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.
Both James Tissot and Edgar Degas produced paintings based on visits to the Louvre in 1879. They had met in 1859, and they remained friends for at least thirty-six years.
Degas produced a series of drawings, pastels, paintings and prints portraying the American painter Mary Cassatt at the Louvre. Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Cassatt studied art in America and Europe before moving to Paris, where she began exhibiting at the Salon. The two artists met in 1877, when she was 33 and Degas was 43. Degas invited Cassatt to join the third exhibition of independent painters who were adopting the name “Impressionists”; she waited until their next exhibition, in 1879.
They were not known to be romantically involved, but they were particularly close around 1879-80. They socialized together, worked together, and collected each other’s art. Despite a rift in 1895, their friendship lasted until Degas’ death in 1917. They destroyed each other’s letters. In later life, Degas told a mutual friend, “I could have married her, but I could never have made love to her.” When she was an old lady, a relative dared to ask her if she had had an affair with Degas, and she replied, “What, with that common little man; what a repulsive idea!” But when he died, she told a friend that Degas was “the last great artist of the nineteenth century. I see no one to replace him.”
Degas’ Mary Cassatt at the Louvre (Miss Cassatt au musée du Louvre, c. 1879) was sold at Sotheby’s, New York in 2002 for $ 15,000,000/£ 10,319,207.
The highest price paid to date for a work by James Tissot was $ 4,800,000/£ 3,035,093 for Le banc de jardin/The Garden Bench (c. 1882, oil on canvas, 99.1 by 142.2 cm); award-winning musical theater composer Andrew Lloyd Webber (b. 1948) purchased it from American millionaire Frederick Koch (b. 1933) at Sotheby’s, New York in 1994.
But in 1879, at 43, James Tissot was much more famous and successful than his friend Edgar Degas. Tissot had left Paris for London after the Franco-Prussian War and its bloody aftermath, the Commune, in 1871. Degas urged him to exhibit with the independents in 1874, but to no avail. Tissot’s visit to the Louvre with Kathleen Newton, his 25-year-old divorced mistress and muse, resulted in numerous studies and completed paintings on paper, cardboard, wood, and canvas.
At the Louvre (c. 1879-80), shows a figure modeled by Kathleen Newton glancing at an implied visitor – perhaps another man – while the men around her are absorbed in their guide books. This watercolor was exhibited at the Société d’Aquarellistes Français in 1883, and Tissot kept it his entire life.
After the death of his niece, it was sold from his chateau in Besançon, France in 1961-62. It was in a private collection in France before being purchased by the Martyn Gregory Gallery in London. By 1984, it belonged to Andrew Brown, and it later was purchased by the Richard Green Gallery, London. In 2003, it was sold at Sotheby’s, London to a private collector for $ 51,420/£ 30,000.
Another version of At the Louvre, showing a young woman (modeled by Kathleen Newton) and two gentlemen bending to observe a wide basin, was sold at Sotheby’s, New York in 1979 for $ 23,000/£ 11,141.
Foreign Visitors at the Louvre (c. 1880, oil on canvas, 29 by 19.5 in.) was donated to the Santa Barbara Museum of Art in California by the estate of Barbara Darlington Dupee in 2013. It shows a glowing Kathleen Newton looking at an implied visitor – again, perhaps another man?
Tissot made a small grisaille oil study, c. 1880, of the figure of Mrs. Newton for this painting. Known as A Study for Visiteurs étrangers au Louvre (oil on panel, 12 by 9.45 in./30.5 by 24 cm), it was with the Wildenstein Galleries before being purchased from Christie’s, New York in 1977 for a private collection in Melbourne, Australia.
A final, complete study for Foreign Visitors at the Louvre (Visiteurs étrangers au Louvre, c. 1880, oil on panel, 14 1/4 by 10 3/8 in./36.3 by 26.4 cm) was sold at Sotheby’s, London in 1973 for $ 19,101/£ 7,500. It belonged to H. Stewart Black, England before being purchased by the Richard Green Gallery, London, and then the Herman Shickman Gallery, New York, where it was sold to a private collector about 1975 and remained in the family. In 2004, it was sold at Sotheby’s, New York for $ 270,000/£ 152,749.
Tissot made several studies from this visit to the Louvre, showing interiors with no figures.
View of the Landing of the North Staircase of the Colonnade at the Louvre (c. 1880) belonged to Jean-Jacques Marquet Vasselot (1871 – 1946), a French archaeologist and art historian who began his career at the Louvre in 1902 and became director of the Musée de Cluny in 1933, the year he donated this Tissot oil to the French nation.
This is a study for The North Staircase of the Louvre (Escalier nord du Louvre, oil on canvas, 35 by 19 in./88.90 by 48.26 cm), a painting featuring a figure modeled by Kathleen Newton. The painting was sold at Christie’s, New York in 1997 for $ 350,000/£ 214,185.
View of the Hall of Septimus Severus from the Hall of Peace at the Louvre (c. 1879) was acquired by France for its national collection in 1990.
It was a background study for another version of Foreign Visitors in the Louvre (Visiteurs étrangers au Louvre, oil on panel, 17 1/2 by 8 3/8 in./44.4 by 21.3 cm), which shows a figure in the foreground modeled by Kathleen Newton She wears a gown with a plaid skirt, and she carries a black fur muff. This painting, sold at the Galerie Sedelmeyer, Paris, in 1907, was sold at Christie’s, London in 2006.
Another of Tissot’s interior studies of the Louvre, A Room of Sculptures (Une salle des sculptures de Louvre), is an oil on canvas measuring 15 by 10 in. (38.10 by 25.40 cm). It sold at Tajan, Paris in 2000 for 89,000 FRF ($ 12,753/€ 13,567/£ 8,437).
Luis A. Ferré (1904 – 2003), a Puerto Rican industrialist, politician, patron of the arts and philanthropist, had traveled to Europe in 1956 and acquired art including many Pre-Raphaelite works. Ferré would state in an interview published in Forbes magazine in 1993 that ”everyone thought I was crazy” to buy Pre-Raphaelite art in the 1950s. On January 3, 1959, with seventy-two works of art, Ferré opened an art museum in a small wooden house in his birthplace of Ponce which became the extraordinary Museo de Arte de Ponce (Ponce Museum of Art), now a premier institution of Italian Baroque, Spanish, Flemish, French Academic, and British 19th-century art. The museum’s renowned collection of Pre-Raphaelite and Victorian art includes James Tissot’s In the Louvre (L’Esthétique, 1883-1885), which was purchased at Sotheby’s, London in April, 1959 for $ 2,099/£ 750 and entered the Ponce’s collection in 1962.
The woman shown in this painting does not resemble Kathleen Newton, who died of tuberculosis in 1882, though the figure may have been modeled on her during the visit she made to the Louvre with Tissot in 1879.
A smaller version of L’Esthétique (oil on canvas, 25.5 by 17.5/64.8 by 44. 4 cm) is in a private collection.
In the Louvre (1883-85, oil on canvas, 18.5 by 12.13/47 by 32 cm), a study of the interior for this picture, was gifted to the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) Museum in Providence in 1962.
James Tissot and Edgar Degas remained friends until 1895 or 1897, when Tissot apparently angered Degas by selling one of his paintings, given as a gift.
But Degas offended Mary Cassatt in 1895 when he asked three thousand dollars for a picture Cassatt had sold for him to mutual friends for one thousand dollars in 1893; the friends paid the increased price, but Degas lost Cassatt’s friendship for a long time.
For more on Degas’ rifts with Tissot, Cassatt, and others at this time, see James Tissot the Collector: His works by Degas, Manet & Pissarro.
© 2015 by Lucy Paquette. All rights reserved.
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