Monthly Archives: May 2015

James Tissot Domesticated

James Tissot’s tense, moody oil paintings from the mid-1870s gave way to straightforward scenes filled with the contentment of domestic life, during the few years of Tissot’s life in which he could enjoy a household of children.

For six years, he shared his home with his much younger mistress and muse, Kathleen Irene Ashburnham Kelly Newton (1854 – 1882).  Kathleen, a divorcée, previously had been living with her married sister, Mary Pauline “Polly” Ashburnham Kelly Hervey (1851/52 – 1896), around the corner at 6, Hill Road.

[Click here to see an 1871 London map showing Grove End Road in relation to Hill Road.]

On March 21, 1876, Kathleen’s son, Cecil George Newton, was born at 6, Hill Road.  Her daughter, Muriel Violet Mary Newton, was four, and her sister, Polly Hervey, had two daughters, three-year-old Isabelle Mary (“Belle”) and one-year old Lilian Ethel (“Lily”).

According to legend, Tissot met Mrs. Newton while posting a letter.  She moved into Tissot’s large home at 17 (now 44), Grove End Road, St. John’s Wood (west of Regent’s Park) about 1876.

Study for “Mrs. Newton with a Child by a Pool” (c. 1877-78), by James Tissot. Oil on mahogany panel, 12 ¾ by 16 ¾ in. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA), Richmond, Virginia. (Photo: Wikipaintings.org)

Study for “Mrs. Newton with a Child by a Pool” (c. 1877-78) depicts Mrs. Newton by the ornamental pool in Tissot’s garden.  The oil painting that resulted from Tissot’s study, Mrs. Newton with a Child by a Pool (1878) is in a private collection.  At auction at Christie’s, London in 1995, the Lot Notes read, “In this oil sketch, possibly made from life, [Kathleen Newton] is seen in the garden of the house in Grove End Road, presumably with the son [born Cecil George Newton, 1876; died Cecil Ashburnham, 1941] she had by either Tissot or a previous lover.”

Hide and Seek (1877), by James Tissot.

Hide and Seek (1877), by James Tissot. 28 7/8 by 21 1/4 in. (73.4 by 53.9 cm). The National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. Courtesy of The Bridgeman Art Library for use in The Hammock: A novel based on the true story of French painter James Tissot, by Lucy Paquette © 2012

Hide and Seek (1877) shows Mrs. Newton relaxing with a newspaper in Tissot’s studio, which looked out on his extensive garden, while her children and nieces play.

Reading a Story (c. 1878-79), by James Tissot. (Photo: Wikiart.org)

Reading a Story, c. 1878-79, captures Kathleen Newton in a private moment with her niece, Lilian Hervey.

Uncle Fred (Frederick Kelly with his niece Lilian Hervey, 1879-80), by James Tissot. Oil on panel, 7 by 12 in./17.78 by 30.48 cm. Andrew Lloyd Webber Collection. (Photo: Wikipaintings.org)

Kathleen Kelly’s marriage to Dr. Isaac Newton, a surgeon in the Indian Civil Service, had been arranged by her older brother, Frederick Kelly.  The ceremony took place on January 3, 1871, when she was seventeen, and the marriage ended in divorce within months.  Mrs. Newton returned to England and gave birth to Violet at the end of the year.  Tissot painted Uncle Fred (Kathleen Newton’s brother, Frederick Kelly, with his niece Lilian Hervey in 1879-80, and he kept it until his death in 1902.  His own niece, Jeanne Tissot, who lived in France, kept this painting until her death in 1964, after which it was sold.  Andrew Lloyd Webber purchased the painting at Sotheby’s, New York in February, 1994.

Quiet (c. 1881), by James Tissot. Oil on panel, 13 by 9 in./33.02 by 22.86 cm. Andrew Lloyd Webber Collection. (Photo: Wikiart.org)

Quiet (c. 1881) shows Kathleen reading a story to her niece, Lilian Hervey, on another day (probably closer to 1879-80) in Tissot’s garden.  Quiet was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1881.  It was purchased by Richard Donkin, M.P. (1836 – 1919), an English ship owner who was elected Member of Parliament for the newly created constituency of Tynemouth in the 1885 general election.  The small painting remained in the family and was kept in perfect condition.  It was a major discovery of a Tissot work when it appeared on the market in November, 1993, and it was purchased by Andrew Lloyd Webber at Christie’s, London for $ 416,220/£ 280,000.

Incidentally, it was Lilian Hervey who, at age 71 in 1946, publicly identified “La Mystérieuse” – the Mystery Woman who so often appeared in Tissot’s work – as her aunt, Kathleen Newton, when a reporter published a request for information.

Kathleen Newton at the Piano (c. 1881), by James Tissot. Oil on canvas, 44 by 30 in. (111.76 by 76.20 cm). Private Collection. (Photo: Wikiart.org)

Around 1881, Tissot painted Kathleen Newton at the Piano.  Her son, Cecil, now about age five, stands at her left.  The tall girl behind him is probably his sister, Violet, now about ten, and the girl on the right is probably his cousin, Belle, now about eight.

In 1989, Kathleen Newton at the Piano was sold at Sotheby’s, New York for $ 400,000/£ 228,480.

Just seven years later, in 1996, the picture was sold at the same auction house for $ 200,000/£ 125,620.

En plein soleil (In the Sunshine, c. 1881), by James Tissot. Oil on wood, 9 3/4 by 13 7/8 in. (24.8 x 35.2 cm). Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. (Photo: Wikimedia.org)

En plein soleil (c. 1881), shows Kathleen Newton (in the left hand corner) in the garden of Tissot’s home in St. John’s Wood.  The woman seated on the brick wall is either Kathleen’s sister, Polly, or Kathleen’s doppelgänger, in a composite picture.  Cecil, shown in his brown suit, would have been about five.  Polly had a son, Arthur Reginald (“Bob”) Hervey, in March, 1878, who may be the child under the parasol.  The girl in pink is possibly Kathleen’s niece, Lilian Hervey, around age six.

A Children’s Party (c. 1881-82), by James Tissot. 32.4 by 24.1 cm. Private Collection. (Photo: Wikipaintings.org)

A Children’s Party (c. 1881-82), shows a family celebration in Tissot’s garden.  The woman in the foreground, serving tea, is probably Polly Hervey, with Cecil George seated near her.  Kathleen is in the background, on the left.

Le Petit Nemrod (A Little Nimrod), c. 1882, by James Tissot. Oil on canvas, 34 ½ by 55 3/5 in. (110.5 by 141.3 cm). Musée des Beaux-Arts et d’archéologie, Besançon, France. (Photo: Wikipaintings.org)

Le Petit Nemrod (A Little Nimrod, c. 1882) depicts cousins, the children of Mrs. Newton and her sister Polly Hervey, playing together in a London park.  (Nimrod, according to the Book of Genesis, was a great-grandson of Noah, and he is depicted in the Hebrew Bible as a mighty hunter.)

Le banc de jardin/The Garden Bench (1882), by James Tissot. Oil on canvas, 99.1 by 142.2 cm. Andrew Lloyd Webber Collection. (Photo: Wikiart.org)

Le banc de jardin/The Garden Bench (c. 1882) was a favorite image of Tissot’s; he kept it all his life.  Pictured are Kathleen Newton, her daughter Violet, her son Cecil George, and a second girl who could be her niece Lilian Hervey or her niece Belle (behind the bench).

American millionaire Frederick Koch (b. 1933) began collecting Victorian paintings in the 1980s.  Tissot’s Le banc de jardin (The Garden Bench) set an auction price record in 1983, when Fred Koch paid $ 803,660/£ 520,000 for it at Christie’s, London.  In October, 1994, Le Banc de jardin set another record for a Victorian picture – as well as a record to date for a Tissot painting – when Lloyd Webber purchased it from Fred Koch for $ 4,800,000/£ 3,035,093 at Sotheby’s, New York.

When Kathleen Newton died of tuberculosis on November 9, 1882, the happy family life Tissot had depicted for six years ended immediately.  Tissot remained in London only long enough to attend Kathleen’s funeral.  He then moved to Paris and lived in France for the final twenty years of his life.

According to Tissot scholars David S. Brooke (b. 1931), Michael Wentworth (1938 – 2002), and Willard E. Misfeldt (b. 1930), Kathleen’s daughter, Violet, and her son, Cecil George, spent the next two years with their aunt, Polly Hervey, at 6, Hill Road.  Violet, after being educated in a convent in Belgium, became a governess in Golders Green, a London suburb.

Cecil George became an army captain.  Before he turned twenty, he contacted the man named as his father on his birth certificate – Dr. Isaac Newton.  Though Cecil was rejected, he later made a claim on Dr. Newton’s estate that proved futile.  Violet also made a claim on Dr. Newton’s estate.  She won on a legal technicality and was granted a settlement of £ 10,000.

James Tissot, who died in 1902, left Violet and Cecil each 1,000 francs in his Will.  A servant located their addresses, which indicates that Tissot had not been in touch with them in his final years.

Cecil married in 1904, at age twenty-eight, an actress named Florence Tyrrell.  He was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the Royal Artillery during the Great War and was discharged as an invalided officer in 1916.  He and Florence divorced in 1924.  My research indicates that Florence Tyrrell had a steady career performing in comedies on the London stage for over twenty-five years.

Violet, at the age of fifty-four in 1925, married William Henry Bishop in London and died of a heart attack in Spain at age sixty-two.

That same year – 1933 – at the first retrospective exhibition of James Tissot’s work at the Leicester Gallery, London, Cecil made a bit of a scene by standing before the paintings of Tissot’s mysterious muse and announcing, “That was my mother!” before making a quick exit.  Cecil died as Cecil Ashburnham in 1941, at age sixty-five in Lancing (a town on the English Channel, near Brighton).  Cecil left no Will, but his estate, valued for probate at £108.12s.6d, was administered by George Ashburnham Newton, of Llandudno, a seaside town in Wales. 

Related posts:  

James Tissot’s house at St. John’s Wood, London

James Tissot’s garden idyll & Kathleen Newton’s death

Was Cecil Newton James Tissot’s son?

A visit to James Tissot’s house & Kathleen Newton’s grave

Tissot’s Romances

James Tissot in the Andrew Lloyd Webber Collection

 

© Copyright Lucy Paquette 2015.  All rights reserved.

CH377762The Hammock:  A novel based on the true story of French painter James Tissot, brings Tissot’s world from 1870 to 1879 alive in a story of war, art, Society glamour, love, scandal, and tragedy.

Illustrated with 17 stunning, high-resolution fine art images in full color

Courtesy of The Bridgeman Art Library  

(295 pages; ISBN (ePub):  978-0-615-68267-9).

See http://www.amazon.com/dp/B009P5RYVE.

NOTE:  If you do not have a Kindle e-reader, you may download free Kindle reading apps for PCs, Smartphones, tablets, and the Kindle Cloud Reader to read The Hammock:  A novel based on the true story of French painter James Tissot.  Read reviews.

 

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James Tissot’s Weather Forecast

 

Promenade dans la NeigeThough James Tissot has a reputation for painting languorous ladies, his paintings from the 1870s often depict scenes of psychological tension, and he frequently used weather as a device to heighten the mood.

While Tissot relied on studio models and photographs, and did not experiment with painting en plein air until after the middle of this decade, his skillfully rendered atmospheric conditions accentuate, or add ambiguity, to his subject matter in a manner wholly his own.

He first communicated mood using weather in Promenade dans la neige (A Walk in the Snow, 1858), exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1859, when he made his debut in his early twenties.

This picture of a medieval couple taking a walk on a snow-covered hill overlooking a distant castle evokes the tense mood of the man and the woman, who have just quarreled.

Still on Top (c. 1874), by James Tissot. Oil on canvas, 88 by 54 cm. Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, New Zealand. (Photo: Wikiart.org)

Still on Top (c. 1874) depicts two women and an elderly male servant wearing a red liberty cap, a revolutionary symbol in France.  Tissot painted this scene only three years after he had fled Paris – under some suspicion – during the French government’s suppression of the radical Paris Commune.  It’s really rather daring for an apparent French political refugee of the time, remaking his career in England:  as the three figures raise the flags, which flag is on top?  Tissot uses the brisk wind to create a thrilling sense of anticipation.

On the Thames (1876), by James Tissot.  Oil on canvas; 28.5 by 46.5 in. (72.5 by 118 cm). Hepworth Wakefield Art Gallery, Wakefield, UK. Courtesy of The Bridgeman Art Library for use in “The Hammock: A novel based on the true story of French painter James Tissot” by Lucy Paquette, © 2012.

On the Thames (1876), by James Tissot. Oil on canvas; 28.5 by 46.5 in. (72.5 by 118 cm). Hepworth Wakefield Art Gallery, Wakefield, UK. Courtesy of The Bridgeman Art Library for use in “The Hammock: A novel based on the true story of French painter James Tissot” by Lucy Paquette, © 2012.

In On the Thames, smoke and fog envelop a vessel in a picture construed by Victorian critics to show a British Naval ensign’s shocking excursion with two ladies of ill repute.  Whether or not Tissot intended to portray a shady situation, he cleared the air for his critics when he painted a corrective the following year:  in Portsmouth Dockyard (c.1877), the respectable Highland sergeant (sans champagne bottles) is out on a bright day with noticeably improved air quality.

Portsmouth Dockyard (c. 1877), by James Tissot. Oil on canvas, 38.1 by 54.6 cm. Tate Britain, London. (Photo: Wikimedia.org)

A Passing Storm (c. 1876), by James Tissot. (30.3 by 39.3 in./76.84 by 99.7 cm). Beaverbrook Art Gallery, New Brunswick, Canada. (Photo: WIkimedia.org)

A Passing Storm (c. 1876) is a great example of Tissot’s manner of permeating scenes with psychological tension.  The man and woman have just quarreled, and they each are taking time to cool off; their anger will pass like the storm clouds overhead.

October (1877), by James Tissot. 85 by 42.8 in. (216 by 108.7 cm). Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal, Canada. (Photo: Wikimedia.org)

But Tissot’s work certainly offers more than unrelenting snow, wind, smog and stormy skies.  In October (1877), he shows Kathleen Newton, his twenty-three year old mistress and muse, glowing in the autumnal sun, apparently the picture of health though she would pass away from tuberculosis in five years.

The Letter (c. 1878), by James Tissot. 27 by 40 in. (68.58 by 101.60 cm). National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario. (Photo: Wikimedia.org)

Tissot’s women of this period can be more psychologically complex than females painted by other artists of the era.  While many French and Victorian artists of the time produced sentimental scenes of pretty women reading love letters, Tissot’s The Letter (c. 1878) shows a woman angrily shredding a missive and casting it to the winds.  By her choice, the relationship is at an end, blowing away with the autumnal leaves.

The Warrior’s Daughter (A Convalescent), c. 1878, by James Tissot. Oil on panel; 14 ¼ by 8 11/16 in. (36.2 by 21.8 cm). Manchester Art Gallery, U.K. (Photo: Wikiart.org).

It is a chilly day in The Warrior’s Daughter (A Convalescent, c. 1878).  A pretty woman is bundled up and walks, impassive, ahead of her elderly, invalid father as he is pushed in his elaborate wheeled chair.  Many Victorian painters would have depicted her as a loving presence, solicitous of his comfort.  But Tissot has made the coldness palpable:  the two seem distant from each other, and she has caught the eye of an implied passer-by – a man whom her father does not notice.

This small picture relies, as so many of Tissot’s paintings of this period do, on the beauty of model Kathleen Newton.  Ironically, it was in the last years of her life, and after her death, that Tissot painted some of his sunniest scenes.

En plein soleil (In the Sunshine, c. 1881), by James Tissot. Oil on wood, 9 3/4 by 13 7/8 in. (24.8 by 35.2 cm). Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. (Wikiart.org)

In the Sunshine (c. 1881) celebrates the domestic bliss Tissot enjoyed in his years living in London with Mrs. Newton and her children.

The Artists’ Ladies (1885), by James Tissot. Oil on canvas, 57 1/2 by 40 in. (146.1 by 101.6 cm.) The Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, Virginia. (Photo: Wikipaintings.org)

Immediately after Kathleen Newton’s death in 1882, Tissot returned to Paris, where he exerted himself to re-establish his reputation with a series of fifteen large-scale pictures called La Femme à Paris (The Parisian Woman).  Painted between 1883 and 1885, they portrayed the fashionable parisienne in various incarnations using brighter, more modern colors than he had used in his previous work.

The Artists’ Wives (also called The Artist’s Ladies, 1885) 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.

In this scene, the bright, sunny day underscores professional success and camaraderie – as well as a considerable amount of resilience on Tissot’s part.

But the sun had set on James Tissot’s career as a painter of modern life and its emotional climes:  La Femme à Paris was not a success, and he turned to pastel portraits of Society women, and the Bible illustrations for which he would become famous in his later years.

Related posts:

Girls to Float Your Boat, by James Tissot

James Tissot’s garden idyll & Kathleen Newton’s death

©  2015 by Lucy Paquette.  All rights reserved.

CH377762If you do not have a Kindle e-reader, you may download free Kindle reading apps for PCs, Smartphones, tablets, and the Kindle Cloud Reader to read The Hammock:  A novel based on the true story of French painter James Tissot.  Read reviews.

The Hammock:  A novel based on the true story of French painter James Tissot, brings Tissot’s world from 1870 to 1879 alive in a story of war, art, Society glamour, love, scandal, and tragedy.

Illustrated with 17 stunning, high-resolution fine art images in full color

Courtesy of The Bridgeman Art Library  

(295 pages; ISBN (ePub):  978-0-615-68267-9).    See http://www.amazon.com/dp/B009P5RYVE.