The Victorian Web, a vast resource on literature, history and culture in the age of Victoria, invited me to contribute a Chronology of the life of French painter James Tissot (1836-1902), whose successful career in London spanned a decade from 1871 to 1882.
1836 October 15: Jacques Joseph Tissot is born in Nantes, the second of four sons by Marcel-Théodore Tissot, a wholesale linen draper, and Marie Durand, who with her sister owns a millinery company.
c. 1848-55 Educated in Jesuit schools in Flanders, Brittany and the Jura.
1855 Enlists in the National Guard of the Seine, the Fourth Company of the Eighteenth Battalion when he arrives in Paris to study art. Rents a succession of student rooms in the Latin Quarter.
1857 January 26: Registers to copy paintings at the Louvre. Thought to have met James McNeill Whistler this year.
March 9: enrolls at the Académie des Beaux-Arts; studies painting independently under Jean-Hippolyte Flandrin and Louis Lamothe, both former students of Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres.
1859 As James Tissot, makes debut at Salon in Paris with five works.
Meets Edgar Degas, probably due to whom he meets Édouard Manet.
Travels to Antwerp to take lessons with Hendrik Leys; meets Lourens Tadema [later Lawrence Alma-Tadema].
1860 The Comte de Nieuwerkerke, Director-General of Museums, purchases The Meeting of Faust and Marguerite on behalf of the government for the Luxembourg Museum for 5,000 francs.
c. 1860-61 Experiments with etching, a revived print-making technique.
1861 Exhibits six paintings at Salon.
May 4: mother dies, leaving him an inheritance.
1862 Visits London. One painting at International Exhibition. Meets John Everett Millais around this time.
Visits Milan, Venice and Florence.
1863 Three paintings at Salon.
Becomes lifelong friends with writer Alphonse Daudet.
Settles more than 100,000 francs in debt.
1864 Two paintings at Salon. One painting at Royal Academy (R.A): At the Break of Day.
November: Dante Gabriel Rossetti finds all the Japanese costumes at Paris import shops are “being snapped up by a French artist, Tissot, who it seems is doing three Japanese pictures.”
1865 Two paintings at Salon.
Two steel engravings after his illustrations included on the frontispiece and title page of Tom Taylor’s English translation of La Villemarque’s Barzaz-Breiz, Chants populaires de la Bretagne, which also featured several wood engravings in the text after Millais and others. D.G. Rossetti is so impressed by Tissot’s contributions that he requests a proof of each from the publisher.
By this year, is earning 70,000 francs a year as an easel painter.
1866 Two paintings at Salon; elected hors concours, entitled to submit work without jury review.
Purchases property at 64, avenue de l’Impératrice (now avenue Foch).
1867 Two paintings at Salon. Two paintings at Exposition Universelle, Paris.
1867-68 Moves into newly-constructed, luxurious villa in the avenue de l’Impératrice, his Paris residence for the rest of his life. His studio becomes a showcase for his renowned collection of Oriental art and a landmark to see when touring Paris.
His portrait in oil painted by Degas, who keeps it until his death in 1917.
1868 Four works at Salon.
Appointed drawing master of fourteen-year-old Japanese Prince Tokugawa Akitake, visiting Paris.
1869 Two paintings at Salon.
First political cartoons for Thomas Gibson Bowles’ Vanity Fair magazine, to which he contributes until 1877.
1870 Two paintings at Salon.
Second Empire collapses on September 2; joins Éclaireurs (Scouts) of the Seine, an elite sharpshooter unit defending Paris during the Prussian Siege.
October 3: Seeks refuge at rented lodgings of Thomas Gibson Bowles, in Paris as Morning Post war correspondent. Begins series of drawings to illustrate for Bowles’ book, The Defence of Paris, Narrated As It Was Seen (published 1871).
October 21: fights in the Battle of Malmaison and is wounded.
1871 One painting, Vive la République! (Un souper sous le Directoire, c. 1870), at Third International Exhibition, Vienna.
Remains in Paris during the Commune, recording numerous incidents in his sketchbook and in small watercolors. Relocates to London in June with only 100 francs; lodges with Thomas Gibson Bowles at Cleeve Lodge in Hyde Park Gate for several months.
June 19: inscribes drawing, French Soldier (1870) to Effie Millais.
British Society novelist Ouida invites Tissot to her home on June 21, where “some English artists will enjoy the great pleasure of meeting you & seeing your sketches.”
Tissot commissioned to paint a full-length portrait of Chichester Parkinson-Fortescue, 1st Baron Carlingford, funded by a group of eighty-one Irishmen including forty-nine MPs, five Roman Catholic bishops and twenty-seven peers to commemorate his term as Chief Secretary for Ireland under Gladstone – as a present to his wife, Society hostess Frances, Countess Waldegrave.
September 30: Degas writes from Paris, “They tell me you are earning a lot of money.”
1872 Two paintings at R.A.: An Interesting Story and Les Adieux. Four paintings at International Exhibition, London.
March: resides at 73, Springfield Road, St. John’s Wood.
1873 Purchases lease on villa at 17 (now 44), Grove End Road, St. John’s Wood.
Three paintings at R.A.: The Captain’s Daughter, The Last Evening, and Too Early.
1874 Three paintings at R.A.: London Visitors, Waiting, and The Ball on Shipboard.
Declines exhortation from Degas to participate in the first Impressionist exhibition in Paris. Makes trip to Paris.
Autumn: Travels to Venice with Manet.
November 3: Parisian novelist and art critic Edmond de Goncourt writes in his journal that Tissot has in his London house “a waiting room, where, at all times, there is iced champagne at the disposal of visitors, and around the studio, a garden where, all day long, one can see a footman in silk stockings brushing and shining the shrubbery leaves.”
1875 Two paintings at R.A.: The Bunch of Lilacs and Hush! (The Concert).
Builds an extension with a studio and a conservatory designed by architect J.M. Brydon that doubles the size of his St. John’s Wood villa.
Offers career advice to Berthe Morisot during her honeymoon in England with Eugène Manet. After one visit to his home, she writes to her mother that his paintings sell for as much as 300,000 francs each; she writes to a sister that he is “living like a king.”
Resumes etching, under the tutelage of Seymour Haden.
c. 1876 Kathleen Newton moves into Tissot’s St. John’s Wood home, and the couple lives in relative seclusion for six years.
1876 Three paintings at R.A.: The Thames, A Convalescent, and Quarrelling, and one etching, The Thames. Two etchings at Salon. Publishes first collection of etchings, of which he produces nearly ninety in the next decade.
Tissot’s etchings account for a significant and increasing proportion of his earnings between 1876 and 1881.
Late 1870s: Tissot begins to produce cloisonné enamels.
1877 Ten works at Grosvenor Gallery.
1878 Nine works at Grosvenor Gallery.
November 23-24: Refuses to testify for Whistler in his libel suit against John Ruskin.
1878-82 Exhibits work throughout Britain, in Brighton, Newcastle, Liverpool, Manchester, Wrexham, Leeds, Glasgow, Birmingham, and in London galleries.
1879 Twelve works at Grosvenor Gallery.
1880 Becomes a charter member of the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers, founded by Seymour Haden for artists who produced their own prints of their paintings. Begins exhibiting his prints regularly in England and Scotland.
September 24: Vincent van Gogh writes to his brother of Tissot, “there is something of the human soul in his work and that is why he is great, immense, infinite…”
1881 Two paintings at R.A.: Quiet and Goodbye – On the Mersey.
1882 Spring: One-man exhibition at the Dudley Gallery, London, “Exhibition of Modern Art by J. J. Tissot” includes Prodigal Son series, eight paintings, and fifty-eight etchings as well as twenty-one cloisonné enamels.
May: Visits Paris to discuss illustrations for a novel by Edmond and Jules de Goncourt, Renée Mauperin(published 1884).
November 9: Kathleen Newton dies from tuberculosis at Tissot’s St. John’s Wood home.
November 14: Kathleen Newton’s funeral, immediately after which Tissot moves back to Paris.
1883 March: One-man exhibition at Palais de l’Industrie; works include his cloisonné collection.
Begins series of large-scale oil paintings, La Femme à Paris (Women of Paris).
Joins Société d’aquarellistes français and exhibits his work.
Sells his St. John’s Wood home to Lawrence Alma-Tadema.
1884 Exhibits with Société d’aquarellistes français.
1885 La Femme à Paris series exhibited at Galerie Sedelmeyer, Paris, along with his cloisonné collection. Continues to produce cloisonné enamels, but all of them remain in his possession.
Joins new Société de pastellistes français and exhibits work. From the mid-1880s to the early 1890s, executes about forty portraits of aristocratic and Society women, most often in pastel.
Engagement to Louise Riesener, daughter of painter Léon Riesener, broken by her.
May 20: Makes contact with Kathleen Newton’s spirit during a séance and records it in L’apparition médiunimique.
1885-86 First trip to Palestine to research his illustrated Life of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
1886 Women of Paris exhibited at Arthur Tooth and Sons, London as Pictures of Parisian Life by J.J. Tissot.
Exhibits with Société d’aquarellistes français.
1887 Exhibits at least one painting, Waiting for the Ferry at the Falcon Tavern (1874), at Nottingham Castle and at Newcastle-on-Tyne.
1888 Three works at International Exhibition, Glasgow.
Father dies, leaving him the Château de Buillon, near Besançon. During his remaining years, lives partly in Paris and partly at the Château, improving the building and grounds.
1889 Exhibits Prodigal Son series, for which he wins a gold medal, and one painting at the Exhibition Universelle, Paris.
Second trip to Palestine to research his illustrated Life of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
1893 Exhibits Prodigal Son series and a pastel portrait in World’s Columbian Exposition, Chicago.
1894 Exhibits 270 illustrations for La Vie de Notre Seigneur Jésus-Christ at Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts, Paris.
1895 Exhibits complete series of 365 Life of Christ illustrations in Paris.
About this year, begins colossal Christ Pantocrator for high altar of the convent church of the Dominicans in the rue Faubourg Saint-Honoré, Paris.
1896 Exhibits complete Life of Christ series in London. La Vie de Notre Seigneur Jésus-Christ published in France, with the artist receiving a million francs for reproduction rights.
Third trip to Palestine to begin an illustrated Old Testament (published 1904). On the ship, English artist George Percy Jacomb-Hood encounters Tissot and finds him “a very neatly dressed, elegant figure, with a grey military moustache and beard…gloved and groomed as if for the boulevard.”
1897 Exhibits Life of Christ illustrations at Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts.
The Life of Our Saviour Jesus Christ published in London and New York.
December: Christ Pantocrator dedication ceremony.
1898 February: Visits New York to arrange tour of Life of Christ illustrations.
October: Visits Chicago to arrange tour of Life of Christ illustrations before traveling to New York for exhibition opening.
November 18: After calling on Archbishop Corrigan in New York, is dragged nearly a block when trying to board a Madison Avenue line trolley car, leaving him bruised and unnerved.
New Testament watercolors tour New York, Chicago, St. Louis, Omaha, and other cities through 1899, to adoring crowds.
1900 New Testament watercolors acquired by the Brooklyn Museum by public subscription of $60,000.
1901 Exhibits 95 Old Testament illustrations at Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts.
1902 August 8: dies at Château de Buillon after being stricken by a “pernicious fever.”
Guerin, Marcel, ed. Degas: Letters. Trans. By Marguerite Kay. Oxford: Bruno Cassirer, 1947.
Marshall, Nancy Rose and Malcolm Warner. James Tissot: Victorian Life/Modern Love. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1999.
Matyjaszkiewicz, Krystyna, ed. James Tissot. New York: Abbeville Press, 1985, c. 1984 Barbican Art Gallery.
Misfeldt, Willard. “James Jacques Joseph Tissot: A Bio-Critical Study,” Ph.D. diss., Washington University. Ann Arbor, Michigan: University Microfilms International, 1971.
Misfeldt, Willard E. J.J. Tissot: Prints from the Gotlieb Collection. Alexandria, Virginia: Art Services International, 1991.
Warner, Malcolm. Tissot. London: The Medici Society Ltd. 1982.
Wentworth, Michael. James Tissot. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1984.
Wood, Christopher. Tissot: The Life and Work of Jacques Joseph Tissot, 1836-1902. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson Ltd., 1986.
My thanks to The Victorian Web‘s Editor-in-Chief and Webmaster, George Landow, and to Associate Editor Jackie Banerjee
© 2017 by Lucy Paquette. All rights reserved.
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