan, owned Tissot’s small picture, Femme en pied, vue de dos, which was sold at Sotheby’s, Paris in 2010 for € 17,500 EUR (Premium) [$ 23,835/£ 15,638]. Violette, whose mother was American heiress and socialite Anna Gould (1875 – 1961), the daughter of financier Jay Gould, married collector Gaston Palewski (1901–1984), the Chief of State under General de Gaulle from 1942 to 1946. (Palewski, by the way, was a notorious womanizer who had a long-term affair with British novelist Nancy Mitford.) The Tissot picture, formerly owned by pasta manufacturer and collector of French art Camille Groult (1837–1908,) was part of Palewski’s eclectic collection of art and furniture from his apartment in the rue Bonaparte in Paris.
The Morning Ride (c. 1880) was with London art dealer Thomas McLean around 1898, when it was included in the 34th Exhibition. It then belonged to Hugo Hanak, a Czechoslovakian collector, and was sold at Parke Bernet, New York in 1944, to Jacques Helft [antiques dealer Jacques Helft (1891–1980), brother-in-law of art dealer Paul Rosenberg (1881–1959)]. By 1955–56, it was with the Weitzner Gallery, New York, and it was acquired by Mrs. Monique Uzielli (née de Gunzberg, 1913–2011), a Swiss aristocrat and art collector who resided in New York, around 1960. She lent it to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for Impressionist Epoch, December 12, 1974 to February 10, 1975 as well as to summer exhibitions from 1975–1993. It was sold from Mrs. Uzielli’s estate at Sotheby’s, New York in 2012 for $1,874,500/£ 1,160,681 (Premium).
Two notable sales occurred in 2013, and you can read about them in detail by clicking these links:
Tissot’s elegant painting of a woman in a rowboat, Waiting (c. 1873, also known as In the Shallows), was sold by the London dealer William Agnew to the German Jewish banker Emile Levita on January 23, 1874 for £800. But by February 17, Levita had changed his mind. [Interesting side note: Emile Levita, who came to Britain in the 1850s and obtained British citizenship in 1871, was the great-great grandfather of British Prime Minister David Cameron.] Tissot exhibited Waiting at the Royal Academy that year, along with The Ball on Shipboard (c.1874, Tate Britain) and London Visitors (c.1874, Toledo Museum of Art), and the returned picture immediately was bought by Manchester silk manufacturer James Houldsworth for 700 guineas. Waiting was offered for sale at Christie’s June 17, 2014 sale of Victorian, Pre-Raphaelite & British Impressionist Art in London. Estimated at $849,500 – $1,359,200/£500,000 – £800,000, it actually sold for $1,635,288/£962,500 (Premium).
In October, 2014, Tissot’s The Rivals (I rivali, 1878–79) was sold at Casa d’Aste Pandolfini, Florence, Italy. Set in Tissot’s conservatory, it depicts Kathleen Newton cast as a young widow, crocheting while taking tea with two suitors, one middle-aged and one old. Tissot exhibited it with a number of other works at London’s Grosvenor Gallery in 1879, and that same year, it was shown at the Royal Manchester Institution’s Exhibition of Modern Paintings and Sculpture, priced at £400. It was purchased by John Polson, of Tranent and Thornly [who also owned Tissot’s A Portrait (1876, Tate, London)], and sold by his executors at Christie’s, London in 1911. It then belonged to Sir Edward James Harland (1831–1895), head of the Belfast shipbuilding firm of Harland and Wolff and sometime M.P. for North Belfast, of Glenfarne Hall, near Enniskillen, Ireland and Baroda House in Kensington Palace Gardens, London, where it was sold by his executors at Christie’s upon his widow’s death in 1912. Since 1913, The Rivals has been in private collections in Milan, beginning with the Ingegnoli Collection. It was sold by Paul Ingegnoli’s executors at Galleria Pesaro in 1933 and purchased by a Milanese private collector. It was displayed in public again only in Milan, at the Palazzo della Permanente, La Mostra Nazionale di Pittura, “L’Arte e il Convito,” in 1957. At the 2014 sale, The Rivals was purchased for € 954,600 EUR (Premium) [$ 1,215,969/£ 753,715].
Update: 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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