Category Archives: Art History

A Closer Look at Tissot’s “Hush! (The Concert)”

James Tissot exhibited Hush! (The Concert, 1875) at the Royal Academy exhibition at the height of his success in London. 

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Hush! (The Concert, 1875), by James Tissot. Oil on canvas; 29.02 x 44.17 in. (73.7 x 112.2 cm.). Manchester Art Gallery, U.K. (Photo: wikiart.org)

In this painting, Tissot depicts a crowded Kensington salon, said to have been hosted by Lord and Lady Coope, which features a performer believed to be Moravian violinst Wilma Neruda (1838 – 1911).  Acquired by the Manchester Art Gallery in 1933, Hush! measures 29.02 by 44.17 in. (73.7 by 112.2 cm) and is on display in the Balcony Gallery.

On my recent trip to England, I took these close-ups for those of you who can’t get to Manchester to see this intriguing picture.

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The pianist and his assistant prepare to begin as the violinist lifts the instrument to her chin.

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She’s beautiful, fashionable, and clearly accomplished, but she is young and nervous.

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The two men at the piano are professionals who take her seriously, and they are anxious to do justice to her talent.

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The two Indian princes, or dignitaries, lean forward in anticipation of the music by this star.

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But the Society guests sitting behind them and to their left seem less than excited.

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In fact, they look bored out of their minds and dreading this tedious folly of their hosts.

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But it is, at least, a chance to be seen.  With shoulders like these, front row center is the place to be, whether you’re a music aficionado or not.

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Making an impression with a dramatic late entrance works, too…

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…though you’re bound to be criticized for upstaging those too timid to think of it themselves.

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Meanwhile, those relegated to the staircase don’t seem to mind.

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At least one can redeem the evening by carrying on a business discussion in a back corner –

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– who needs to impress the wallflower?

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These two are wondering how long they’ll have to wait for the liquor to start flowing.

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The men behind them, and the two women with them, just want it over already so they can sit down to dinner.

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Not a group of violin connoisseurs.

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However, the thing does provide some unforeseen opportunities.

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It’s Ladies’ Night.

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The violinist is not the belle of the evening…

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…but rather the lady with the star-shaped diamond brooch in her hair…

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…and the scene-stealing, painted fan.

Hush! is a lovely picture that, on closer inspection, is quite witty.  However, it suffered from the increasing notice Tissot’s work was attracting.  In attempting to equal the success that he had with Too Early at the Royal Academy of 1873, Tissot had miscalculated with The Ball on Shipboard in 1874.  That picture was criticized for lacking a coherent narrative, for its vivid colors criticized as “garish and almost repellent” by the reviewer for The Illustrated London News, and especially for its vulgar show of nouveaux riches, with “not a lady in a score of female figures,” according to the Athenaeum’s reviewer.

Tissot took heed of his critics.  With Hush!, he offered a clear narrative, used a muted palette, with pastel colors – and clearly portrayed London Society in this opulent oval drawing room, with its crystal chandelier, profuse floral displays, and scores of bona fide ladies.

Hush, The Concert, the-athenaeum, cropped old man faceHush, The Concert, the-athenaeum, cropped matronFashion historian James Laver (1899 – 1975), in his 1936 biography of James Tissot, claimed that Tissot had received an invitation to the Coopes’ at which Madame Neruda performed, but that he did not have permission to make portraits of any of the guests.  Instead, he painted types, some based on models he used in other paintings, including the old gentleman with the white whiskers in the left corner who also appears in Reading the News (1874), in the center of The Ball on Shipboard (c. 1874), and in The Warrior’s Daughter (A Convalescent, c. 1878).  The older, white-haired woman on the right also appears in A Convalescent (c. 1876) and Holyday (c 1876).

Tissot added his painter friends, Italian-born Giuseppe de Nittis (1846 – 1884) and German-born Ferdinand Heilbuth (1826 – 1889), to the group standing in the doorway.  (De Nittis is next to the jamb on the left, and Heilbuth is next to him.)

The critics were not amused.  The Illustrated London News reviewer wrote that Hush! showed English Society through “a Gallic sneer,” adding, “But polite people will, of course, be thankful to see themselves as a polished Frenchman sees them.”

Though the French painter was producing pictures that are now considered among his best – or perhaps because of this – Tissot was increasingly unable to please the British art establishment.  The more he succeeded financially, the harsher his critics.  In 1873, he sold Too Early through art dealer William Agnew (1825 – 1910) – who specialized in “high-class modern paintings” – for 1,050 guineas.  Agnew purchased The Ball on Shipboard from Tissot the following year, and in 1875, purchased Hush! directly from the wall of the Royal Academy by for 1,200 guineas.

A chapter in my book, The Hammock:  A novel based on the true story of French painter James Tissot, dramatizes this episode in his new life in London – read it to immerse yourself in the world of Society glamour and tragedy that he knew.

©  2017 by Lucy Paquette.  All rights reserved.


Related Posts:

Tissot in the U.K.: Northern England

A Closer Look at Tissot’s “Too Early”

A Closer Look at Tissot’s “The Ball on Shipboard”

A Closer Look at Tissot’s “The Fan”

James Tissot’s Models à la Mode

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.

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The James Tissot Tour of Victorian England

James Tissot fled the violence and chaos of the Paris Commune in June, 1871, after prospering under Napoléon III’s Second Empire and then fighting for his country in the Franco-Prussian War, to live and prosper in London during Queen Victoria’s reign until he returned to France in November, 1882.

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A newspaper weather map from September 25, 2017 that I used to mark our progress.

I’ve just returned from my long-planned Victorian Tour of the U.K. with my husband and gained more understanding of the Victorian England that Tissot experienced.  I studied Art History in London for a year when I was in my twenties, and since I married, my husband and I have traveled in the U.K. together three times, exploring London, Bath, Cambridge, Ely, Bury St. Edmunds, and Laycock.  On this trip, we were focusing on the Victorian experience, but without doubt, we missed a great deal in two weeks, and I’d like to hear from those of you familiar with other not-to-be-missed Victorian sights.  Relying on trains, we traveled from Manchester to Liverpool, York, Nottingham, Birmingham, and London, for the most part staying in Victorian-era hotels, dining in Victorian pubs, and visiting Victorian art collections and points of architectural interest.  These are some of my photos – and some by my husband, who really is the best traveling companion I could ever wish for.

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Manchester Town Hall, with the Albert Memorial in the left foreground.

We started in Manchester, a handsome, exciting city combining the grandeur of its Victorian architecture with the sophistication of its modern energy.  Manchester, or “Cottonopolis,” was the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, and it became a city in 1853.  We saw a demonstration of original 19th century textile mill machinery spinning cotton yarn into cloth at The Museum of Science and Industry, and we learned a bit about the working conditions at the mills.  Manchester – dirty, noisy and overcrowded – was the model for Milton in British novelist Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South, published in 1855, which centers on the romance between the idealistic Margaret Hale and cotton-mill owner John Thornton.

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A nook in the Sculpture Hall Café in the Town Hall.

The cotton industry made Manchester the wealthiest city in the British Empire during that time, and its architecture reflected that proud status.  The magnificent Gothic Revival Town Hall (1868 – 1877) designed by Alfred Waterhouse (1830 – 1905) dominates the city center, and its Sculpture Hall Café offers a secluded, rather posh environment for brunch or afternoon tea amid marble busts of former town alderman and other local dignitaries of the era. 

In front of the Town Hall, in Albert Square, Manchester’s Albert Memorial was completed in 1865 as the first of several memorials to Prince Albert (1819 – 1861) including the one designed by Sir Gilbert Scott (1811 – 1878) in Kensington Gardens, London, unveiled by Queen Victoria in 1872.

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It was easy to find Tissot’s “Hush (The Concert, 1875)” at the Manchester Art Gallery.

In 1876, James Tissot began exhibiting his work outside London, marketing it to the newly-rich men of the Industrial north.  Today, six of his finest works can be found in museums there.  The Manchester Art Gallery’s collection includes Hush! (The Concert), painted in 1875 and displayed at the Royal Academy exhibition at the height of Tissot’s success in London.  The collection also includes The Warrior’s Daughter (A Convalescent, c. 1878), which was not on display when we visited.

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A Visit to the Yacht (c. 1873), by James Tissot.  Private Collection.  (Photo: Wikimedia.org)

British painter George Adolphus Storey (1834 – 1919), in his 1899 memoirs, described a high-spirited “railway picnic party” in 1873 with a large group of men returning from a lavish house party in Manchester hosted by art dealer William Agnew (1825 – 1910):  Tissot, painters Ferdinand Heilbuth (1826 – 1889), Philip Hermogenes Calderon, R.A. (1833 – 1898), George Dunlop Leslie, A.R.A. (1835 – 1921), David Wilkie Wynfield (1837–1887), William Yeames, A.R.A. (1835 – 1918), and Frederick Walker (1840 – 1875), editor Shirley Brooks (1816 – 1874) and “the Punch men,” pianist, conductor and composer Frederic Hymen Cowen (1852 – 1935), and a host of others including opera star Charles Santley (1834 – 1922), who “sang us many of his delightful songs.”

Tissot’s work was being purchased by the newly-rich in Northern England as early as 1873, when he painted A Visit to the Yacht, which he sold directly to Agnew’s, London for £650, as La Visite au Navire.  Shortly after, Agnew’s, Liverpool sold the picture to David Jardine (1827 – 1911), a Liverpool timber broker, ship owner and art collector who eventually became Chairman of the Cunard Steamship Company.

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With Tissot’s Portrait of Mrs Catherine Smith Gill and Two of her Children (1877) at the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool.

We took a day trip to the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool to see Tissot’s Portrait of Mrs Catherine Smith Gill and Two of her Children (1877), one of the largest works he ever had produced.

Mrs. Gill’s husband, Mr. Chapple Gill (c.1833 – 1901/2), was the son of Robert Gill, a Liverpool cotton broker of Knotty Cross and R. & C. Gill; the son joined the business in 1857 and had risen to senior partner [by 1880, he became head of the firm].  He commissioned French painter Tissot, then living in London, to paint a portrait of his wife, Catherine Smith Carey (1847-1916), whom he had married on June 10, 1868 at Childwall.  She was the only child of Thomas Carey (1809 – c. 1875), a wealthy, retired estate agent.  Tissot’s portrait of Catherine Smith Gill shows her – heiress at age 30 – sitting in the drawing-room window of her mother’s home at Lower Lee, at Woolton near Liverpool, which was built by Catherine’s father.  Tissot lived at the red sandstone mansion for eight weeks while painting the portrait, in which he depicts Catherine with her two-year-old son Robert Carey and six-year-old daughter Helen; she was to have another boy and two more girls.

Outside Liverpool, we visited Sudley House, the former home of George Holt (1825 – 1896), a self-made Victorian shipping-line owner and merchant who built an impressive art collection that includes work by Thomas Gainsborough, Joshua Reynolds, Edwin Landseer, J.E. Millais, and J.M.W. Turner.  Since British aristocrats did not patronize contemporary French painters, George Holt was just the type of client that Tissot catered to in England:  newly-wealthy men who would invest in art purchased from dealers and at exhibitions rather than from commissions.  Since there is no home of a contemporary client of Tissot’s to tour (e.g. Mr. Chapple Gill), it was quite insightful to see George Holt’s home and collection, now managed by National Museums Liverpool.

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Kirkgate at the York Castle Museum.

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My indefatigable husband and travel partner.

We continued our Victorian Tour in York, at the York Castle Museum’s Kirkgate, a recreated Victorian street where we were immersed in the experience of strolling over the cobblestones past the goods on display for the rich and the backstreets of the poor.  Kirkgate has everything from a hansom cab like the one Tissot depicted in Going to Business (Going to the City, c. 1879), to a confectioner’s, schoolroom, police cell, millinery shop, watch shop, a gentleman’s clothier, stables, privy, and alleys, one of which smelled strongly of horse manure in a distinctly authentic sensory detail.  The shops are based on real York businesses that operated between 1870 and 1901.  Afterwards, I tried on a bustle gown and smart little chapeau.  While the gown was just a costume, without a corset or foundation garments, I was surprised how very hot, heavy, and constricting it felt.

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At the York Castle Museum, in front of the Victorian parlor.

During our visit to the National Railway Museum in York, we were able to look in the windows of Queen Victoria’s palatial train carriages, upholstered in yards of bright blue silk, as well as a train outfitted by King Edward VII in 1902 for his own use, complete with a smoking saloon and full bathroom.  It was Queen Victoria’s delight in train travel than soothed the qualms of the general public, frightened that the wind generated by the speed of this new mode of transportation would blow their heads off.

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One of Queen Victoria’s royal train carriages.

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Gentleman in a Railway Carriage (1872), by James Tissot.  Worcester Art Museum, Massachusetts, U.S.A.  (Photo: Wikiart)

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Lucy in a railway carriage.

We continued on to Nottingham, a bustling city boasting glorious Victorian buildings by architects including Watson Fothergill (1841 – 1928), who designed over a hundred houses, banks, churches, shops and warehouses in the Nottingham area from about 1864 to 1912.

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A Fothergill design.

 

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Nottingham.

Though Fothergill’s Gothic Revival and Old English vernacular style buildings now are interspersed with modern architecture, we felt surrounded by the Victorian experience.

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Nottingham Station, first built by the Midland Railway in 1848, designed by architect J.E. Hall of Nottingham.

Tissot’s Waiting for the Ferry at the Falcon Tavern (1874) was exhibited at Nottingham Castle, still an art gallery today, and at Newcastle-on-Tyne in 1887.

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Waiting for the Ferry at the Falcon Tavern (1874), by James Tissot.  Speed Museum, Louisville, Kentucky, U.S.A.

IMG_6755In Birmingham, where the industrial steam engine was invented and which became a manufacturing powerhouse, the architecture was grander than in Nottingham.  Queen Victoria granted Birmingham city status in 1889, and the vibrant center of the second most populous city in Britain is now under the gaze of the bronze monument to her in Victoria Square.

We received a lovely private tour of Birmingham’s Anglican Cathedral from a kind and knowledgeable volunteer on duty.  Designed in the Baroque style in 1715, it features soaring Pre-Raphaelite stained glass windows designed and manufactured by Edward Burne-Jones and William Morris in 1880.  The Cathedral was bombed during World War II – just after the priceless stained glass windows had been removed and hidden in a slate mine in Wales.

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Walking along a Victorian-era street in Birmingham.

We viewed the Pre-Raphaelite masterpieces at the imposing Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, opened by the Prince of Wales in 1885, during a leisurely afternoon before relaxing over tea in the Edwardian Tea Rooms.

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Resting at the Edwardian Tea Rooms.

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The common yard of the Birmingham Back to Backs.

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Outside the common laundry room.

Dashing to the other side of town, we missed the last house tour of the day at the Birmingham Back to Backs, operated as a museum by the National Trust, but the staff kindly allowed us to look at the exhibit above the gift shop and also to walk around the common yard that was shared by several families who lived in these inner-city homes that were three storeys high and one room deep.  Restored by the Birmingham Conservation Trust in collaboration with architects S. T. Walker & Duckham, the Back to Backs were opened to the public in 2004 as the city’s last surviving example of such houses.  After the Public Health Act of 1875, no more back to backs were built, but people continued to live in the crowded existing housing units until the 1950s.  Thousands of similar houses were built throughout the 19th century, for the rapidly increasing population of Britain’s expanding industrial towns, including the families of workers in button making, glasswork, woodwork, leatherwork, locksmithing, tailoring, and jewellery trades.  The common yard was quite small for exercise of those many family members, with a shared laundry room and privies.

While James Tissot was wealthy and would have had little contact with this aspect of Victorian life, it nevertheless was the social reality of his time and the underpinning of many luxury goods and services he would have purchased.

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St. Pancras International

In London, we stayed near St. Pancras rail station, the most splendid Victorian edifice of all.  Designed by Sir Gilbert Scott (1811 – 1878) and opened in 1868, it was a marvel of Victorian engineering and a masterpiece of Victorian Gothic architecture.

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A staircase in the St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel.

St. Pancras Station was built by the Midland Railway Company to connect London with some of England’s major cities:  Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds and Bradford.  By 1876, the station offered services to Edinburgh.  In June, 1874, the first Pullman service in the U.K. was available, with a restaurant car and sleeping accommodations, and by 1878 this service extended to the northern tip of Scotland.

So when James Tissot participated in that “railway picnic party” in 1873, returning from art dealer William Agnew’s lavish house party in Manchester, he would have traveled to and from the sumptuous new St. Pancras Station, convenient to his villa in St. John’s Wood.

 

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Another view of the staircase.

St. Pancras declined over time and finally was restored from 2004 – 2007, officially re-opening as St. Pancras International in 2007 in an elaborate opening ceremony attended by Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh, with a concert performed by the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra.  Passengers now can travel to Paris and Brussels, among other destinations.

Inside and out, St. Pancras International and the luxury five-star St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel, which was the talk of London when it opened in 1876, are simply jaw-dropping.  My husband and I had cocktails at The Gilbert Scott bar, where I couldn’t take my eyes off the shimmering painted ceiling.

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The ceiling in The Gilbert Scott at the St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel.

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The Regent’s Park.

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The Regent’s Park.

Another incredible place that James Tissot lived near and would have enjoyed is The Regent’s Park, developed by architect John Nash (1752 – 1835), a friend of the Prince Regent (later King George IV).  A vast, rounded green area north of London, The Regent’s Park features a large lake, landscaped gardens, an open-air theater, the London Zoo, and much more.

Tissot’s friend since 1859, the Dutch-born painter Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1836 –1912), lived in Townshend House on the north side of the park near the Regent’s Canal, which we cruised along in a canal boat.

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A waterbus on the Regent’s Canal.

Later, we visited the exotically-decorated Leighton House Museum, the former home of the distinguished Victorian artist Frederic, Lord Leighton (1830 – 1896), in Holland Park.  There we viewed the extensive Alma-Tadema exhibition, “Alma-Tadema: At Home in Antiquity,” (July 7 – October 29, 2017), the largest exhibition devoted to the extraordinarily successful Victorian painter held in London since 1913.  The exhibition includes a few contemporary photos of the house at 17 (now 44) Grove End Road in St. John’s Wood that Alma-Tadema purchased from James Tissot in 1883 and lived in from 1885 until his death in 1912.  In 2014, my husband and I toured this large home, now a private residence.

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Caricature of Frederic Leighton, by James Tissot. Published in Vanity Fair on June 29, 1872, the caption reads “A sacrifice to the Graces.” (Photo: Wikimedia.)

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Queen Victoria’s Coronation gown and golden robe.

At Kensington Palace, we took in the “Victoria Revealed” exhibit (through November 12, 2017), walking through the rooms in which the young princess resided.  I saw the staircase below the room she was in when she learned that her uncle had died and, at age 18, she had become Queen. Here in the Red Saloon, she held her first Privy Council meeting.

Several of Victoria’s gowns were on display, including her delicate gold coronation robe replicated for the current television drama “Victoria,” starring Jenna Coleman, as well as a smart military-style riding jacket with a waist so small it is hard to believe anyone could ever wear it.

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A resplendent staircase at Kensington Palace.

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The staircase to the room that Victoria was in when she learned that she was Queen, with a quote from her diary.

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Foreign Visitors (1874), by James Tissot.

My husband and I spent a lot of time at Trafalgar Square, where the portico of the National Gallery of Art and the church of St Martin-in-the-Fields provided the backdrop (though slightly altered, which did not endear him to the British art critics) for Tissot’s two versions of Foreign Visitors (1874).  Tissot exhibited the larger version at the Royal Academy in 1874.

On the last day of our Victorian Tour, where else could we have afternoon tea but in the Victoria & Albert Museum’s luxurious Gamble, Poynter, and Morris Rooms, beckoning with multi-colored ceramic, stained glass and enamel, opened in 1868 as the first-ever museum restaurant?  The scones, as big as our faces, were a fitting finale to our Victorian tour – along with one last trip from the awe-inspiring St. Pancras station.

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Ceramic-lined staircase at the Victoria & Albert Museum.

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The Gamble Room at the V&A (with updated lighting fixtures).

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The Poynter Room at the V&A.

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One last chance for afternoon tea – until next time!

© 2017 by Lucy Paquette.  All rights reserved.

Related Posts: 

Paris, June 1871

London, June 1871

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

The James Tissot Tour of Paris

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.

 

The Company He Kept: James Tissot’s Friends

If a person can be known by the company he keeps, James Tissot’s friends indicate he was charming, broad-minded and cultured, interested in music and literature as well as art, resourceful, and unafraid of change.  Described as reserved, he had a strong work ethic and spent a great deal of time working in his studio.  But he seems to have made friends easily and maintained numerous mutually satisfying relationships over many years – with both men and women, of varied ages, religions, backgrounds, and temperaments.

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James Tissot, age 20-21

Jacques Joseph Tissot’s first friend may have been his mother.  When he realized that what he really wanted was a career in art instead of architecture, his businessman father was less than thrilled.  His father told him that if he was determined to pursue this unreliable profession, he was going to have to make it on his own – with no financial help.  But his mother found a connection for him in Paris, and Jacques left home at 19, in 1856 (i.e before he turned 20 that October).

Within three years of his arrival in Paris, Tissot was ready to exhibit his work at the Salon.  Competing with established artists, the 23-year-old student submitted five entries for the Salon of 1859.  The jury accepted them all, including Portrait de Mme T…, a small oil painting of his mother.  With her belief in him, his career in the capital of the European art world was launched.

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James Whistler

When Jacques Joseph Tissot exhibited in the Salon, it was as James Tissot – and it’s likely he borrowed the name from another young art student, James Whistler.

It is thought that when Tissot registered for permission to copy paintings at the Louvre on January 26, 1857, he met the pugnacious American James McNeill Whistler (1834 – 1903), reportedly while copying Ingres’ 1819 Ruggiero Freeing Angelica side by side in the Luxembourg Museum.

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Self-Portrait with White Collar (c. 1857), by Edgar Degas. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. (Photo by Lucy Paquette)

In 1859, Tissot met another art student, with whom he became close friends – Edgar Degas (1834 – 1917).  Degas, the curmudgeonly son of a prosperous banker from Naples and a mother from New Orleans, had spent the previous three years traveling in central Italy.  Probably through Degas, Tissot soon met the charismatic, restless Édouard Manet (1832–1883).

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Lawrence Alma-Tadema

In 1859, Tissot traveled to Antwerp, augmenting his art education by taking lessons in the studio of Belgian painter Hendrik Leys.  There he made friends with a young Dutch art student working with Leys, Lourens Tadema (1836 – 1912; the painter moved to London in 1870 and restyled himself Lawrence Alma-Tadema).

Alma-Tadema’s personality combined middle-class sensibilities with a ribald sense of humor.  He was an extrovert who loved wine, women, music, and practical jokes.

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Édouard Manet

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Emmanuel Chabrier, by Édouard Manet

Though still living in the dilapidated Latin Quarter at 29, Tissot was enjoying increasing professional success and was described as a boulevardier – a man-about-town.  In addition to painters, his friends included the poet Camille-André Lemoyne (1822 – 1907), “a man of modesty and merit” who dedicated a published poem, “Baigneuse,” to Tissot in 1860, and composer, pianist and bon vivant Emmanuel Chabrier (1841 – 1894), whose portrait Tissot drew in 1861.  His circles often overlapped; Chabrier, for example, was friends with Degas and Manet as well.

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John Everett Millais

In 1862, Tissot traveled to London, where the first exhibition of his work was at the International Exhibition.  He showed one of his début paintings from the Paris Salon of 1859, and he must have met Britain’s most popular painter, John Everett Millais (1829  1896).  Warm-hearted, boyish, and boundlessly self-confident, Millias had a wife and five children to provide for by this time.  He found a steady source of income drawing illustrations, for periodicals such as Once a Week and The Cornhill Magazine as well as Tennyson’s Poems (1857) and Anthony Trollope’s novel Framley Parsonage (1860).  James Tissot, at 26, having inherited his parents’ business sense, was exploring a new art market and making useful contacts.

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Alphonse Daudet

In 1863, Tissot became close friends with Alphonse Daudet (1840 – 1897), a young writer who had published a volume of poetry (The Lovers) in 1858, and who rented the room below him in the rue Bonaparte.  Daudet, who was kind, hard-working, generous and sociable, was employed as a secretary to the Duc de Morny, the Emperor’s illegitimate half-brother who served as a powerful appointed minister.  He eventually became wealthy from his novels, in which he wrote about the poor and downtrodden with sympathy, and his friendship with Tissot was a lifelong one.

In 1864, the year Millais was elected a member of the Royal Academy, Tissot again exhibited work in London:  two pictures on display at the Society of British Artists, and a small oil painting at the Royal Academy Exhibition.  In France, Tissot associated, loosely, with a band of artistic rebels led by Manet – men who met at the Café de Bade to debate the purpose of art and express their frustration with the rigidity of the Paris art Establishment.  But Tissot was a traditionalist at heart.  He must have admired Millais – as a man, as a painter, and as a successful businessman.  In 1865, Tom Taylor’s Ballads and Songs of Brittany was published in London, illustrated by several artists including Millais and Tissot, who provided the Frontispiece and further widened his reputation in Great Britain.

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Ernest Meissonier

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Ferdinand Heilbuth

In 1866, the thirty-year-old artist bought land to build a villa on the most prestigious of Baron Haussmann’s grand new Parisian boulevards, the eleven-year-old avenue de l’Impératrice (now avenue Foch).  By the Salon of 1868, Tissot had occupied his newly built, elegant mansion in the splendid avenue, the place to see and be seen amid the heady delights of life in the imperial capital.  But an early biographer asserted that there were no parties or receptions in this home, as Tissot dreaded the noise; he hosted only quiet gatherings with intimates such as Degas, eminent painter and sculptor Ernest Meissonier (1815 –1891), and painter Ferdinand Heilbuth (1826 – 1889).

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Alfred Stevens

Tissot and wildly successful Belgian painter Alfred Stevens (1823 –1906) moved in the same social circle, which included Manet, Degas, Frédéric Bazille, Berthe Morisot and Whistler as well as Alma-Tadema.  Stevens and his wife held regular receptions at their home on Wednesdays.  Tissot may have preferred quiet evenings with his friends in his new villa, but in early 1868, he scribbled a hurried message to Degas on the back of a used envelope when he found Degas away from his studio:  “I shall be at Stevens’ house tonight.”  He had dropped by to give Degas advice on finishing a problematic painting-in-progress, Interior (The Rape) before the Salon deadline.

Tissot appears to have been content to live well and maintain a fairly low profile in the art world he had conquered within a decade of his arrival as a provincial art student.  Oddly, there are almost no references to Tissot in letters, journals or accounts of his chatty friends and acquaintances during this time, even though his studio was a chic gathering place, and it is likely he visited crowded, gossipy weekly soirées such as those hosted by Madame Manet (Edouard’s formidable mother) on Tuesdays, the Stevenses on Wednesdays, and Madame Morisot (Berthe’s formidable mother) on Thursdays.

In 1869, Tissot began contributing political cartoons to the newest Society journal in London, Vanity Fair, founded by Thomas Gibson Bowles (1841 – 1922).  Tommy Bowles was the illegitimate son of Thomas Milner Gibson (1806 – 1884), a Liberal MP for Manchester and President of the Board of Trade from 1859 to 1866, and a servant, Susannah Bowles.  Tommy’s father (and even his father’s wife, Arethusa Susannah, a Society hostess who was the daughter of Sir Thomas Gery Cullum of Hardwick House, Suffolk, and their six children) acknowledged him.  Tissot, at 33, was famous in Paris.  Tommy, a handsome blue-eyed blonde, was five or six years younger and making a name for himself, even in France, with his controversial articles in London’s Morning Post.

It is strange, the life Tissot led – an exclusive address and titled patrons in Paris and yet close friends with the individualistic, struggling Edgar Degas (who ceased to exhibit in the Salon after this year, due to his discontent with it), the illegitimate and irreverent London publisher Tommy Bowles, and the renegade James Whistler, who was considered belligerent and uncouth by this time.

It seems that James Tissot was a peaceable, refined, and multifaceted gentleman, truly his own man – in a world about to implode.

The Franco-Prussian War united Tissot and Tommy Bowles, who raced to Paris as a war correspondent.  Because there were not enough French troops, a National Guard – a volunteer militia independent of the regular army – was forming to defend Paris.  On Friday, September 9, 1870, Tommy was surveying the scene of Garde Mobile squads drilling or wandering around along the avenue de l’Impératrice [near James Tissot’s sumptuous villa at No. 64], “when my hand was suddenly seized, and I found myself talking to one of my smartest Parisian friends [James Tissot] who had donned the blue uniform like everybody else.  He was delighted to see me.”  Tissot gamely promised that if there was a sortie, he would make sure that Tommy had the chance to see some action.  [Tissot scholar Willard E. Misfeldt learned that James Tissot actually had enlisted in the Garde Nationale de la Seine, the Fourth Company of the Eighteenth Battalion, in 1855 – as soon as he had arrived in Paris at age 19.]

In early October, military operations blocked access to Tissot’s new villa, and he turned up at Bowles’ rented apartments.  Tommy observed affectionately of his friend, “We neither of us have got any money left, but we propose to support each other by our mutual credit…and to share our last rat together.  Meantime we are not greatly to be pitied.  Our joint domestic, Jean, one of those handy creatures yet to be invented in England, makes our beds, scrubs the floor, brushes the clothes, cooks like a cordon bleu, and is, as we believe and fervently hope, capable of producing any explanation or invention that may be required by persons in search of payment.  He has been especially successful as regards meat.”  The British journalist and the French painter shared a mischievous sense of humor, numerous dangerous sorties – and strong survival instincts.

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The Tirailleurs de la Seine at the Battle of Rueil-Malmaison, 21st October 1870 (1875), by Étienne-Prosper Berne-Bellecour. (Oil on canvas, 103×203 cm; Château de Versailles, France; Giraudon). Photo 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 October 21, 1870, the men in Tissot’s unit – the Éclaireurs of the Seine, an elite unit of scouts and snipers (tirailleurs) – “one and all Parisians of the purest type” according to Tommy Bowles – were sent to fight in the Battle of Malmaison (also referred to as the Battle of Rueil-Malmaison, or La Jonchère, for the nearby towns), west of Paris.  [See James Tissot and The Artists’ Brigade, 1870-71.]

During the war, James Tissot fought with valor on the front line, and he later volunteered as a Red Cross stretcher-bearer.  Then he became involved in the bloody civil uprising that followed, the Paris Commune.  He fled to London with a hundred francs in his pocket.  There, he had plenty of friends to help him rebuild his life.

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Chichester Fortescue

Besides Tommy Bowles, there was Frances, Countess Waldegrave (1821 – 1879), an influential Liberal Society hostess whose fourth and final husband was Chichester Fortescue (1823 – 1898), an Irish MP, who became Lord Carlingford.  Tissot may have met her through Millais, who frequented her salons.  She shared Tissot’s interest in spiritualism and painting, and at some point, Tissot painted her portrait in her boudoir.  (The portrait, whereabouts unknown, was not considered a good likeness.)

In 1871 – shortly after Tissot fled Paris – the charming and “irresistible” Countess Waldegrave pulled strings to get Tissot a lucrative commission to paint a full-length portrait of Fortescue, which was 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.

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Ouida

Tissot also was friendly with Society novelist Ouida (Maria Louise Ramé, 1839 – 1908); on June 19, 1871, she sent him an invitation to visit on June 21, with the promise that “some English artists will enjoy the great pleasure of meeting you & seeing your sketches.”  Described as having a “sinister, clever face” and a “voice like a carving knife,” Ouida lived in the Langham Hotel, where surrounded by purple flowers, she wrote on large sheets of violet-colored notepaper in bed by candlelight.  Her lavish soirées included celebrities such as Oscar Wilde, J.E. Millais. Algernon Charles Swinburne, and Wilkie Collins, along with dozens of handsome guard officers.

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The Captain and the Mate, (1873), by James Tissot. The Captain and the Mate (1873), by James Tissot. Oil on panel, 53.6 by 76.2 cm. Private Collection. Courtesy of The Bridgeman Art Library for use in “The Hammock: A novel based on the true story of French painter James Tissot,” © 2012 Courtesy of The Bridgeman Art Library for use in The Hammock: A novel based on the true story of French painter James Tissot, © 2012

Once Tissot moved to London in 1871, he continually sought “British” subject matter, always offering it up with a French twist.  He soon found a friend in Captain John Freebody (1834 – 1899), master of the Arundel Castle from 1872-73, when he took emigrants to America.  Captain Freebody’s wife, Margaret Kennedy (1840 – 1930), modeled for The Captain’s Daughter, set at the Falcon Tavern in Gravesend.  Tissot exhibited The Captain’s Daughter, as well as two other paintings [The Last Evening (1873) and Too Early (1873)], at the Royal Academy in 1873.

Two other paintings featuring Margaret Kennedy are in a private collection:  Boarding the Yacht (1873) and The Captain and the Mate (1873), in which Margaret’s older brother, red-bearded Captain Lumley Kennedy (1819 – 1899), and her sister posed as well.   Tissot, having grown up in the bustling seaport of Nantes, where his father was a successful wholesale linen draper (a trader in fabrics and dress trimmings to retailers and exporters), must have felt quite comfortable with sailors and their families.

Within a few years of hard work and help from such friends, Tissot bought the leasehold to a house in St. John’s Wood, at 17 (now 44) Grove End Road, and built an extension with a studio and a conservatory.  A handsome and talented 35-year-old Parisian, he earned and returned the respect of intelligent and capable women.

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Louise Jopling

British painter Louise Jopling (1843 – 1933) lived in Paris from 1865 to 1869, when her ne’er-do-well husband, Frank Romer, was sent packing by his employer, Baron de Rothschild.  Louise had been painting with the encouragement of the Baroness, a watercolor artist, and after moving to London, Louise continued painting despite numerous hardships.  Her work was exhibited at the Royal Academy exhibitions after 1870, and she met “that extraordinarily clever French artist, James Tissot,” when his
picture, Too Early, “made a great sensation” at the 1873 exhibition.  Tissot gave her a sketch of Gravesend he made that year.  In her 1925 autobiography, Louise wrote of him, “James Tissot was a charming man, very handsome.”

Louise proved to be an excellent source of information on Tissot’s personality, including this anecdote about a day they spent with Ferdinand Heilbuth.  She wrote, “Heilbuth was a delightful man as well as an excellent painter.  He was a great friend of Tissot…One day, before I was married, he arrived at my studio and said he had a letter from Tissot, who begged him to come round to me and try to induce [my sister] Alice and I to come spend the day at Greenwich where he was painting his charming pictures of scenes by the Thames.  I was to bring my sketching materials.  I had promised [my fiancé] 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.”

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Berthe Morisot, by Édouard Manet

Berthe Morisot (1841 – 1895) also appreciated Tissot.   He socialized frequently in 1875, inviting Berthe Morisot to dinner at his home in St. John’s Wood when she was in England for her honeymoon.  She wrote to her sister, Edma Pontillon, “We went to see Tissot, who does very pretty things that he sells at high prices; he is living like a king.  We dined there.  He is very nice, a very good fellow, though a little vulgar.  We are on the best of terms; I paid him many compliments, and he really deserves them.”

During the same trip, Berthe wrote to her mother, “[I was dragged out of bed] just now by a letter from Tissot – an invitation to dinner for tomorrow night.  I had to get up and ransack everything to find a clean sheet of paper in order to reply.”  Later, she added, “He was very amiable, and complimented me although he has probably never seen any of my work.”

In 1873, Tissot joined the Arts Club in Hanover Square, and in 1875, Italian painter Giuseppe De Nittis (1846 –1884) wrote to his wife, Léontine, “I saw Tissot at the club, he was very nice, very friendly.”

In 1874, Degas invited both Tissot and De Nittis to display their work in the first exhibition by the French artists who would become known as the Impressionists.  Tissot was achieving success in London and declined, but De Nittis accepted.

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Sir Julius Benedict

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Self-Portrait, Giuseppe Di Nittis

Another member of the Arts Club with whom Tissot was friendly was Sir Julius Benedict (1804 – 1885), the German-born composer and conductor who is portrayed as the pianist in Tissot’s Hush! (The Concert, 1875).  The son of a Jewish banker, Benedict became a naturalised Englishman and was knighted in 1871.

After spending several weeks in Venice with Manet, Tissot dined at his friend Jimmy Whistler’s three-storey townhouse in Lindsey Row, Chelsea on November 16, 1875 with Alan S. Cole (1846 – 1934, a lace and textile expert who was the son of Sir Henry Cole, the first director of the South Kensington Museum, now the V&A), independent-minded, outspoken painter Albert Moore (1841 – 1893) and Captain Crabb (commander of The Brazilian in 1870) on topics such as “ideas on art unfettered by principles.”

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George Adolphus Storey

On December 7, Tissot returned to dine with Jimmy, his patron Cyril Flower (1843 – 1907, later Lord Battersea), and painter George Adolphus Storey (1834 – 1919); they conversed on the works of Balzac.

Storey, in his 1899 memoirs, described a high-spirited “railway picnic party” in 1873 with men he referred to as intellectuals:  Tissot, Heilbuth, Philip Hermogenes Calderon, R.A. (1833 – 1898), George Dunlop Leslie, A.R.A. (1835 – 1921), David Wilkie Wynfield (1837–1887), William Yeames, A.R.A. (1835 – 1918), Frederick Walker (1840 – 1875), editor Shirley Brooks (1816 – 1874) and “the Punch men,” pianist, conductor and composer Frederic Hymen Cowen (1852 – 1935), and a host of others returning from a grand house party in Manchester hosted by art dealer William Agnew (1825 – 1910).  Opera star Charles Santley (1834 – 1922), Storey added, “sang us many of his delightful songs.”

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Mavourneen (Portrait of Kathleen Newton, 1877). Oil on canvas, 36 in. /91.44 cm. by 20 in./50.80 cm. Photo courtesy of The Bridgeman Art Library for use in “The Hammock: A novel based on the true story of French painter James Tissot,” © 2012 by Lucy Paquette

As desirable he was as a guest, Tissot must have enjoyed entertaining in his turn.  Louise Jopling noted of Tissot, “At one time he was very hospitable, and delightful were the dinners he gave.  But these ceased when he became absorbed in a grande passion with a married woman.”

Around 1876, Tissot met Kathleen Newton (1854 – 1882), an Irish divorcée in her early twenties with a four-year-old daughter and a son born on March 21, 1876.  [See James Tissot’s Model and Muse, Kathleen Newton and Was Cecil Newton James Tissot’s son?]  Being Roman Catholic, Tissot and Kathleen could not marry, but she moved into his house in St. John’s Wood.

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Sir Charles Wyndham

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Sir Henry Irving

Kathleen’s two children lived with her sister’s family around the corner, and they and their cousins visited Kathleen and Tissot regularly.  Tissot’s social life drastically changed, and he must have judged his love affair with the discarded young beauty well worth the sacrifice.  Though cohabitation was common in Victorian England, especially in bohemian circles, it was not socially acceptable to most people in the middle and upper classes.

Though Tissot and Mrs. Newton were not invited out, their friendship was valued, and plenty of lively friends sought their company.  One of Kathleen’s nieces, interviewed as an adult, recalled, “Whistler and Oscar Wilde, with his brother Willie, were constant visitors,” as were actor Henry Irving (1838 – 1905), actor-manager Charles Wyndham (1837 – 1919), and actress Miss Mary Moore (1860 – 1931, who became Wyndham’s second wife in 1916, the year he was widowed).  Tommy Bowles, his longtime friend, remained a frequent visitor and introduced others including landscape painter William Stone (c. 1840 – 1913), who “often had tea in the garden with Tissot and the lady.”  Stone, perhaps revealing the essence of Tissot’s charm, observed, “Tissot was quite a boulevardier and could not grasp our somewhat puritanical outlook.”

© 2017 by Lucy Paquette.  All rights reserved.

Related posts:

On his own: Tissot as a Paris art student, 1855 — 1858

James Tissot & Tommy Bowles Brave the Siege Together: October 1870

James Tissot and The Artists’ Brigade, 1870-71

James Tissot the Collector:  His works by Degas, Manet & Pissarro

James Tissot and Alfred Stevens

James Tissot: Portraits of the Artist

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.

James Tissot: Portraits of the Artist

Bingham_-_James_Tissot_01We know so little of James Tissot (1836 – 1902) outside of his work; his personal papers were destroyed, and he had no disciples to carry on and burnish his reputation.

But there are several photographs of him, and his self-portraits.

This photograph, made by Robert Jefferson Bingham (1825 – 1870), was made shortly after Tissot arrived in Paris, in 1855 at age 19.

Bingham, an English photographer, showed nineteen photographs at The Great Exhibition of 1851, and also made photographs of the Exposition Universelle of 1855 in Paris.  In 1857, Bingham moved to Paris and opened an atelier in the artistic quarter of Nouvelle Athènes.  So it is likely that Tissot was 20 or 21 in this photo, a dapper and ambitious young art student from the provinces quickly establishing himself in the competitive art world of the capital.  He appears considerably more sophisticated than he presents himself in a self-portrait as a monk a few years later, c. 1859.

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A photograph of James Tissot was made about 1865 by Étienne Carjat (1828 –1906), a French journalist, caricaturist and photographer who co-founded the magazine Le Diogène and founded the review Le Boulevard.  But Carjat is best known for his numerous portraits and caricatures of Parisian political, literary and artistic figures.  In 1860, he opened a photography studio at 56 rue Laffitte, which he operated for 20 years.  Carjat received a medal for his photographs in the Salon of 1863.  While he did not achieve the fame of Nadar, he did capture the personalities of his sitters, who included Gioacchino Rossini, Alexandre Dumas (père), Emile Zola, Charles Baudelaire, Sarah Bernhardt, Gustave Courbet and Victor Hugo.  Carjat was a friend of Henri Fantin-Latour, and it was probably through him that he met James McNeill Whistler in Paris in April 1863.  Around 1865, Carjat made two cartes-de-visite photographs of Whistler, who had been friends with Tissot since about 1857.

In Carjat’s photograph, Tissot is about 29 years old.  He was earning 70,000 francs a year as an easel painter, and he produced another self-portrait at this time.

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Self portrait (1865), by James Tissot, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, CA, USA. 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

At the Paris Salon in 1866, Tissot was elected hors concours: from then on, he could exhibit any painting he wished at the annual Salon without first submitting his work to the jury’s scrutiny. The price for his pictures skyrocketed. At 30, he decided to purchase property on the most prestigious new thoroughfare in Paris, the avenue de l’Impèratrice (Empress Avenue, now avenue Foch). By late 1867 or early 1868, Tissot was living in grand style in his luxurious new villa.

In 1867-68, Tissot’s friend Edgar Degas painted him, and this detail from a carte-de-visite photograph reflects his appearance at the time.  Tissot was described as having “a shock of jet-black hair, a drooping Mongolian mustache, an excellent tailor, and a small private fortune.”

 

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Portrait of James Jacques Joseph Tissot (c. 1867-68), by Edgar Degas.  Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.  Rogers Fund, 1939.  (Photo:  Open Access).

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After winning the right – at age 30 – to exhibit anything he wished at the Salons, and busy with commissions from his aristocratic patrons, Tissot did not need to kowtow to the critics.  He began painting light-hearted, sexually suggestive pictures, which would have been shocking in a contemporary context. He safely set them in the years of the French Directory (1795 to 1799), as if they depicted behaviors of a bygone time. One critic at the time observed that Tissot was dapper and personable, but thought him a little pretentious and a less-than-great artist “because he did what he wanted to do and as he wished to do it.” Tissot, having made his own way to the top of his profession, probably was a little smug in his success.

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Study for James Jacques Joseph Tissot (c. 1867-68), by Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas.  Prepared chalk on tan wove paper. Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Gift of Cesar M. de Hauke.  (Photo:  Open Access)

When the Second Empire collapsed on September 2, 1870, Tissot’s charmed life in Paris ended.  He became a sharpshooter, defending Paris in an elite unit, the Éclaireurs (Scouts) of the Seine.  [See James Tissot and The Artists’ Brigade, 1870-71.]  In the aftermath of the Franco-Prussian War  the bloody Commune in mid-1871 – James Tissot fled Paris with 100 francs to his name, establishing himself in the competitive London art market by catering to the British taste.  By 1873, he bought the lease on a spacious villa in St. John’s Wood, soon building an extension with a studio and huge conservatory.

He declined Degas’s exhortation to show his work in Paris with the independent group of French artists who organized their first of eight exhibitions in Paris in 1874 and who soon became known as Impressionists.  But Tissot and Edouard Manet travelled to Venice together in the fall of 1874, and Tissot bought Manet’s Blue Venice on March 24, 1875 for 2,500 francs.  Manet badly needed the income.  Tissot hung the painting in his home in St. John’s Wood, London, and tried to interest English dealers in Manet’s work.  [For more on how Tissot tried to help his friends, see James Tissot the Collector:  His works by Degas, Manet & Pissarro.]

A few of his contemporaries described him at this time.  Berthe Morisot, in an 1875 letter to her sister, Edma Pontillon, wrote, “We went to see Tissot, who does very pretty things that he sells at high prices; he is living like a king.  We dined there.  He is very nice, a very good fellow, though a little vulgar.  We are on the best of terms; I paid him many compliments, and he really deserves them.”  During the same trip, Morisot wrote to her mother, “[Tissot] is turning out excellent pictures.  He sells for as much as 300,000 francs at a time.  What do you think of his success in London?   He was very amiable, and complimented me although he has probably never seen any of my work.”

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Francis, Duke of Teck (1837 – 1900)

The same year, painter Giuseppe De Nittis wrote to his wife, Léontine, “I saw Tissot at the club, he was very nice, very friendly.”

Alan S. Cole wrote in his diary, on November 16, 1875, “Dined with Jimmy [Whistler]: Tissot, A[lbert] Moore and Captain Crabb.  Lovely blue and white china – and capital small dinner. General conversation and ideas on art unfettered by principles.”

British painter Louise Jopling (1843 – 1933) wrote, “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…he was very hospitable, and delightful were the dinners he gave.”

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By 1876, James Tissot again had earned great wealth and lived in relative seclusion for six years with his mistress and muse, young divorcée Kathleen Irene Ashburnham Kelly Newton (1854 – 1882).  [See James Tissot Domesticated and James Tissot’s Model and Muse, Kathleen Newton.]  In this photograph, Tissot is in his forties, painting in his studio.  French writer and critic Edmond de Goncourt (1822 – 1896) described him as having “a large, unintelligent skull and the eyes of a boiled fish.”  It was in late 1874 that Goncourt wrote in his journal, “Tissot, that plagiarist painter, has had the greatest success in England.  Was it not his idea, this ingenious exploiter of English idiocy, to have a studio with 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?”  Nevertheless, Goncourt relied on Tissot to illustrate Renée Mauperin, a novel written with his brother Jules (published in 1884).  Kathleen Newton modeled for the heroine.

In the photograph below, Tissot poses for Waiting for the Ferry (c. 1878) in his garden at Grove End Road with Kathleen Newton and her children, Muriel Violet Newton and Cecil Newton.

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Kathleen Newton died of tuberculosis at Tissot’s St. John’s Wood home in November, 1882, and he immediately moved back to his Paris villa.  He tried, and failed, to recapture his early success before embarking on an ambitious new project.  In 1885-86, he made his first trip to Palestine to research his illustrated Life of Our Lord Jesus Christ.  In the above photograph, c. 1890, Tissot was in his mid-fifties.  His self-portrait in watercolor, below, was painted around the same time.

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Portrait of the Pilgrim (1886-1896), by James Tissot.  Self-portrait in watercolor and graphite.  Brooklyn Museum, New York.

In 1896, Tissot exhibited his complete Life of Christ series in London.  His La Vie de Notre Seigneur Jésus-Christ was published in France, with the artist receiving a million francs for reproduction rights.

He embarked on his third trip to Palestine to begin an illustrated Old Testament (which would be published in 1904, two years after his death).  On the ship, English artist George Percy Jacomb-Hood (1857-1929) encountered Tissot and found him “a very neatly dressed, elegant figure, with a grey military moustache and beard, [who] always appeared on deck gloved and groomed as if for the boulevard.”

400px-James_Tissot_-_Photo_017, old man leaning against building

James Tissot’s father died in 1888, leaving him the Château de Buillon, near Besançon in eastern France.  During his remaining years, he lived partly in Paris and partly at the Château, improving the building and grounds.  The photograph above was made of Tissot around 1898.  He must have been experimenting with poses for his self-portrait of that year (below, right).

446px-James_Tissot_-_Photo_02, old man leaning on tree       Tissot_self_detail, 1898 leaning on tree

James Tissot died in 1902, at age 66, extremely wealthy and renowned for what was considered his great masterpiece, The Life of Christ illustrations. In his obituary in The Evening Post, Tissot was compared to William Blake, though “uniting as Blake never did, and as no other prominent artist has done, the mystical and ideal with an intense realism.”

An early biographer who knew him briefly, Georges Bastard (1881 – 1939), wrote that Tissot “was as reserved as the cut of his coat.”  No bon mots have been recorded, nor anecdotes by contemporaries who may have encountered Tissot at Second Empire receptions or balls – just a bit of jealous carping about his success.  While certainly not a reticent man, James Tissot could not have been a gregarious one.  He was determined to succeed on his own terms, and he did.  His work continues to fascinate us, and it alone must speak for him.

Related posts:

A James Tissot Chronology, by Lucy Paquette for The Victorian Web

James Tissot (1836-1902): a brief biography by Lucy Paquette for The Victorian Web

James Tissot the Collector:  His works by Degas, Manet & Pissarro

Was James Tissot a Plagiarist?

Tissot’s Romances

©  2017 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.

James Tissot’s Model and Muse, Kathleen Newton

Kathleen Irene Ashburnham Kelly Newton (1854 – 1882) first appeared in James Tissot’s paintings in 1876.  Who was she?  All we have to know her by are a few biographical facts researched by Tissot scholar Willard E. Misfeldt (b. 1930) and others, and dozens of paintings of Kathleen Newton by James Tissot.

According to Dr. Misfeldt, Kathleen Irene Kelly was born in May or June of 1854 in Agra, India.  Her mother, Flora W. Boyd, passed away, and she and her brother, Frederick, and elder sister, Mary Pauline (“Polly,” 1851/52 – 1896), were the responsibility of their father, Charles Frederick Kelly (1810 – 1885).  Mr. Kelly had been employed at the accountant’s office of the British East India Company in Agra from age 21 or 22 until his retirement to Conisbrough, South Yorkshire, in 1866.  At some point around mid-1860, the family began to use Ashburnham as a middle name.  Kathleen and Mary Pauline were sent back to England to be educated at Gumley House Convent School, Isleworth.  When Kathleen was sixteen, a marriage was arranged for her, and she returned to India to marry Dr. Isaac Newton, a surgeon in the Indian civil service.

Dr. Misfeldt skirts the issue of what happened next, but after the wedding on January 3, 1871, the young bride is said to have followed the advice of the local priest and confessed to her new husband that while travelling on the ship to India, she had been involved with a Captain Palliser.  She was sent back to England, gave birth to a daughter, Muriel Violet Mary Newton, in Conisbrough on December 20, and was officially divorced (decree nisi) by December 30.  At some point, she moved in with her sister Polly, by then married and living with her two young daughters, Belle and Lilian, at 6 Hill Road, St. John’s Wood, London.  There Kathleen gave birth to a son, Cecil George Newton, on March 21, 1876.  (It is said that Polly’s husband, Mr. Hervey, was in the Indian civil service.)

James Tissot had left Paris following the bloody Commune in 1871, and by early 1873, he had bought the lease on a medium-sized, two-storey Queen Anne-style villa, built of red brick with white Portland stone dressing, at 17 (now 44), Grove End Road, St. John’s Wood.

The residents of the comfortable suburban homes around the Regent’s Park and the district of St. John’s Wood, west of the park, were merchants, bankers and lawyers.  Tissot’s house was set in a large and private garden separating him from the horse traffic, omnibuses and pedestrians on their way to the park or the still-new Underground Railway station nearby.  Kathleen lived just around the corner, and legend has it that she met Tissot while mailing a letter at a postbox.

WAK41966

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 my previous blog post, James Tissot’s Models à la Mode, I indicated that the shadowy face in the center of The Thames (1876), was likely Tissot’s first painting featuring Kathleen Newton, and that she seems to be the model for one of the figures in Portsmouth Dockyard (c. 1877) as well.

Kathleen modeled for dozens of Tissot’s paintings; soon, he was painting her almost exclusively.  These pictures form a charming chronicle of their years together.  They also portray her rapid evolution from a young beauty travelling with her artist-lover, to a busy, beloved mother, then to a woman struggling with tuberculosis.

Room Overlooking the Harbour, the-athenaeum

In Room Overlooking the Harbor (c. 1876-78) Kathleen is on holiday with Tissot.  He captured her going about her business while an older man (who could be a servant accompanying the couple) gamely models as well.

CH32763

Mavourneen (Portrait of Kathleen Newton, 1877). Oil on canvas, 36 in. /91.44 cm. by 20 in./50.80 cm. Photo courtesy of The Bridgeman Art Library for use in “The Hammock: A novel based on the true story of French painter James Tissot,” © 2012 by Lucy Paquette

In 1877, Tissot captured Kathleen’s youthful, glowingly healthy beauty in Mavourneen.

By the Thames at Richmond

In By the Thames at Richmond (c. 1878), a scene based on a photograph that surely was staged, a man (modeled by Tissot or perhaps Kathleen’s brother, Frederick Kelly) is writing “I love you” on the ground while Kathleen reacts with a smile.  The girl is likely Kathleen’s daughter, Muriel Violet, who would have been about seven years old at this time.

mrs-newton-with-a-child-by-a-pool

Study for “Mrs. Newton with a Child by a Pool” (c. 1877-78). Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Virginia, USA.

In Mrs. Newton with a Child by a Pool (c. 1877-78), Kathleen plays with her son, Cecil, by the ornamental pool in the garden of Tissot’s house in St. John’s Wood.

A Winter's Walk

Kathleen is a lovely 24-year-old in A Winter’s Walk (Promenade dans la neige , c. 1878).

Mrs. Newton with an Umbrella

She is still fresh-faced at 25 in Mrs. Newton with an Umbrella (c. 1879, Musée Baron Martin, Gray, France).

at-the-louvre-1

At the Louvre (c. 1879-80), by James Tissot.  Private Collection.  (Photo:  Wikiart.org)

In 1879, the couple traveled to Paris, where Tissot used the Louvre as a setting for several paintings featuring Kathleen in her caped greatcoat.

Waiting for the Ferry, c 1878 (with Kathleen)

Waiting for the Ferry (c. 1878), by James Tissot.

Tissot_and_Newton photo, ferry

Kathleen Newton with James Tissot in his garden at Grove End Road.  The children are Muriel Violet Newton and Cecil Newton.  Photo c. 1878.  (Wikimedia.org)

Between about 1878 and 1881, Tissot produced a number of paintings featuring Kathleen as a traveler.  [See The Art of Waiting, by James Tissot, Tissot and Degas visit the Louvre, 1879 and Victorians on the Move, by James Tissot.]  Tissot had painted Kathleen Newton so often in the half-dozen years they spent together that her face became stylized.

the-dreamer-summer-evening

The Dreamer (or, Summer Evening, c. 1882), by James Tissot. Oil on canvas. Musée d’Orsay, Paris. (Photo: Wikiart.org)

In the final two years of Kathleen’s life, Tissot captured her looking tired and pale, with dark shadows under her eyes, or bedridden.  [See James Tissot’s garden idyll & Kathleen Newton’s death.]  The Victorian Web features a study of Mrs. Newton asleep in a conservatory chair, courtesy of Peter Nahum Ltd, London, dated 1881-82, and the Musée Baron Martin in Gray, France has a painting from the same time period, Mrs. Newton Resting on a Chaise-longue, in which she is propped up on two pillows and looks very ill.

Kathleen Newton died of tuberculosis on November 9, 1882, at age 28, at Tissot’s house with her sister, Polly Hervey, at her side (according to the death register).  Tissot draped the coffin in purple velvet and prayed beside it for hours.

In the six years that Kathleen Newton lived with James Tissot and modeled for him, he painted few other female models besides the girl in Croquet (c. 1878).  He produced only about two major portraits during the years Kathleen lived with him, Algernon Moses Marsden (1877), and Portrait of Mrs Catherine Smith Gill and Two of her Children (1877, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool.)

Immediately after the funeral on November 14, at the Church of Our Lady in Lisson Grove, St. John’s Wood, Tissot returned to Paris.  There, he exerted himself to re-establish his reputation in Paris 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.  Exhibited at the Galerie Sedelmeyer, from April 19 to June 15, 1885, as “Quinze Tableaux sur la Femme à Paris,” the pictures were poorly received.  A critic for La Vie Parisienne complained that the women in the series were “always the same Englishwoman” – some say the faces all resemble Kathleen Newton.  [See Tissot’s La Femme à Paris series.]

Tissot’s relationship with Kathleen Newton was evidently the only successful romance of his life.  [See Tissot’s Romances.]

the-apparition-mezzotine-second-state

The Apparition (1885), by James Tissot.  (Wikipaintings.org)

He tried to contact her through a series of séances.  On May 20, 1885, at a séance in London, Tissot recognized the female of two spirits who appeared as Kathleen, and he asked her to kiss him.  The spirit is said to have done so, several times, with “lips of fire.”  Then she shook hands with Tissot and disappeared.  He made this image of the vision to commemorate their reunion.

After his death in 1902, James Tissot and his work, and Kathleen Newton, were largely forgotten.

By 1930, few, if any, of Tissot’s contemporaries remained to share recollections of the artist.  The only biographical material on Tissot publicly available was a twenty-five page journal article published in France in 1906.

Kathleen’s daughter, Muriel Violet, died in 1933, and Mrs. Newton’s identity was forgotten – except by her son, Cecil.  In 1933, the first exhibition of Tissot’s work was held at the Leicester Galleries in London in 1933: ” ‘In the Seventies’ – An Exhibition of Paintings by James Tissot.”  A visitor to this exhibition, a man in his late fifties, stood before one of the paintings of a beautiful woman and declared, “That was my mother,” then walked out.  The woman, who appeared in a number of Tissot’s paintings between 1876 and 1882, and whose identity remained unknown into the next decade, was referred to as “la Mystérieuse” – the Mystery Woman.

The first biography was published in London in 1936:  Vulgar Society: The Romantic Career of James Tissot, 1836-1902, by novelist and fashion historian James Laver (1899 –1975).  Laver may have taken some poetic license when he wrote that Tissot kept his mistress hidden away in his home in St. John’s Wood and that “she led almost the life of a prisoner,” “as if she had been a beauty of the harem.”

In 1946, a London journalist, Marita Ross, published a plea for information regarding “La Mystérieuse,” Tissot’s unidentified mistress.  But Lilian Hervey, then 71, replied that this was her aunt, Kathleen Irene Ashburnham Kelly Newton (1854 – 1882), and she had original photographs of Mrs. Newton with James Tissot.  [See James Tissot in the 1940s: La Mystérieuse is identified.]

By the late 1960s, Willard Misfeldt was researching James Tissot and Kathleen Newton.

IMG_5038, shot to use on blog

In 2014, I visited James Tissot’s one-time home in St. John’s Wood and Kathleen Newton’s grave.  [See  A visit to James Tissot’s house & Kathleen Newton’s grave.]

I was able to make arrangements for a private tour of Tissot’s home thanks to the kindness of Irish author Patricia O’Reilly.  Patricia imagined Kathleen Newton’s life in A Type of Beauty: The Story of Kathleen Newton (1854-1882), © 2010 (cover photo, below left, courtesy of the author).  Click here to read it – and click here to read how I’ve imagined Kathleen’s life in The Hammock:  A novel based on the true story of French painter James Tissot ), © 2012!

A Type of Beauty, Patricia O'Reilly                        CH377762

Related posts:

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

James Tissot Domesticated

Was Cecil Newton James Tissot’s son?

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

Kathleen Newton by James Tissot: eight auctioned oil paintings

©  2017 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.

James Tissot’s Models à la Mode

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 Image -- James_Tissot_-_Two_Sisters, cropped face    b portrait-of-mlle-l-l-young-lady-in-a-red-jacket-1864, cropped face     c  Spring, the-athenaeum, cropped faceA

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 bag-4346-les-adieux-bridgeman-art-8-7-12, cropped face      b 925px-James_Tissot_-_Bad_News, cropped face      c tea-time, wiki art, cropped face

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.]

James_Tissot_-_The_Last_Evening, wiki

The Last Evening (1873), by James Tissot.  Margaret (Kennedy) Freebody and her brother, Captain Lumley Kennedy, posed for the figures in the chairs on the right.  Margaret’s husband, Captain Freebody, is the man with the red beard.

Boarding_the_Yacht, wiki

Boarding the Yacht (1873), by James Tissot.  Margaret (Kennedy) Freebody modeled for the woman on the right, and her sister for the woman on the left.

The_Captain_and_the_Mate, wiki

The Captain and the Mate (1873), by James Tissot.  Margaret (Kennedy) Freebody sits on the left with her husband, Captain John Freebody, and her brother, Captain Lumley Kennedy is in the center.

The_Captain's_Daughter, wiki

The Captain’s Daughter (1873), by James Tissot.  The woman is portrayed by Margaret (Kennedy) Freebody.

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).

a Waiting for the Ferry, Speed Museum version, the-athenaeum, cropped woman face             b london-visitors, wikiart, cropped woman face

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  612px-James_Tissot_-_Reading_the_News, cropped woman      b James_Tissot_-_Chrysanthemums, cropped      c James_Tissot_-_Still_on_Top_-_Google_Art_Project, cropped

A model with a soft fringe appears in Tissot’s A Passing Storm (c. 1876, figure a) and A Convalescent (c. 1876, figure b).

a  912px-James_Tissot_-_A_Passing_Storm, cropped        b  sag-65029-a-convalescent-bridgeman-art-8-7-12, cropped girl face

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  autumn-on-the-thames, cropped face         b quarrelling, cropped face         c The Bunch of Lilacs, the-athenaeum, cropped face

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.

a the-return-from-the-boating-trip, wikiart, cropped woman face               b 1200px-Louise_Jane_Jopling_(née_Goode,_later_Rowe)_by_Sir_John_Everett_Millais,_1st_Bt, wikimedia, cropped face

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  Hush, The Concert, the-athenaeum, cropped matron        b sag-65029-a-convalescent-bridgeman-art-8-7-12, cropped matron face         c Holyday, the-athenaeum, cropped matron

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 portrait-of-miss-lloyd, cropped face        b The Gallery of HMS Calcutta (Portsmouth) c.1876 by James Tissot 1836-1902         c Portsmouth Dockyard circa 1877 by James Tissot 1836-1902

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 612px-James_Tissot_-_Reading_the_News, cropped man    b Ball on Shipboard, the-athenaeum, cropped old man face    c Hush, The Concert, the-athenaeum, cropped old man face  d the-warrior-s-daughter-or-the-convalescent, cropped

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 London Visitors, the-athenaeum, cropped man face         b Holyday, the-athenaeum, cropped man face          c James_Tissot_-_The_Widower_-_Google_Art_Project, cropped

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  Portsmouth Dockyard circa 1877 by James Tissot 1836-1902         b the-warrior-s-daughter-or-the-convalescent, cropped Kathleen Newton        c  orphan, cropped Kathleen face

912px-James_Tissot_-_A_Passing_Storm, cropped

A Passing Storm (detail)

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).

Portsmouth Dockyard circa 1877 by James Tissot 1836-1902

Which means that the shadowy face in the center of The Thames (1876), would have been Kathleen’s as well.

WAK41966

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.

Here she is in The Warrior’s Daughter (A Convalescent, c. 1878).

the-warrior-s-daughter-or-the-convalescent

And here is Kathleen in Orphans (c. 1879).  Her face and slender figure would grace his work for only a few more years.

orphan

©  2017 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.

A Proper British Prop: Tissot’s Tartan Blanket

Among the recurring props that James Tissot used in his oil paintings, including the tiger skin, the leopard fur, certain striking gowns, and numerous wicker chairs, were fringed woolen blankets, most often one in a red tartan.

The first use he made of a blanket as a device to add color and visual interest to his composition was in The Marquis and the Marquise de Miramon and their children (1865):  in this case, a fringed red and white checked picnic cloth, or table cover, is draped over the stone wall behind the French aristocrat’s young son, Léon.

img_2578-copyright-lucy-paquette-2015-2

The Marquis and Marquise de Miramon and their children (1865), by James Tissot.  Musee d’Orsay, Paris.  www.the-athenaeum.org

After Tissot emigrated to London in mid-1871, rebuilding his career following the Franco-Prussian War and the bloody Commune uprising in Paris, one of the first oils he painted and exhibited in this new market featured a subdued brown and white striped lap rug, appropriate to the palette, in Gentleman in a Railway Carriage (1872).

gentleman-in-a-railway-carriage-jpglarge

Gentleman in a Railway Carriage (1872), by James Tissot.  The Worcester Art Museum, Massachusetts.  (Photo: Wikiart.org)

Tissot, ever the shrewd man of business, understood that he now had to paint for an entirely new clientele.  While British aristocrats did not purchase the Frenchman’s paintings, plenty of newly-wealthy businessmen sought his work as they enhanced their social status by building art collections.  Tissot had to appeal to Victorian tastes, in an empire ruled by a Queen whose beloved retreat was Balmoral Castle in Aberdeenshire.

Soon, he began to feature Scottish tartan blankets in his paintings.  He used the same fringed tartan blanket in The Captain and the Mate (1873) and The Last Evening (1873).  In these pictures as well as A Visit to the Yacht (1873), the blanket is a prop that provides an enlivening splash of red in the composition and sets off the adjacent gown.

In The Captain’s Daughter (1873), a black and white checked blanket is draped over the wooden railing under the woman’s arm, providing visual interest between the water and her dark floral dress.

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The Captain and the Mate, (1873), by James Tissot. The Captain and the Mate (1873), by James Tissot. Oil on panel, 53.6 by 76.2 cm. Private Collection. Courtesy of The Bridgeman Art Library for use in “The Hammock: A novel based on the true story of French painter James Tissot,” © 2012 Courtesy of The Bridgeman Art Library for use in The Hammock: A novel based on the true story of French painter James Tissot, © 2012

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The Last Evening (1873), by James Tissot. Oil on canvas, 28.3 by 40.6 in. (72 by 103 cm). The Guildhall Art Gallery, London. (Photo: Wikimedia.org)

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A Visit to the Yacht (c. 1873), by James Tissot.  Private Collection.

The Captain's Daughter

The Captain’s Daughter (1873), by James Tissot.  www.the-athenaeum.org

Tissot then begins to use this prop with some psychological sophistication.  In The Return from the Boating Trip (1873) and Waiting at the Station, Willesden Junction (1874), the tartan blanket not only provides the red necessary to the composition, but it adds a note of modern self-reliance to the women holding it.  With the blanket draped over their arms, Tissot depicts them providing for their own needs and ensuring their own comfortable mobility.

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The Return from the Boating Trip (1873), by James Tissot.  Private Collection.

Willesden Junction

Waiting at the Station (Willesden Junction, 1874), by James Tissot.  Dunedin Public Art Gallery, New Zealand.  www.the-athenaeum.org

Later in the decade, Tissot uses a red tartan blanket as a fashion statement.  In The Thames (c. 1876), the woman on the left has covered her gown quite elegantly with it.

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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 Portsmouth Dockyard (1877), the woman on the right has wrapped Tissot’s tartan blanket over her shoulders and torso; it echoes the color and pattern of the Highlander’s uniform and hose.  The woman on the left carries a black and white blanket that matches her ensemble.

Portsmouth Dockyard

Portsmouth Dockyard (How Happy I Could be with Either, c. 1877), by James Tissot.  Tate Britain, London.  www.the-athenaeum.org

By the end of the decade, Tissot uses two different tartan blankets, one wrapped around a woman and another swaddling her baby, in a painting with an overall red palette that evokes a palpable sense of danger and excitement, The Emigrants (c. 1879).

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The Emigrants (c. 1879), by James Tissot. Oil on panel, 15.5 by 7 in. (39.4 by 17.8 cm). Speed Art Museum, Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo: Wikimedia.org)

After a decade of using a traveling blanket to add interest to various oil paintings, Tissot reverted to relying on it for a splash of color, as in By Water (Waiting at Dockside, c. 1881-82).

Waiting at Dockside

By Water (Waiting at Dockside, c. 1881-82), by James Tissot.

Just as he painted women’s fashions so skillfully, James Tissot showcased his extraordinary technical skills when portraying patterns such as stripes, checks and plaids.  He made efficient use of the red tartan blanket prop for color, visual interest, psychological insight, and a clever appeal to his British clients.

Related posts:

Victorians on the Move, by James Tissot

Tissot in the U.S.: The Speed Museum, Kentucky

Tissot’s Study for the family of the Marquis de Miramon (1865)

CH377762©  2017 by Lucy Paquette.  All rights reserved.

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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.

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