James Tissot often reused models, both male and female, in his paintings. While he varied their poses to capture different angles of their faces, several of his models are recognizable from picture to picture within a few years’ time. In some cases, subsequent paintings seem based on sketches for earlier works.
The brunette with the languid eyelids in The Two Sisters (1863, figure a) also appears in Portrait of Mademoiselle L.L., (1864, figure b) and Spring (1865, figure c). Tissot painted these pictures in Paris, in the waning years of the Second Empire.
a b c
After Tissot moved to London, following the Franco-Prussian War and the Paris Commune, he painted another model, a pale woman with strawberry-blonde hair, in Les Adieux (The Farewells, 1871, figure a), the woman on the left in Bad News (The Parting, 1872, figure b), and a variant of that painting, Tea (1872, figure c).
a b c
By 1873, Tissot befriended a ship’s captain, John Freebody, and his young wife, Margaret Freebody (née Kennedy), as well as her brother, Captain Lumley Kennedy. All three modeled for him that year in The Last Evening, The Captain and the Mate, and Boarding the Yacht (see James Tissot, ed. Krystyna Matyjaszkiewicz, 1985).
In these delightful paintings, the cast of characters includes an old man with eccentric white whiskers, and a young girl who also appears in A Visit to the Yacht (c. 1873). [See For sale: A Visit to the Yacht, c. 1873, by James Tissot.]
Tissot relied on a new model for Waiting for the Ferry at the Falcon Tavern (1874, figure a) and London Visitors (c. 1874, figure b).
Tissot featured another lovely model, with an exquisite pointed nose, in Reading the News (1874, figure a), Chrysanthemums (c. 1874-76, figure b) and Still on Top (c. 1874, figure c).
a b c
A model with a soft fringe appears in Tissot’s A Passing Storm (c. 1876, figure a) and A Convalescent (c. 1876, figure b).
The blonde woman in Autumn on the Thames, Nuneham Courtney (c. 1871-72, figure a) reappears years later, in Quarreling (c. 1874-76, figure b). Tissot also featured her in The Bunch of Lilacs (c. 1875, figure c).
I believe the model for these pictures was Alice, British painter Louise Jopling’s lovely blonde sister, who had attracted Tissot’s interest. Louise (1843–1933) wrote of Tissot in her 1925 autobiography, “He admired my sister Alice very much, and he asked her to sit to him, in the pretty house in St. John’s Wood.” In this photograph of Louise and her sisters, look at the blonde on the left, in the back, and compare for yourself!
a b c
That does make me wonder if Louise Jopling [at that time, the recently widowed Mrs. Frank Romer] modeled for Tissot. She wrote in her autobiography, “James Tissot was a charming man, very handsome, extraordinarily like the Duke [then, Prince] of Teck. He was always well groomed, and had nothing of artistic carelessness either in his dress or demeanor.” She thought Tissot was “extraordinarily clever,” and wrote that one day, before she was married (in 1874, to J.E. Millais’ friend, Joe Jopling), Tissot had begged his friend Ferdinand Heilbuth (1826 – 1889) to go to Louise’s studio “and try to induce us both – my sister Alice and I – to come and spend the day at Greenwich, where he was painting his charming pictures of scenes by the river Thames. I was to bring my sketching materials. It happened that I had promised Joe to give him a sitting for my portrait, but it was much too delightful a project not to be accepted with fervor. I wired to Joe: ‘Called out of town on business.’ I might have, with more truth, wired: ‘Called out of town on pleasure,’ but sketching with two such good artists was indeed good business for me, so I salved my conscience. But I was found out: Joe heard of our day’s outing, probably at that mart of gossip, a man’s Club.” [Louise Jopling is a character in my book, The Hammock: A novel based on the true story of French painter James Tissot – see my short (2:42 min.) video, “Louise Jopling and James Tissot”.]
Here is the model in Tissot’s Return from the Boating Party (1873, figure a), and Louise Jopling as Millais painted her in 1879 at age 36 (figure b). It does seem, however, that Louise would have mentioned in her autobiography that Tissot had painted her.
Tissot used an older, white-haired woman as a model in Hush! (The Concert, 1875, figure a), A Convalescent (c. 1876, figure b), and also at the far left in Holyday (c 1876, figure c).
a b c
Tissot painted a striking model with dark hair and strong eyebrows in A Portrait (1876, figure a), and again in a blue gown in The Gallery of the H.M.S. Calcutta (Portsmouth, c. 1876, figure b). She reappears in Portsmouth Dockyard (c. 1877, figure c).
a b c
One of Tissot’s most often-reused models is the old gentleman with the white whiskers. He appears in Reading the News (1874, figure a), in the center of The Ball on Shipboard (c. 1874, figure b), and at the left in Hush! (The Concert, 1875, figure c), as well as in The Warrior’s Daughter (A Convalescent, c. 1878, figure d).
a b c d
Another distinctive male model who reappears in Tissot’s paintings is the man with a long ginger beard in London Visitors (c. 1874, figure a) and at the far left in Holyday (c. 1876, figure b). He also is featured in The Widower (1876, figure c).
a b c
Of course, after she moved into his home in St. John’s Wood about 1876, Tissot’s main model until her premature death was young mother and divorcée, Kathleen Irene Ashburnham Kelly Newton (1854 – 1882).
Kathleen, at 22, had a four-year-old daughter and a son born on March 21, 1876. [See Was Cecil Newton James Tissot’s son?] Being Roman Catholic, Kathleen could not remarry, but she lived with Tissot in his house in St. John’s Wood, until her death from tuberculosis in 1882.
Kathleen appeared in dozens of Tissot’s major works, including Portsmouth Dockyard (c. 1877, figure a), The Warrior’s Daughter (A Convalescent, c. 1878, figure b), and Orphans (c. 1879, figure c).
a b c
Incidentally, Tissot scholar Michael Wentworth (1938 – 2002), in his comprehensive biography James Tissot (1984), identified the model in A Passing Storm (c. 1876) as Kathleen Newton, but if you compare the features of this model to Kathleen’s, it is obvious that the two women are different.
Based on my research and this study of the faces of Tissot’s various models, I believe Kathleen Newton’s first appearance in his work was in Portsmouth Dockyard (c. 1877).
Which means that the shadowy face in the center of The Thames (1876), would have been Kathleen’s as well.
Here she is in The Warrior’s Daughter (A Convalescent, c. 1878).
And here is Kathleen in Orphans (c. 1879). Her face and slender figure would grace his work for only a few more years.
© 2017 by Lucy Paquette. All rights reserved.
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