To cite this article: Paquette, Lucy. “Ten “missing” Tissot paintings that turned up.” The Hammock. https://thehammocknovel.wordpress.com/2020/04/15/ten-missing-tissot-paintings-that-turned-up/. <Date viewed.>
Six decades ago, before scholars revived interest in James Tissot, well over a hundred of his oil paintings were unlocated, known only from the photograph album he kept as a record of his artistic output over the course of his career, or from exhibition catalogues, the occasional contemporary photograph, or written references.
Modern James Tissot scholarship began in earnest when Michael J. Wentworth (1938–2002) wrote about the artist for the catalogue of the exhibition “A Generation of Draughtsmen” at the University of Michigan in 1962. Wentworth then was invited to take part in the first retrospective exhibition in 1968, organized by the Rhode Island School of Design and the Art Gallery of Ontario, joining Henri Zerner and David S. Brooke in writing the catalogue. In 1965, Willard E. Misfeldt (1930–2017) began work on a monographic study produced in 1971 as a doctoral dissertation for Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, and in 1976, Wentworth produced another such monograph for Harvard University, followed by James Tissot: Catalogue Raisonné of His Prints (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 1978).
One of the most dramatic rediscoveries of a “missing” oil painting by Tissot at this time was Portrait of Mrs Catherine Smith Gill and Two of her Children (1877). One morning in 1979, as staff was arriving at Liverpool’s Walker Art Gallery, a man approached them saying he had a rare and valuable painting by French painter James Tissot that he wished to sell them. When they told the museum director of this claim, he reacted with disbelief and was inclined to send the man away. The painting, worth £ 30,000, was Tissot’s Portrait of Mrs. Catherine Smith Gill and Two of her Children (1877). At 60.04 by 39.96 in./152.5 by 101.5 cm, it was one of the largest works the artist ever had produced. The portrait was purchased, with the aid of contributions from the National Art Collections Fund and the Victoria and Albert Museum Purchase Grant Fund, from Berkeley Chapple Gill, grandson of Mrs. Gill – the son of the little boy in the painting – in 1979, and it remains on view at the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool.
In Michael Wentworth’s comprehensive 1984 study, James Tissot (Oxford: Oxford University Press), numerous oil paintings whose location remained unknown were listed and appeared as old photographs, many provided by auction houses that once had offered them for sale, but since lost track of them. Surely due to the increased recognition of James Tissot’s work, many of these “lost” paintings reappeared.
Where were they, then, during the early 1980s as they were the subject of scholarly interest? Let’s look at a few of these pictures that, happily, turned up.
At least two of Tissot’s “missing” paintings were in public collections, but overlooked.
On the River (1871), measuring 85 by 49.5 cm, was sold by a private collector 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 1973. As part of the Government Art Collection, On the River is now at the British Embassy in Paris.
Another painting in an overlooked public collection was At the Rifle Range (also known as Safe to Win, or The Crack Shot, 1869). In his 1984 monograph, James Tissot, Wentworth listed it as “whereabouts unknown,” reproducing an image of it from James Laver’s 1936 book, “Vulgar Society:” the Romantic Career of James Tissot, 1836-1902. In fact, the painting had been acquired by 1936 by the Leicester Galleries in London. Captain George Bambridge (1892–1943), a British diplomat who was married to Rudyard Kipling’s daughter, Elsie (1896–1976), purchased the painting in 1937. From 1938, the childless couple resided at Wimpole Hall, about 8½ miles (14 kilometres) southwest of Cambridge. At the Rifle Range, along with the residence and all its contents, had been left to the National Trust Collections by Mrs. George Bambridge on her death in 1976 and was on display to the public.
A few of Tissot’s “lost” paintings had been located by one of these two mid-century scholars, but not the other, as they pursued their parallel research.
For example, in his 1971 thesis, Willard Misfeldt listed A Luncheon (Un déjeuner c. 1868) as unlocated, but in his monograph thirteen years later, Michael Wentworth reported it was in the collection of the Marquis of Bristol, London [Victor Frederick Cochrane Hervey, 6th Marquess of Bristol (1915–1985); after the death of his eldest son, John Hervey, 7th Marquess of Bristol (1954–1999), Un déjeuner was offered for sale at Sotheby’s, New York in 2000 and is now in a private collection].
But, oddly enough, although Misfeldt reported the location of The Partie carrée in his 1971 study as a private collection in Zurich, Wentworth listed it in 1984 as “whereabouts unknown.”
In fact, The Partie carrée (The Foursome, c. 1870), exhibited at Salon of 1870, had over the years belonged to collectors in Paris and London until being acquired by a private collector in Zurich by 1968.
In 1993, it was offered for sale at Sotheby’s, London, but it did not find a buyer until it was offered again at Sotheby’s, New York in 1995.
It was in a private collection on the U.S. West Coast by 2001, resold, and purchased in 2018 by the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa.
Unsurprisingly, it turned out that most of Tissot’s “lost” works belonged to private collectors in the U.K. and the U.S., where his work was most appreciated during his life.
The trail had gone cold on Melancholy (c. 1869) after it was sold in 1967 at Sotheby’s, London as Chagrin d’amour, to a private collector. In 1995, that collector sold the picture at the same auction house, where it was considered “a significant rediscovery in the field of nineteenth-century Anglo-French painting.” It now is in the collection of Ann and Gordon Getty, whose foundation provides support for the arts and education in the San Francisco area.
Tissot exhibited Waiting (also known as In the Shallows, 1873) at the Royal Academy in 1874, along with The Ball on Shipboard (c.1874, Tate) and London Visitors (c.1874, Toledo Museum of Art, Ohio), and though it changed hands numerous times, it remained in the U.K until at least 1896, when it was sold at Christie’s and dropped off the radar. In 2014, Waiting once again was offered for sale at Christie’s, London. Estimated to bring $ 849,500–$ 1,359,200/£ 500,000–£ 800,000, it actually sold for $ 1,635,288/£ 962,500 (Premium). It now is in the collection of Diane B. Wilsey, San Francisco.
Other paintings that had not been located by the early 1980s were in collections outside the U.K. and the U.S.:
Rivals (c. 1878-1879), featuring Kathleen Newton, was exhibited at the Grosvenor Gallery in 1879 and was owned by successive private collectors in the U.K. through mid-1912. The Rivals then was purchased for the Ingegnoli Collection in Milan. It was sold by Paul Ingegnoli’s executors at Galleria Pesaro in 1933 and purchased by a Milanese private collector. It was displayed in public again only in Milan, in 1957, at the Palazzo della Permanente, La Mostra Nazionale di Pittura, “L’Arte e il Convito.”
Then, in 2014, it was sold at Pandolfini Casa d’Aste, Florence, for € 954,600 EUR (Premium) [$ 1,215,969 USD/£ 753,715 GBP]. In pristine condition, it was acquired by Stair Sainty Fine Art, London and displayed at the Stair Sainty booth at TEFAF, the world’s leading art fair, in Maastricht, Netherlands (March 13-22, 2015). The Rivals is now in The Marlene and Spencer Hays Collection; the Hays, an American couple who began collecting French art in the 1970s, chose the Musée d’Orsay in Paris to receive their collection at their deaths.
Les demoiselles de province (Provincial Woman, c. 1883-1885), from La Femme à Paris (Women of Paris) Tissot’s series of fifteen large-scale canvases depicting fashionable parisiennes, was in the U.K. at least through 1905, when it seemed to “go missing.” But since at least 1955, it was in a private collection in Rotterdam and was left to an individual who passed away. It was sold at Christie’s, London in 2015 for £ 1,202,500/$ 1,867,483. It is now in the Collection of Diane B. Wilsey, San Francisco.
At least one of Tissot’s oil paintings, which seems to have disappeared after his death in 1902, recently turned up “in plain sight” – while curators were researching the 2019-2020 James Tissot retrospective exhibition, they were delighted to find that The Apparition (1885) had long been in a private collection on the estate of the remote château in Besançon, in eastern France, once owned by the artist.
Many more of James Tissot’s paintings are still “missing.” When and where will these elusive works turn up?
© 2020 by Lucy Paquette. All rights reserved.
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