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.
In 1868, Tissot began painting light-hearted, sexually suggestive pictures, which would have been shocking in a contemporary context.
He began his career as a young artist in Paris by exhibiting medieval scenes, and then scenes of sin and guilt from Goethe’s Faust, until the critics had had enough of his archaic pictures. [See James Tissot’s Medieval Paintings, 1858-67 and James Tissot’s Faust series, 1860-65.]
At the Salon in 1864, Tissot exhibited his first paintings of self-confident, modern woman, Portrait of Mlle. L.L. and The Two Sisters. Both were highly original, praised by the critics and popular with the public.
But as late as 1866, he continued to exhibit a Faust-themed painting at the Salon. That year – at age 30 — he was made hors concours, thus gaining the privilege of exhibiting anything he wished in the future, without first submitting his work to the jury.
One critic at the time observed that Tissot was dapper and personable, but thought him a little pretentious and a less-than-great artist “because he did what he wanted to do and as he wished to do it.” Tissot, having made his own way to the top of his profession, probably was a little smug in his success.
Now busy with commissions from his aristocratic patrons, he did not need to kowtow to the critics. He began a new series of period paintings with a racy edge in 1868, setting them in the years of the French Directory (1795 to 1799) as if they depicted behaviors of a bygone time – the hedonistic years after the Reign of Terror.
In these period costume pieces, Tissot captured something of the current mood in Paris – giddy with new wealth and the delights of the leisure it brought. [See Paris c. 1865: The Giddy Life of Second Empire France.]
One of these paintings is in a public gallery in India, and another at the British Embassy in Paris as part of the U.K. Government Art Collection, while the rest remain in private collections.
Tissot exhibited Un déjeuner (oil on canvas, 78.74 by 58.42 cm) at the Salon in 1868. As of 1984, it was in the collection of Victor Hervey, 6th Marquess of Bristol (1915 – 1985), who in his youth was called “Mayfair’s Number One Playboy,” then went bankrupt and became a notorious jewelry thief. Some time after being sentenced, at age 23, to three years’ hard labor, he became a patron of the arts and an authority on Lawrence Alma-Tadema and James Tissot. The Marquess owned another Tissot painting, En plein soleil (c. 1881, Metropolitan Museum, NY), which he purchased in 1976 from Stair Sainty Gallery, London, and then sold back in 1983. After the death of his ruined eldest son, John Hervey, 7th Marquess of Bristol (1954 – 1999), Un déjeuner was offered for sale at Sotheby’s, New York in 2000.
A smaller replica (oil on panel, 22 by 16.5 in./55.9 by 41.9 cm) was with Roy Miles Fine Paintings, London, then Kurt. E. Schon Ltd, New Orleans. It was sold at Christie’s, London in 2007, by a collector in Texas.
In the considerably more tense scene, The tryst (c. 1869, oil on canvas, 29 by 21 in./73.66 by 53.34 cm), a woman and man are seated on a curved stone bench within a short lattice enclosure, a pug dog at their feet, in a wooded background. The Tryst was sold at Sotheby’s, New York in 1982 for $ 36,000/£ 21,452.
In Tryst at a Riverside Café (c. 1869, oil on canvas, 16 by 21 1/8 in./40.64 by 53.66 cm), the man wears the same costume that Tissot used in Un déjeuner and The Tryst. The woman wears the same hat, and she has the pug dog on her lap. Tryst at a Riverside Café was sold at Sotheby’s, New York in 1989 for $ 450,000/£ 287,026, and it later belonged to Ronald Lewis. In 2005, the property of the late Sir Arthur Gilbert, it was sold at Christie’s, New York to benefit the Gilbert Collection at Somerset House in London.
Arthur Gilbert (1913 – 2001) was born Arthur Bernstein, to Polish Jews who moved to Golders Green, in north London, where Arthur’s father was a furrier. At 21, Arthur married Rosalinde Gilbert, a struggling designer of evening gowns; he took her surname and marketed her work. They did so well for themselves that they retired in 1949 and moved to California. There, Arthur bought and developed industrial property. In 1961, he bought a three-acre plot in Coldwater Canyon in Beverly Hills and built a neo-classical home with black marble steps and Corinthian columns. Over the next thirty years, Gilbert spent some £30 million on works of art. He kept some at his home and the rest in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. After giving the British his large collection of silver, gold and enamel objets d’art, worth an estimated £75 million, in 1996, he was knighted in 1999 [his collection originally was housed at Somerset House, but is now at the Victoria & Albert Museum]. Arthur Gilbert invested only in the finest pieces, saying, “If you buy quality you sell quality, even in a depression.” He owned another of Tissot’s Directoire paintings, described below.
Unaccepted (1869) was sold at Christie’s, London in 1984. Tissot used different models, but reuses the man’s costume and the woman’s hat, and he again features the pug dog.
A pencil study for Unaccepted (12.25 by 8.75 in./31 by 22.2 cm) was sold at Christie’s, London in 1996 for $ 6,590/£ 4,000. At that time, a study for the girl was in a private collection in Los Angeles.
La Cheminée/By the Fireside (c. 1869), almost certainly depicting an interior of James Tissot’s sumptuous villa on the avenue de l’impératrice in Paris, was in the private collection of New York-based philanthropists John and Frances L. Loeb from 1955. American stockbroker Jerome Davis purchased it from them at Christie’s, New York in 1997 for $ 1,700,000/£ 1,046,991. When the stock market crashed and Davis fell into debt, he sold La Cheminée at Christie’s, London in 2003 for $2,334,780/£ 1,400,000.
In 2008, La Cheminée was offered for sale at Sotheby’s, London, but failed to find a buyer.
In Jeune femme à l’éventail (Young Woman with a Fan, c. 1870-71), the model wears the dress from La Cheminée. This picture was with Thomas Agnew & Sons, London, by July 1872, as The Fan. It was purchased by John Foster, and it remained in the family for many years until it was sold as Girl with a Fan by Martin Foster at Christie’s, London in 1977 for $ 21,703/£ 12,500. It then was with Colnaghi’s, London and was sold again at Sotheby’s, Belgravia in 1981 as Summer Dreams, for $ 44,986/£ 20,000. It was owned by Walter F. Brown (1930 – 2014), an independent oil and gas producer and investor in Texas who founded Delray Oil, Inc. and collected art with his wife, Lenora [including Asian works, which they began donating to the San Antonio Museum of Art in the 1980s]. Thomas Agnew & Sons, London, acquired Young Woman with a Fan, and it was purchased by Sir Arthur Gilbert, who also owned Tissot’s Tryst at a Riverside Café. Young Woman with a Fan was offered for sale at Christie’s, New York in 2012, but failed to find a buyer.
Tissot painted several versions of Young Woman in a Boat (1870) from his studio in the avenue de l’Impératrice (now avenue Foch) in Paris. One, oil on panel measuring 13 by 9 in. (33.02 by 22.86 cm) was sold in 1979 at Sotheby’s, Belgravia for $ 862/£ 380. In 1985, an oil on canvas measuring 20 by 26 in. (50.80 by 66.04 cm) sold at Sotheby’s, London for $ 402,721/£ 310,000; this version was displayed at the Salon in 1870, one of Tissot’s final two oils exhibited in Paris prior to the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War the following year.
In the painting shown above, the model wears the dress from Unaccepted. One critic described the pug in this picture as “a dog with the head of a monkey…who appears without doubt to be a very rare species.”
On the River (1871), measuring 34 by 19 in. (86.36 by 48.26 cm), was in the collection of Mrs. M. Ford until it was sold at Sotheby’s, London for $ 1,175/£ 420 in 1964.
It was purchased by Jeremy Maas, a London art dealer who sold it to the U.K. Department of the Environment in July, 1973.
As part of the Government Art Collection, On the River is now at the British Embassy in Paris.
Another oil version of On the River (1876), measuring 33 by 19 in. (83.82 by 48.26 cm) sold at Sotheby’s, London in 1959 for $ 615/£ 220. As Lady on the river, this version sold at the same auction house in 1972 for $ 7,290/£ 3,100.
See other versions of Young Woman in a Boat at Girls to Float Your Boat, by James Tissot.
This celebratory scene was exhibited at the Third International Exhibition in Vienna in 1871, when its title was changed to Vive la République!
It made its way to India, where it is now in the collection of the Baroda Museum and Picture Gallery in Vadodara, Gujarat.
The pug dog is under the table.
La partie carrée (1870) was purchased for $ 4,479/£ 1,600 at Sotheby’s, London in 1964 by Williams and Son, Ltd., London, and it was in a private collection in Zurich by 1982, before becoming the property of a U.S. collector on the west coast. It was sold at Sotheby’s, New York in 1995 for $ 390,000/£ 247,461, and then at Christie’s, New York in 2001 for $ 700,000/£ 487,838.
A preparatory oil sketch (11 by 15 in./27.94 by 38.10 cm) for La Partie Carrée was sold at Christie’s, New York in 1996 for $ 28,000/£ 18,530.
The model on the left wears the dress from La Cheminée. Do you see the pug dog?
© 2015 by Lucy Paquette. All rights reserved.
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