Tag Archives: Berthe Morisot

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.


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.


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.


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).


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.


Édouard Manet


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.


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.


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.


Ernest Meissonier


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).


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.


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.

Oxford Portraits

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.



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.


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.


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.”


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.


Sir Julius Benedict


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.”


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.”


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.


Sir Charles Wyndham


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.

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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.


More “Plagiarists”: Tissot’s friends Manet, Degas, Whistler & Others

James Tissot and his friends, including James Abbott McNeill Whistler, Edgar Degas, Edouard Manet and Berthe Morisot, did not work in a vacuum.  In addition, creative personalities can be strong, and the public and the critics could be merciless.  Career success or failure sometimes led to rivalries, but competitive friendships inspired all the artists in their circle.

Gustave Courbet’s Woman with a Parrot, displayed prominently at the 1866 Salon jury, was a tremendous success with the public.  The 1867 Salon jury rejected Edouard Manet’s work, and all his entries also were rejected that year for the Paris International Exposition, which, like the Salon, was sponsored by the French government.  The International Exposition was a far bigger event than the Salon; it was held from April 1 to November 3 and included exhibitors from forty-one nations.  Courbet and Manet teamed up to present their work in an independent exhibition, building a large, temporary wooden pavilion across the street from one of the entrances to the International Exposition, at the Place d’Alma.  Manet showed fifty-six paintings, including his homage to Courbet’s Woman with a Parrot, called Young Lady in 1866.

Woman with a Parrot (1866), by Gustave Courbet. Oil on canvas, 51 x 77 in. (129.5 x 195.6 cm). Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. (Photo by Wikimedia.org)

Young Lady in 1866 (1866), by Edouard Manet. Oil on canvas; 72 7/8 x 50 5/8 in. (185.1 x 128.6 cm). Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. (Photo: Wikipaintings.org)

Manet’s student, Eva Gonzalès, not quite 21, made her Salon debut in 1870 with three paintings including Enfant de troupe, her take on Manet’s The Fife Player (rejected by the 1866 Salon jury).  Her picture was understood as an homage.

The Fife Player (1866), by Edouard Manet. Oil on canvas. Musée d’Orsay, Paris. (Photo: Wikimedia.org)


Enfant de troupe (Soldier Boy, 1870), by Eva Gonzalès. Oil on canvas, 51.2 by 38.6 in. (130 by 98 cm). Musée Gaston Rapin, Villeneuve-sur-Lot, France. (Photo: Wikimedia.org)

But Manet, who struggled enormously to gain acceptance in the Paris art establishment, found himself accused of plagiarism rather than an homage in 1873.  Painter Alfred Stevens, enormously rich and successful, was overheard at the Salon in 1873 sniping at Manet for plagiarizing Le Bon Bock from Frans Hals’ The Merry Drinker (1628–1630).  Manet publicly rebuked Stevens, stopping short of a physical confrontation.  Le Bon Bock won an honorable mention.

The Merry Drinker (1628-30), by Frans Hals. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. (Photo: Wikipaintings.org)


Le Bon Bock (The Good Pint, 1873), by Edouard Manet. Oil on canvas, 37 1/4 by 32 13/16 in. (94.6 by 83.3 cm). Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo: Wikimedia.org)

Manet borrowed ideas from Old Masters, but Edgar Degas accused Manet of plagiarizing from him, complaining to a friend, “That Manet. As soon as I did dancers, he did them.  He always imitated.”  However, prominent biographer Jeffrey Meyers points out that Manet painted milliners and women bathing in a tub before Degas did.  Art historian Jean Sutherland Boggs noted that Degas’ The Steeplechase (1866) was significantly influenced by Manet’s The Dead Toreador (1864).  Phoebe Pool, another art historian, wrote, “A great deal of nonsense has been written about Manet’s plagiarism…Critics do not object to Degas or the young Picasso using the works of older artists, yet they deplore this practice in Manet.”

The Dead Toreador (1864), by Edouard Manet. Oil on canvas, 29 7/8 x 60 3/8 in. (75.9 x 153.3 cm). National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. (Photo: Wikipaintings.org)

Scene from the Steeplechase: The Fallen Jockey (1866), by Edgar Degas. Oil on canvas, 70 7/8 x 59 13/16 in. (180 x 152 cm). National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. (Photo: Wikipaintings.org)

In September 1875, Eugene Manet found his brother at work on an extraordinary new picture.  He told his wife, Berthe Morisot, “Edouard has started a painting that is going to upset all the painters who think they own plein air and light-colored paintings.  Not a drop of black.  It seems Turner appeared to him in a dream.”  The picture, Laundry, showed a housewife happily doing the family laundry.  Later, Degas would be known for his depictions of laundresses, but they were workers paid to do other people’s drudgery.

Le Linge (Laundry, 1875), by Edouard Manet. Oil on canvas, 57 1/4 x 45 1/4 in. (145.4 x 114.9 cm). Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo: Wikimedia.org)

Laundresses Carrying Linen in Town (c. 1876-78), by Edgar Degas. Oil colors on paper mounted on canvas, 18 x 24 in. (46 x 61 cm). Private collection. (Photo: Wikipaintings.org)

Degas’ The Absinthe Drinker (1875-76) was denounced at the 1876 Salon; Manet painted Plum Brandy the next year – but Manet also had painted The Absinthe Drinker in 1858-59.  Who copied whom?

The Absinthe Drinker (c. 1859), by Edouard Manet. Oil on canvas, 70.1 × 40.6 in. (178 × 103 cm). Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen, Denmark. (Photo: Wikimedia.org)

The Absinthe Drinkers (1873), by Edgar Degas. Oil on canvas, 36.2 × 27 in. (92 × 68.5 cm). Musée d’Orsay, Paris. (Photo: Wikimedia.org)

Plum Brandy (c. 1877), by Edouard Manet. Oil on canvas, 29 x 19 3/4 in. (73.6 x 50.2 cm). National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. (Photo: Wikimedia.org)

Meanwhile, James Abbott McNeill Whistler was afraid that Gustave Courbet would steal his idea for Wapping (1860-64).  In a letter to a friend, Whistler ecstatically described the “masterpiece” he was working on, adding, “Ssh! Don’t talk about it to Courbet!”

Infanta Margarita Teresa in a Blue Dress (1659), by Diego Velázquez. Oil on canvas, 50 in × 42 in., 127 × 107 cm). Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria. (Photo: Wikipedia.org)

Harmony in Grey and Green: Miss Cicely Alexander (1872-74), by James Abbott McNeill Whistler. Oil on canvas. Tate Gallery, London. (Wikipaintings.org)

But Whistler copied Dutch Old Masters (as in his Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1, [Portrait of the Artist’s Mother], 1871), Velázquez (1599 – 1660) and, as Berthe Morisot pointed out, J.M.W. Turner (1775 – 1851):

In a letter to her sister Edma from London, while on her honeymoon with Eugène Manet in 1875, Berthe Morisot wrote: “I visited the National Gallery, of course. I saw many Turners (Whistler, whom we liked so much, imitates him a great deal).”

Joseph Mallord William Turner, Moonlight, a Study at Millbank (1797). Oil paint on mahogany, 314 x 403 mm. Tate Gallery, London. (Photo: Wikipaintings.org)


Nocturne: Blue and Gold–Southampton Water (1872), by James McNeill Whistler. Oil on canvas, 19 7/8 x 29 15/16 in. (50.5 x 76 cm). Art Institute of Chicago. (Photo: Wikipaintings.org)

Did Berthe Morisot ever borrow ideas from the artists in her circle?

In 1869, Manet painted Berthe Morisot with a Muff.  Almost a decade later, in 1878, James Tissot painted A Winter’s Walk.

A Winter’s Walk, by James Tissot. (Photo: Wikipedia.org)

In 1879-80, Manet painted Isabelle Lemonnier with Muff.

Isabelle Leonnier with a Muff, by Edouard Manet. (Photo: wikipaintings.org)

In 1880, Morisot painted Winter (Woman with a Muff).


Winter (Woman with a Muff, 1880), by Berthe Morisot. (Photo: Wikimedia.org)

These artists, all about the same age and with similar family backgrounds, were friends who lived and worked together.  Each absorbed the influence of the era and of their fellow painters to paint with a distinctive style, though their subject matter may at times have been identical.  They drew inspiration from one another but also competed with each other for critical notice, public attention – and the purses of patrons.

Related post:

Was James Tissot a Plagiarist?

©  2014 by Lucy Paquette.  All rights reserved.

If 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.

CH377762The 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.







Tissot’s Romances

Self portrait, c.1865 (oil on panel), 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.

Self portrait, c.1865 (oil on panel), 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.

James Tissot, a handsome and successful man described by one biographer as a “skirt chaser,” remained single all his life; his attempts to marry were foiled.

In Paris in his early thirties, he must have been engaged after building an opulent home in the fashionable avenue de l’Impératrice, but he fled to London following the Franco-Prussian War and its bloody aftermath, the Commune.

His friend Edgar Degas wrote to him on September 30, 1871:  “And what about the marriage?”

Tissot was busy, earning a great deal of money after having arrived in London with only one hundred francs in his pocket, and his old friends had not heard from him.

One of them, Jules Ferdinand Jacquemart* (1837 – 1880), was worried about Tissot, though the artist had friends in London.

It seems that war and civil rebellion had drastically altered Tissot’s life and ruined his plans to wed.

Within a few years, he 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 (designed by architect J.M. Brydon, and featured in The Building News in 1874).  British painter Louise Jopling’s lovely blonde sister, Alice, attracted Tissot’s interest.  Louise (1843–1933) wrote of Tissot in her 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.”  I believe the model for The Bunch of Lilacs was Alice:  in this photograph of Louise and her sisters, look at the blonde on the left, in the back, and compare for yourself!

The Bunch of Lilacs (c. 1875), by James Tissot.  Image 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

The Bunch of Lilacs (c. 1875), by James Tissot. Image 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 London around 1875 or 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 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.  [See James Tissot’s garden idyll & Kathleen Newton’s death]

Portrait of M.N. (Portrait of Mrs. Newton), 1876, etching and drypoint by James Tissot. Courtesy of wikipaintings.org

Upon Kathleen’s death, Tissot returned to his house in Paris and attempted to revive his career there.  In 1885, he briefly was infatuated with a tightrope dancer who also was being pursued by the author and journalist Aurélien Scholl (1833 – 1902), and whom Tissot had painted as L’Acrobate (The Tightrope Dancer, c. 1883-85, whereabouts unknown) in his La Femme à Paris series.  (Each of the fifteen paintings in this series was to have a story written about it, and interestingly, L’Acrobate was assigned to Aurélien Scholl.)

The same year, Tissot planned to marry Louise Riesener (1860 – 1944), the granddaughter of portrait painter Henri Riesener (1767 – 1828), a daughter of the painter Léon Riesener (1808-1878), and a cousin of painter Eugène Delacroix (1798 – 1863).  Along with her sister Rosalie, she belonged to the same artistic social set as Berthe Morisot, for whom they modeled.  Louise also was a friend and student of the painter Henri Fantin-Latour (1836 – 1904), who portrayed her twice, in 1879 and 1880.  Fantin’s La leçon de dessin (1879), now at the Musées royaux des beaux-arts de Belgique in Brussels, depicts the blonde Louise’s pursuit of her artistic ambitions; she is shown with her dark-haired friend, Emma Callimachi-Catargi, during a lesson in Fantin-Latour’s studio.  Fantin-Latour painted Mademoiselle Riesener in an 1880 portrait now at the Musée d’Orsay.  Berthe Morisot painted a portrait in oil, now at the Musée Marmottan Monet, París, of her friend Louise Riesener in 1881.  [Morisot’s 1888 charcoal and pastel portrait of Louise is now in the collection of the Cleveland Museum of Art but not currently on view, and Morisot’s 1888 oil portrait of Louise is at the Musée d’Orsay.]


Study for ‘Le sphinx’ (Woman in an Interior), by James Tissot. Oil on panel, 44 by 27 in. (111.76 by 68.58 cm). Private Collection.  (Photo:  Wikimedia.org) 

The match between James Tissot and Louise Riesener was arranged by the wife of Tissot’s longtime friend, the novelist Alphonse Daudet (1840 – 1897).  Tissot had painted Mademoiselle Riesener, described as “une fille déja d’un certain âge,” as Le Sphinx (c. 1883-85, whereabouts unknown) in his La Femme à Paris series.  Le Sphinx portrays an aloof woman seated on a sofa in a comfortable house, with a man’s top hat and stick on a nearby chair.  Tissot built a new floor on his house in preparation for his married life with Louise.  Unfortunately, one day when Tissot removed his overcoat in the front hall, his appearance struck his twenty-five-year-old fiancée as old-fashioned.  Louise** suddenly decided that she had lost her desire to marry.  Tissot was forty-nine.

He tried to contact Kathleen Newton 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.

L’Apparition médiunimique (The Apparition, 1885), by James Tissot. Mezzotint, Private Collection. Photo: wikipaintings.org

For more information on Jacquemart*, see James Tissot and The Artists’ Brigade, 1870-71.

Louise Riesener** later married Claude Léouzon-le-Duc (1860 – 1932), a lawyer and politician exactly her age.

© 2014 by Lucy Paquette.  All rights reserved.

The articles published on this blog are copyrighted by Lucy Paquette.  An article or any portion of it may not be reproduced in any medium or transmitted in any form, electronic or mechanical, without the author’s permission.  You are welcome to cite or quote from an article provided you give full acknowledgement to the author. 

Related blog posts:

The high life, 1868: Tissot, his villa & The Circle of the Rue Royale

Paris, June 1871

London, June 1871

Tissot’s La Femme à Paris series

Kathleen Newton by James Tissot: eight auctioned oil paintings

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 the Collector: His works by Degas, Manet & Pissarro

Even as James Tissot’s paintings were collected and valued during his early career in Paris and once he moved to London after the fall of the Paris Commune, he himself was a collector.  By the early to mid-1870s, as he began rebuilding his career in Victorian England, Tissot owned paintings by his struggling friends Camille Pissarro (1830 – 1903), Édouard Manet (1832 – 1883) and Edgar Degas (1834 – 1917), and he helped Berthe Morisot (1841 –
1895) further her painting career.

By early 1871, Tissot had purchased a painting by Pissarro.  It has not been identified, but it was a canvas that Pissarro, who had fled to London in December 1870 during the Franco-Prussian War, submitted unsuccessfully to the Royal Academy in the spring.

The Grand Canal, Venice (Blue Venice), by Édouard Manet. Oil on canvas, 23 1/8 by 28 1/8 in. (58.7 by 71.4 cm.) Shelburne Museum, Shelburne, Vermont, U.S.A. Photo: Wikipaintings.org

Tissot also owned Manet’s The Grand Canal, Venice (Blue Venice), 1875, (oil on canvas, 23 1/8 by 28 1/8 in. (58.7 by 71.4 cm.), The Shelburne Museum, Shelburne, Vermont).  Tissot and 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 did his best to interest English dealers in Manet’s work.  Manet died on April 30, 1883; in 1884, while Tissot owned it, Blue Venice was included in a retrospective exhibition of Manet’s work, organized as a tribute, in Paris.  By August 25, 1891, Tissot sold the picture to contemporary art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel (1831 – 1922), and in 1895, Durand-Ruel sold it as Vue de Venise (View of Venice) to Mr. and Mrs. Henry O. Havemeyer, New York, for $12,000.  A prominent art collector, Mrs. Havemeyer (1855 – 1929) named the painting Blue Venice.  After the deaths of the Havemeyers, their youngest child, Electra Havemeyer Webb (1888-1960), owned Blue Venice from 1929 until her death.  She had founded The Shelburne Museum in Vermont in 1947, and Manet’s painting entered the collection there in 1960.

Tissot helped Berthe Morisot as well, but only with advice.  In 1875, Berthe wrote to her sister, Edma, during her honeymoon in England with Manet’s brother, Eugène, “we left [Cowes]… 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.”  Berthe also wrote, “Today I shall hasten to that handsome Stanley, the bishop of Westminster Abbey, to whom I have a letter of introduction from the Duchess…Tissot tells me he is a very important personage, who can open all doors for us,” and she added, “Tissot tells me that during the regatta week at Cowes we saw the most fashionable society in England.”

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…I don’t mind seeing someone; it will be a change from the boarding-house routine.”  Later, she followed this with, “We went to see him yesterday.  He is very well installed, and 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.”

Horses in a Meadow (1871), by Edgar Degas.

Horses in a Meadow (1871), by Edgar Degas. Oil on canvas, 12 1/2 by 15 3/4 in. (31.8 by 40 cm.) Chester Dale Fund, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. Photo by Lucy Paquette.

Tissot had met Degas in 1859, when they both studied art under Louis Lamothe (1822 – 1869), and the two had become close friends.  In 1867-68, Degas painted a portrait of James Tissot, then 31-32 years old.  Within a few years, Tissot owned two oil paintings by Degas: Horses in a Meadow (1871, oil on canvas, 12 1/2 x 15 3/4 in. (31.8 x 40 cm.), National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.) and Woman with Binoculars (1875-76, oil on cardboard, 18 7/8 x 11 7/8 in. (48 x 32 cm.), Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, Galerie Neue Meister [State Art Collections, Dresden, New Masters Gallery]).

Horses in a Meadow was purchased from Degas in 1872 by Durand-Ruel, who sold it in January, 1874 for under 1,000 francs to opera baritone Jean Baptiste Faure (1830-1914), Paris.  Faure returned it to Degas, who gave it as a gift to James Tissot.  In 1890, Tissot sold Horses in a Meadow to Durand-Ruel for an unknown amount.  The picture was in the possession of Durand-Ruel until his death in 1922, then with his estate through 1925.  Mr. and Mrs. Jean D’Alayer owned it from 1951 to 1960; Mrs. D’Alayer was Paul Durand-Ruel’s granddaughter.  By 1991, New York art dealer Janet Traeger Salz had Horses in a Meadow, and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. purchased it in 1995 with the Chester Dale Fund.

Woman with Binoculars (1875-76), by Edgar Degas.  oil on cardboard, 18 7/8 x 11 7/8 in. (48 x 32 cm.)  Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, Galerie Neue Meister (State Art Collections, Dresden, New Masters Gallery).

Woman with Binoculars (1875-76), by Edgar Degas. oil on cardboard, 18 7/8 by 11 7/8 in. (48 by 32 cm.) Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, Galerie Neue Meister (State Art Collections, Dresden, New Masters Gallery).

Degas gave his painting of a woman named Lyda, titled Woman with Binoculars, to Tissot as a gift right after finishing it in 1876.  It remained in Tissot’s possession until January 11, 1897, when he sold it to Durand-Ruel for 1,500 francs.  Durand-Ruel sold it to H. Paulus in November of that year for 6,000 francs.  By 1907, Dresden art historian and collector Woldemar von Seidlitz owned Woman with Binoculars; it is possible that he bought it directly from Durand-Ruel, because he often was in Paris.  When he died in January, 1922, he bequeathed the painting to his nephew, also named Woldemar von Seidlitz, from whom it was purchased in the same year for the Galerie Neue Meister.

American scholar and collector Michael Wentworth (1938-2002) wrote, “[Tissot’s] friendship with Degas came to an…unhappy end when Tissot sold two pictures Degas had once given him for reasons that, however inexplicable, can hardly have been financial and today still appear quite gratuitously insulting.” 

Christopher Wood (1941 – 2009), a former director at Christie’s, London and later an art dealer at the forefront of the revival in interest of Victorian art in the late 20th century with his gallery in Belgravia, wrote that Tissot’s “long, difficult and stormy relationship with Degas finally ended in 1895 [sic] when Tissot sold a painting which Degas had given him.”

Tissot scholar Willard E. Misfeldt (a professor of Art History at Bowling Green State University, Ohio from 1967 to 2001), suggested that a reason for the rupture between Tissot and Degas “might have been Degas’ penchant for expressing himself bluntly and openly, regardless of the fact that his statements were often uncomplimentary.”  But Misfeldt then stated, “Tissot had always been a clever entrepreneur, able to make a considerable fortune from his art where Degas had failed, and when Tissot later sought to turn a profit by selling something he had gotten from Degas the latter was understandably incensed.”  He notes that this incident took place in 1897.

Scholars consistently portray this break in a nearly forty-year friendship as Tissot’s fault, for supposedly being mercenary, with Degas being wronged.  Théodore Duret (1838 –1927; a wealthy cognac dealer and art critic who was an early supporter of the Impressionists), painter Henri Michel-Lévy (1845–1914; a wealthy publisher’s son), Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841–1919) and James Tissot all sold works that they had bought from Degas or received as gifts.  “It is sad,” Degas said, “to live surrounded by scoundrels.”  Yet Degas himself capitalized on the increasing value of his work.

In 1893, Degas’ Absinthe was purchased for 21,000 francs.  Degas offended American painter Mary Cassatt (1844 – 1926) two years later when he asked the Havemeyers three thousand dollars for a picture Cassatt had sold to them, for him, for one thousand dollars in 1893; the Havemeyers paid the increased price, but Degas lost Cassatt’s friendship for a long time.

In 1896, Degas’ work received the official stamp of approval when seven of his pastels were accepted by the Musée de Luxembourg.  Considering the small sum (1,500 francs) for which Tissot sold Woman with Binoculars in 1897, greed would have been an unlikely motivation.  After all, Tissot had earned a total of 1,200,000 francs during his eleven years painting in London, and he was now creating a sensation with his Bible illustrations, on which he had labored from 1886 to 1894.  He had made a third trip to Palestine in 1896 to gather further impressions, and his illustrations were exhibited in London in 1896 and in Paris, for the second time since 1894, in 1897.  One observer noted that, “women were seen to sink down on their knees as though impelled by a superior force, and literally crawl round the rooms in this position, as though in adoration.”  Tissot arranged to have the Bible pictures published in 1896-97, before the 1898 American tour, and he received a million francs for the reproduction rights.  He soon made arrangements with other publishers, in England and America.

It is possible that Tissot sold Manet’s Blue Venice in 1891 for a profit, after Manet’s 1883 death had made his work valuable.  Perhaps Tissot sold Degas’ Horses in a Meadow in 1890 after one of Degas’ early dance pictures was sold at auction for 8,000 francs that year.  But why did he sell Woman with Binoculars in 1897, especially for a mere 1,500 francs when it was worth four times that?

Alfred Dreyfus stripped of rank, by Henri Meyer (1844–1899). Le Petit Journal, January 13, 1895. (Photo: Wikimedia.org)

One possible explanation for Tissot’s sale of Woman with Binoculars can be found in the fact that from 1894, an evolving political scandal polarized France.  A young French artillery officer of Jewish descent, Captain Alfred Dreyfus, was convicted of treason and sentenced to life imprisonment for allegedly having offered confidential French military documents to the German Embassy in Paris.  In 1896, new evidence showed that the act was committed by a French Army major; the evidence was suppressed, and on January 10, 1898, a military court acquitted the major.  The Army, using forged documents, then accused Dreyfus of additional charges.

The French were divided into two camps:  The Dreyfusards, who were sure an innocent man had been sent to prison, and the anti-Dreyfusards, who were adamant that the general staff of France’s Army should not be undermined.

Dreyfusards, considered the intellectuals, included painters Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro and Mary Cassatt; writer Émile Zola; actress Sarah Bernhardt; and author and playwright Ludovic Halévy and his family.

The anti-Dreyfusards, considered the nationalists and adherents of the Catholic revival, included Degas, Cézanne, Pierre-Auguste Renoir; sculptor Auguste Rodin; poet and essayist Paul Valéry; and Degas’ old friend Henri Rouart and his four sons.

A turning point came on January 13, 1898, when Zola’s open letter to the President of France was published on the front page of a Paris newspaper.  Zola accused the French Army of obstruction of justice and anti-Semitism in its wrongful conviction of Alfred Dreyfus to life imprisonment.

Photographic self-portrait (probably autumn 1895), by Edgar Degas. Gelatin silver print, 4 11/16 by 6 9/16 in. Harvard Art Museum/Fogg Museum. Photo: Wikimedia.org

Degas ended his fifty-year friendship with his old schoolmate, playwright and novelist Ludovic Halévy (1834 – 1908), over differences regarding the Dreyfus Affair, in the first weeks of January, 1898.  Degas also broke with several others, including Pissarro, at this time.

Paul Valéry (1871 – 1945) wrote, “Degas had political ideas.  They were simple, peremptory, essentially Parisian.  At the slightest indication he inferred, he exploded, he broke off.  ‘Adieu, Monsieur,’ and he turned his back on the adversary forever…Politics in the Degas style were inevitably like himself – noble, violent, impossible.”

Français : James Tissot

James Tissot

By November, 1895, Degas was openly anti-Semitic.   James Tissot had numerous Jewish friends, including Sir Julius Benedict (1804 – 1885), a German-born composer and conductor whom Tissot portrayed as the pianist in his 1875 painting, Hush! (The Concert); Frances, Countess Waldegrave (1821 – 1879), an influential London Society hostess and friend whose portrait Tissot painted; Algernon Moses Marsden (1847 – 1920), whose portrait he painted in 1877 and who, for a time, acted as his art dealer; Camille Pissarro; and, by one account, English Pre-Raphaelite painter Simeon Solomon (1840 –1905).

Perhaps Degas initiated the rift with Tissot, who then sold Woman with Binoculars, a gift Degas had given him when they were dear friends.

Interestingly, Degas kept his 1867-68 portrait of Tissot until his death in 1917.  It is now on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in Gallery 810.

Portrait of James Jacques Joseph Tissot (1836–1902), c. 1867-68, by Edgar Degas. Oil on canvas, 59 5/8 by 44 in. (151.4 by 111.8 cm.) Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Rogers Fund, 1939. (Photo: Wikimedia.org)

Related posts:

Tissot and Manet attempt to help their friend Degas, 1868

Who was Algernon Moses Marsden?

I am grateful to the following individuals for sharing information on the provenance of two of the paintings discussed in this article:

Dr. Gilbert Lupfer and Juliane Au, Intern

Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden


Leslie Wright, Public Relations and Marketing Manager

Shelburne Museum, Shelburne, Vermont

© 2013 by Lucy Paquette.  All rights reserved.

The articles published on this blog are copyrighted by Lucy Paquette.  An article or any portion of it may not be reproduced in any medium or transmitted in any form, electronic or mechanical, without the author’s permission.  You are welcome to cite or quote from an article provided you give full acknowledgement to the author. 


If 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.

Tissot vs. Whistler, Degas, Manet & Morisot oils at auction

All auction prices listed are for general reader interest only, and are shown in this order:    $ (USD)/£ (GBP).  All prices listed are Hammer Price (the winning bid amount) unless noted as Premium, indicating that the figure quoted includes the Buyer’s Premium of an additional percentage charged by the auction house, as well as taxes.

On May 9, 2013, James Tissot’s newly identified Portrait of Clotilde Briatte, Comtesse Pillet-Will (pastel on linen, 35 3/4 x 63 1/8 in./91 x 160.5 cm.) sold for $185,000 (Premium) at Sotheby’s New York.

James Tissot (1836 – 1902) was a multi-millionaire by the time he built his sumptuous villa on the avenue de l’Impératrice in Paris in 1867; his patrons included aristocrats such as René de Cassagne de Beaufort, Marquis de Miramon (1835-1882), the head of an ancient family that could trace its ancestry back to the eleventh century and owed its title to Louis XIV.

At that time, Tissot’s friends Édouard Manet (1832 – 1883), Edgar Degas (1834 – 1917) and James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834 1903) struggled to be taken seriously and to sell their work.  In 1865, Manet sold a still life of two flowers in a vase and thought the sale might bring him luck.  Degas’ career only began to take off in mid-February 1869, when he and his brother, Achille, traveled to Brussels.  One of the king’s ministers there bought one of Degas’ paintings, and when his work was exhibited at one of the most famous galleries in Europe, he sold two more.  Then a well-known picture dealer offered Degas a contract for 12,000 francs a year.  Whistler was fortunate that, in the mid-1860s, D.G. Rossetti introduced him to Frederick Richards Leyland (1832 – 1892), a shipping magnate from Liverpool; Leyland would become Whistler’s first important patron by the early 1870s.

Now, even prints and pastels by Whistler sell for as much or more than many oil paintings by Tissot.  A pastel by Whistler sold for a record $ 650,500/£ 403,010 (Premium) at Doyle New York on May 9, 2012:  White and Pink (The Palace) depicts the façade of a Venetian palazzo on the Grand Canal.  It was sold by a descendant of the patron who bought it out of Whistler’s studio in 1881 – prominent American collector Louisine Elder (she married sugar refining baron Henry O. Havemeyer in 1883).  Whistler’s oil painting, Harmony in grey, Chelsea in ice (1864), sold for $2,600,000/£ 1,768,106 at Christie’s, New York in 2000 [and was given in 2007 to the Colby College Museum of Art, Maine, by Peter and Paula Lunder].  Variations in violet and green (1871) sold at Sotheby’s, New York in 1987 for $ 2,350,000/£ 1,445,709 [and since 1995 has been in the collection of the Musée d’Orsay, Paris].

Danseuses à la barre - Signed 'Degas' (upper r...

Danseuses à la barre, by Edgar Degas,  Pastel, gouache and charcoal on paper 25 7/8 x 19 7/8 in. (65.8 x 50.7 cm) . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Degas’ dancers in pastel – and his bronzes – are more sought-after than his oils.  His Danseuse au repos (c. 1879 ) sold at Sotheby’s, New York in 2008 for $ 37,042,500/£ 23,366,239 (Premium).  Danseuses à la barre (c. 1880) sold at Christie’s, London in 2008 for $ 26,567,499/£ 13,481,250 (Premium).

Degas’ oil painting, Trois Danseuses En Rose/Three Dancers in Pink (c. 1886) sold at Sotheby’s, New York in 2008 for $ 8,441,000/£ 4,323,839  (Premium) [it had sold at Sotheby’s, London in 1989 for $3,280,200/£ 2,100,000.]  Les chevaux de courses, sortie du pesage (c. 1871-72) sold at Christie’s, London in 1991 for $ 9,033,750/£ 5,500,000.  Les Blanchisseuses, Les Repasseuses sold at Christie’s, London in 1987 for $ 12,416,120/£ 6,800,000.

Trois Danseuses En Rose, by Edgar Degas (Photo courtesy of www.edgar-degas.org)

Trois Danseuses En Rose, by Edgar Degas (Photo courtesy of http://www.edgar-degas.org)

Manet’s oil paintings not in public collections are prized by private collectors and art dealers.  Courses au Bois de Boulogne (1872) sold at Sotheby’s, New York in 2004 for $23,500,000/£ 13,105,794.  Manet sold La rue Mosnier aux drapeaux (1878) in 1879 to a Parisian collector for about $100, and it brought about $13,000 at a Paris auction in 1913.  In 1958, philanthropist Paul Mellon bought it at an auction of Berlin financier Jakob Goldschmidt’s collection for $316,000, a record at that time.  In 1989, the painting was purchased by the J. Paul Getty Museum in Malibu, CA, for $ 24,000,000/£ 15,175,466 – a record high for a Manet painting – at Christie’s New York.

la rue mosnier aux drapeaux

La rue Mosnier aux drapeaux, by Édouard Manet (Photo credit: Cåsbr)

Self-Portrait with Palette

Portrait de Manet par lui-même (Manet à la palette)/ Self Portrait with a Palette (1878) (Photo: Wikipedia Commons)

Portrait de Manet par lui-même (Manet à la palette)/ Self Portrait with a Palette (1878) is one of only two self-portraits Manet painted (and the only one in a private collection).  This self-portrait was once owned by Manet’s wife, Suzanne, and later by the French margarine magnate Auguste Pellerin.  It was purchased in 1958 at Sotheby’s, London, for £65,000 by John & Frances L. Loeb (New York) from the collection of Jakob Goldschmidt.  In 1997, it was sold through Christie’s New York, to U.S. hedge fund tycoon Stephen A. Wynn (Las Vegas) for $ 17,000,000/£ 10,469,914.  Thirteen years later, in 2010, it was purchased by New York dealer Franck Giraud for $ 33,228,758/£ 22,441,250 (Premium) at Sotheby’s, London.

Portrait of Mademoiselle Claus (1868), by Édouard Manet (Photo: wikipaintings)

Another measure of the value of Manet’s paintings occurred in 2012, when the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford raised £7.83 million (about $12.5 million) to prevent the French painter’s Portrait of Mademoiselle Claus (1868) from leaving the U.K.   The unfinished painting of Suzanne Manet’s closest friend, Fanny Claus (1846 – 1877) was once in the collection of John Singer Sargent.  It was sold by Sargent’s heirs to a foreign buyer in 2011 for £28.35 million.  The British government enacted a temporary export bar on the painting until August 7, 2012 to give the Ashmolean Museum time to acquire it at 27% of its market value.  The eight-month fund-raising campaign raised £5.9 million from the British government’s Heritage Lottery Fund; £ 850,000 from The Art Fund, a British cultural charity; and £1,080,000 million from trusts, foundations, and 1,048 individual donors whose gifts ranged from £ 1.50 to £ 10,000.

Edouard Manet, Le Printemps (1881). (Photo: Wikimedia.org)

Update:  On November 5, 2014, Manet’s Le Printemps (1881) was sold at Christie’s, New York for $ 65,125,000/£ 40,815,367 (Premium) to the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.  Depicting Parisian actress Jeanne Demarsy, it was a critical and popular success at the Paris Salon of 1882, and  the last of Manet’s Salon paintings still in private hands.  It was acquired from the artist on January 2, 1883 by French journalist and politician Antonin Proust 1832 – 1905), and by 1902 was owned by opera baritone, composer and art collector Jean-Baptiste Faure 1830 – 1914.  In mid-March, 1907, Le Printemps was acquired by Galerie Durand-Ruel et Cie., Paris, and then by Durand-Ruel Galleries, New York in late November 1909.  It was immediately purchased by American businessman and Civil War veteran Colonel Oliver H. Payne, New York (1839 – 1917), once one of the wealthiest men in the country, and it was passed down within the same family for over a hundred years.  This sale set a world record for Manet’s work.

By contrast, most of Tissot’s work now sells for a fraction of the value of paintings by the friends he vastly out-earned in his lifetime.

The Garden Bench

The Garden Bench, by James Tissot (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The record price for a Tissot oil painting was set by Le Banc de jardin/The Garden Bench (c. 1882).  This was a favorite image of Tissot’s, depicting his happy few years with his mistress and muse, Kathleen Newton (1854–1882), and her children in his garden; he kept it all his life.  It set an auction price record in 1983, when the American oil millionaire Fred Koch paid $ 803,660/£ 520,000 for it at Christie’s, London.  Koch intended to establish a Victorian picture gallery in Regent’s Park but was unable to secure planning permission and dispersed his collection.  In 1994, Le Banc de jardin set another record for a Victorian picture – as well as a record to date for a Tissot painting – when it sold for $ 4,800,000/£ 3,035,093 at Sotheby’s, New York.

Tissot’s October (1878) [presumably a copy of Tissot’s Octobre (1877) at the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Montréal, gift of Lord Strathcona and family, 1927] sold at Christie’s, London for $ 419/£ 150 in 1958.  October went on to set the second-highest price on record for an oil painting by Tissot when it was sold by Sotheby’s, New York in 1995 for $ 2,800,000/£ 1,775,185.

Here’s a summary of the highest auction prices to date of oil paintings by Tissot, Manet, Degas and Whistler – with top-selling paintings by Berthe Morisot (1841 – 1895) as well:

Manet, Le Printemps (1881), $ 65,125,000/£ 40,815,367 (Premium)

Manet, Portrait de Manet par lui-même (Manet à la palette)/Self Portrait with a Palette (1878), $33,228,758/£ 22,441,250 (Premium)

Manet, La rue Mosnier aux drapeaux (1878), $ 24,000,000/£ 15,175,466

Manet, Courses au Bois de Boulogne (1872), $ 23,500,000/£ 13,105,794

Degas, Les Blanchisseuses, Les Repasseuses, $ 12,416,120/£ 6,800,000

Morisot, Après le déjeuner (1881), $10,931,217/£ 6,985,250 (Premium) (sold February 6, 2013, Christie’s London).  This sale set an auction record for a work sold by a female artist.

Degas, Les chevaux de courses, sortie du pesage (c. 1871-72), $ 9,033,750/£ 5,500,000

Degas, Trois Danseuses En Rose (c. 1886), $ 8,441,000/£ 4,323,839 (Premium)

Tissot, Le Banc de jardin/The Garden Bench (c. 1882), $ 4,800,000/£ 3,035,093

Morisot, Cache-cache (1873), $ 4,600,000/£ 2,590,965 (sold November 2, 2005, Sotheby’s New York)

Morisot, Femme à L’éventail (1876), $ 4,365,000/£ 2,818,492 (Premium) (sold May 7, 2013, Sotheby’s New York)

Tissot, October (1878), $ 2,800,000/£  1,775,185, (sold February 16, 1995, Sotheby’s, New York)

Tissot, Preparing for the gala (c. 1874-76), $ 2,763,150/£ 1,500,000 (Sold June 8, 2006, Christie’s, London)

Whistler, Harmony in grey, Chelsea in ice (1864), $ 2,600,000/£ 1,768,106

Whistler, Variations in violet and green (1871), $ 2,350,000/£ 1,445,709

October, by James Tissot. (Photo: Wikipedia)

© 2013 Lucy Paquette.  All rights reserved.

A spotlight on Tissot at the Met’s “Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity”

Last week, I visited “Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

The exhibition is overwhelmingly beautiful – almost too much to take in during one afternoon.  The Manets, the Morisots – the gowns!  It’s fabulous; you’re transported.  See it if you can, and if you can’t – take the Met’s virtual tour, gallery by gallery.  Among the wonderful exhibits is the actual costume worn in In the Conservatory (Madame Bartholomé).  Albert Bartholomé (1848 – 1928) saved the two-piece summer gown after his wife, Périe (1849-1887), daughter of the Marquis de Fleury, passed away too young.

Besides not wanting to miss this show, I couldn’t miss the opportunity to view so many of Tissot’s oil paintings in a single venue.  They are stunning.

Portrait of the Marquise de Miramon, née, Thérèse Feuillant (1866), by James Tissot. Oil on canvas, unframed: 50 1/2 by 30 3/8 in. (128.3 by 77.2 cm). The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles. Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program.

Portrait of the Marquise de Miramon, née, Thérèse Feuillant (1866), is on loan from The J. Paul Getty Museum, in Los Angeles, California, which acquired the picture from the family in 2007.  Tissot depicts the 30-year-old Marquise in her husband’s castle, the château de Paulhac in Auvergne, leaning on the mantel in her sitting room with a stylish Japanese screen behind her.  It’s gorgeous – the photograph doesn’t do it justice.  The ruffles on her gown, which appear so precise, are lovely, curling brushstrokes.  Alongside is displayed a sample of the pink silk velvet used in the Marquise’s peignoir, produced with a modern aniline dye.  Her descendants kept this piece of fabric as well as the letter that Tissot wrote to her husband, who had commissioned the portrait, asking permission to display it at the 1867 Paris International Exhibition.  Permission was granted, and this private image was seen by the public for the first time.

It’s unfortunately the fashion to criticize Tissot’s work harshly.  A February 21, 2013 reviewer in The New York Times couldn’t resist disparaging the Portrait of Marquise de Miramon as “zealously detailed,” when that’s why it’s so wonderful.  (Remember Scarlett O’Hara’s dressing gown in Gone with the Wind?)  Visitors also are mesmerized by  Tissot’s Portrait of the Marquis and Marchioness of Miramon and their children and The Circle of the Rue Royale.  People (including me) vie for a position close enough to examine these pictures, clearly reluctant to step away.  Tissot’s aristocratic images are magnetic, a bit voyeuristic, as they provide us with a glimpse of a lost world.

Two Sisters (1863), Portrait of Mademoiselle L. L. (1864), Portrait of the Marquis and Marchioness of Miramon and their children (1865) and The Circle of the Rue Royale (1868) all are from the Museé d’Orsay, Paris.

Two Sisters

The Two Sisters (1863), by James Tissot. Oil on canvas, 82.7 by 53.5 in. (210 by 136 cm). Museé d’Orsay, Paris. (Photo: Wikipedia Commons)

The Two Sisters was sold from Tissot’s studio, a year after his death in 1902, to a collector in whose name it was given to the Luxembourg Museum, in Paris, in 1904.  It has been in the collection of the Musée d’Orsay since 1982.  This is the first time The Two Sisters has been shown in the U.S.

Portrait of Mlle. L.L. (Young Lady in a Red Jacket) (February 1864), by James Tissot.  Oil on canvas, 48 13/16 by 39 3/8 in. (124 by 99.5 cm).  Museé d’Orsay, Paris.  (Photo: Wikipaintings)

Portrait of Mademoiselle L. L. was in the collection of the Luxembourg Museum from 1907 to 1929, when it was assigned to the Louvre; it has been at the Musée d’Orsay in 1978.  I love this painting – a depiction of such an independent, intelligent, confident young woman – with its softly-rendered pompoms.  Tissot’s paintings in the 1864 Salon – this one and Two Sisters – reflected the trend toward capturing “modernity,” and he began to hit his stride as an artist.  Mademoiselle L.L. has been exhibited once in New York before, in 1994, as well as in New Haven, CT in 1999 and in San Francisco, CA and Nashville, TN in 2010.

The Marquis and the Marquise de Miramon and their Children (1865), by James Tissot. Oil on canvas, 69 11/16 by 85 7/16 in. (177 by 217 cm). Musée d’Orsay, Paris (Photo: Wikimedia.org)

The Marquis and the Marquise de Miramon and their Children is my very favorite Tissot painting.  It’s  gloriously lovely, a vision of perfection.  I had to jostle through the crowd of admirers to thoroughly scrutinize every detail.  The portrait remained in the family until 2006, when it was acquired by the Musée d’Orsay, and this is the first time it’s been exhibited anywhere else since 1866.

The Circle of the Rue Royale - Tableau en cour...

The Circle of the Rue Royale (1868), by James Tissot.  68 7/8 by 110 5/8 in. (175 by 281 cm).  Musée d’Orsay,  Paris.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Circle of the Rue Royale fills a wall at the Met, and visitors manage to peel themselves away, only to backtrack and examine some other intriguing detail.  Members of this exclusive club, founded in 1852, each paid Tissot a sitting fee of 1,000 francs.  He portrayed them on a balcony of the Hôtel de Coislin overlooking the Place de la Concorde (if you look closely at the original painting, you can see the horse traffic through the balustrade).  From left to right: Count Alfred de La Tour Maubourg (1834-1891), Marquis Alfred du Lau d’Allemans (1833-1919), Count Étienne de Ganay (1833-1903), Captain Coleraine Vansittart (1833-1886), Marquis René de Miramon (1835-1882), Count Julien de Rochechouart (1828-1897), Baron Rodolphe Hottinguer (1835-1920; he kept the painting according to the agreed-upon drawing of lots), Marquis Charles-Alexandre de Ganay (1803-1881), Baron Gaston de Saint-Maurice (1831-1905), Prince Edmond de Polignac (1834-1901), Marquis Gaston de Galliffet (1830-1909) and Charles Haas (1833-1902).  The Musée d’Orsay acquired The Circle of the Rue Royale in 2011 from Baron Hottinguer’s descendants for about 4 million euros.

Captain Frederick Gustavus Burnaby

Captain Frederick Gustavus Burnaby (1870), by James Tissot.  Oil on canvas, 19.5 by 23.5 in. (49.5 by 59.7 cm). National Portrait Gallery, London. (Photo: Wikipedia.org)

The small picture of Captain Frederick Gustavus Burnaby (1870) bursts with life.  Burnaby is too, too debonair, and the flicks of paint that create the gleam on his shoes are fascinating.  (I expected to be chastised for standing too close, but the guards were preoccupied with admonishing visitors that photographs are not allowed in the exhibition galleries.)

Tissot, 33 when he painted this image, owned a villa on the most prestigious avenue in Paris, and he occasionally supplied his British friend Tommy Bowles (Thomas Gibson Bowles,1841 – 1922), with caricatures of prominent men for Vanity Fair, Tommy’s new Society magazine which had made its début in London in 1868.  One of Tommy Bowles’ closest friends was the dashing Gus Burnaby (Frederick Gustavus Burnaby, 1842 – 1885), a captain in the privileged Royal Horse Guards, the cavalry regiment that protected the monarch.  Gus, a member of the Prince of Wales’ set, had suggested the name, Vanity Fair, lent Bowles half of the necessary £200 in start-up funding, and then volunteered to go to Spain to chronicle his adventures for the satirical magazine.  All Burnaby’s letters, which were first published on December 19, 1868 and continued through 1869, were titled “Out of Bounds” and signed “Convalescent” (he suffered intermittent bouts of digestive ailments and depression throughout his life). 

In 1870, Tommy Bowles, now 29, commissioned James Tissot to paint a small portrait of Burnaby.  Tissot presented Gus in his “undress” uniform as a captain in the 3rd Household Cavalry – and as an elegant gentleman in a relaxed male conversation.  The painting was purchased by London’s National Portrait Gallery from Bowles’ son (and Burnaby’s godson), George, in 1933.  Burnaby’s posthumous travels over the years have taken him (among other places) to Providence, RI; New Haven, CT; Buffalo, NY; Washington, D.C. and San Francisco, CA.  This exhibition takes him to Chicago next.

Ball on Shipboard

Ball on Shipboard (1874), by James Tissot. Oil on canvas, 33 1/8 by 51 in. (84.1 by 129.5 cm). Tate, London. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ball on Shipboard (1874) and Portrait of Miss Lloyd (1876) are from the Tate Britain, London.  Scholars have written that Tissot had a fixation with twins, but the Met’s show asserts that in Ball on Shipboard, Tissot was making a wry commentary on the rise of ready-to-wear fashion (and, of course, the tackiness of the nouveaux riches).  This is not Tissot’s only painting of women wearing identical ensembles:  see In the Conservatory (1875-76, also known as The Rivals).  Part of the viewer’s fascination with Tissot’s paintings is the enigmatic quality of his images:  they are as precise as photographs while they evade precise meaning.  You find yourself transfixed as you try to puzzle it out.


Portrait of Miss Lloyd (1876), by James Tissot. Oil on canvas, 36 by 20 in. (91.4 by 50.8 cm).  Tate, London. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Portrait of Miss Lloyd was purchased at Christie’s, London, in 1911 for £44.2.0 as An Afternoon Call and was acquired by the Tate in 1927.  When Tissot painted it in 1876, he titled it A Portrait.  The model for the drypoint version that Tissot made of this in 1876 was identified at a 1903 Paris auction as Miss Lloyd.

July (Speciman of a Portrait) (1878), by James Tissot. Oil on canvas, 34 7/16 by 24 in. (87.5 by 61 cm). Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio (Photo: Wikimedia.org)

July (Speciman of a Portrait) (1878) is from the Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio (bequest of Noah L. Butkin in 1980).  One in a series representing months of the year, the figure is modeled by Tissot’s mistress, Kathleen Newton (1854 – 1882).  Near this picture and Miss Lloyd’s portrait, the Met features a gown of the period very similar to Tissot’s prop costume, complete with graceful, loose bows of lemon-yellow satin ribbon.  [Tissot also used this costume in A Convalescent and A Passing Storm, both painted in 1876, and Spring, c. 1878.]

Le Bal/Evening (1878), by James Tissot. 35 7/16 by 19 11/16 in. (90 by 50 cm). (Photo: Wikimedia.org)

Kathleen Newton also modeled for Le Bal/Evening (c. 1885).  The painting moved around Paris:  it was at the Musée du Luxembourg from 1919 to 1920, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs until 1948, then at the National Museum of Modern Art until 1977, when it passed through the Louvre before being assigned that year to the Musée d’Orsay.  Evening was exhibited in the U.S. in Atlanta, GA in 2002 and in Houston, TX in 2003.

After Kathleen Newton died in 1882, Tissot’s work lost something – heart, confidence, a compelling sense of himself present in his work from 1864 to 1882.  In Paris, during and after the Franco-Prussian War, he already had lost so much – the carefree life he had as a young artist on the rise; his reputation as he, alone among his set, remained in Paris throughout the atrocities of the Commune, even his brand-new villa and studio as he fled to London and remained for a decade.  He retained ownership of the villa and moved into a large home in St. John’s Wood.  There, his paintings of his domestic life with Kathleen exude joie de vivre, but after he moved back to Paris, there’s something cold about his work.

Women of Paris: The Circus Lover

Women of Paris: The Circus Lover (1885), by James Tissot. Oil on canvas, 58 by 40 1/4 in. (174 by 102 cm). Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo: Wikipedia)

The Circus Lover (1885) is one in a series of eighteen paintings called La Femme à Paris (Women of Paris).  The setting for this picture is the Molier Circus in Paris, a “high-life circus” in which the amateur performers were members of the aristocracy.  The man on the trapeze wearing red is the Duc de la Rochefoucauld, one of the oldest titles of the French nobility.  The painting was purchased by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts in 1958 for $5,000 as Amateur Circus.  To closely examine its details, click here.

The Shop Girl (1883-1885), by James Tissot. 57.5 by 40 in. (146.1 by 101.6 cm). Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Canada. (Photo: Wikimedia.org)

The Shop Girl (1883-1885), also part of the La Femme à Paris series, was acquired by the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Canada, in 1968.

James Tissot’s work was – and is – denigrated by the critics, as being too good – too smooth, too detailed, too meticulous.  The accepted line is that he didn’t bring enough that was innovative.  Tissot was as technically proficient as the popular Alfred Stevens (1823 – 1906), in depicting female beauty and luxurious fashions.  What Tissot brought was an eye for revealing character through detail, and his own urbane, wry wit.

Who but James Tissot could have portrayed the larger-than-life Gus Burnaby?  Who but Tissot would depict the matron looking down her nose at the attractive young woman on the arm of a much older man in Evening?  And who else would have painted the head of the man outside the display window over the neck of the window mannequin in The Shop Girl?

In 1869, the journal L’Artiste, in a review of Tissot’s painting, Young Ladies Looking at Japanese Objects, exhibited at the Paris Salon, commented, “Our industrial and artistic creations can perish, our morals and our fashions can fall into obscurity, but a picture by M. Tissot will be enough for archaeologists of the future to reconstitute our epoch.”

Catching our breath at the Met's Balcony Bar

Catching our breath at the Met’s Balcony Bar

Tissot’s most arresting images have stood the test of time.

It was great fun to hop a train (with my all-too-willing husband) to spend an afternoon at the Met – and to view twelve Tissots at once.

Really, if you can’t make it there before the show closes on May 27, pour yourself a cold glass of champagne and Grand Marnier, have some chocolate-dipped strawberries on hand, and enjoy the virtual exhibition.

© 2013 Lucy Paquette.  All rights reserved.

The articles published on this blog are copyrighted by Lucy Paquette.  An article or any portion of it may not be reproduced in any medium or transmitted in any form, electronic or mechanical, without the author’s permission.  You are welcome to cite or quote from an article provided you give full acknowledgement to the author. 

View my video, “The Strange Career of James Tissot” (Length:  2:33 minutes).

Exhibition Notes:

“Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity”                                                                          February 26 – May 27, 2013 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

A revealing look at the role of fashion in the works of the Impressionists and their contemporaries. Some eighty major figure paintings, seen in concert with period costumes, accessories, fashion plates, photographs, and popular prints, will highlight the vital relationship between fashion and art during the pivotal years, from the mid-1860s to the mid-1880s, when Paris emerged as the style capital of the world.

For more information, visit


“Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity” is coming to the Art Institute of Chicago Wednesday, June 26 – Sunday, September 29, 2013


CH377762The 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.

NOTE:  If 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.

Paris, June 1871

James Tissot fought with the National Guard to defend Paris from the Prussian troops during the months of the Siege through the armistice on January 28, 1871.  Unlike Manet, Degas and the other artists who later would be known as Impressionists and the 300,000 residents who had left Paris by mid-April, Tissot was in Paris during The Bloody Week – la semaine sanglante.

After the Prussian victory, the new French government was despised by Parisians, particularly the working class, who felt betrayed by the new government for its humiliating concessions to the Germans after the war, its disregard of the suffering of Parisians, and its imposition of inhumane financial pressures on the starving, impoverished survivors.  

Out of anger and desperation, the Commune was formed on March 19, as a republic  to govern Paris.  The new French government established itself at Versailles on March 20.

On March 30, the Commune absorbed the demobilized National Guard.  The Communards installed themselves at the Hôtel de Ville (City Hall) and barricaded Baron Haussmann’s wide, “revolution-proof” streets with enforced assistance from every passing man, woman and child.  The barricade by the Arc de Triomphe, initially constructed in October 1870 as a defense against the Prussian troops, now was nearly thirty feet high.

On April 2, the French government began to bombard Paris.  Two days later, the Communards arrested the Archbishop of Paris and ten monks and imprisoned them as hostages.

A barricade in the Paris Commune, March 18, 1871.

A barricade in the Paris Commune, March 18, 1871. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Barricade, from above, Paris, 1871 Pa...

Barricade, from above, Paris, 1871. (Photo: wikipedia.org)

Français : Barricade rue Royale, vue vers la M...

Barricade on the rue Royale, looking toward La Madeleine, Paris 1871 (Photo: Wikipedia Commons)

Barricade on the rue d’Allemagne, Paris, 1871 (Photo: wikimedia.org)

Barricade at the Place Vendôme, rue de la Paix, during the Paris Commune, 1871. (Photo: wikimedia.org)

Barricade at the rue de Rivoli during the Paris Commune, 1871 (Photo: wikimedia.org)

Français : Barricade à l'angle des boulevard V...

Paris barricade, 1871 (Photo: wikipedia.org)

By the end of April, Paris was almost surrounded by the better-equipped French army, which stepped up its bombardment of the city on May 1.  On Sunday, May 21, the Versailles troops poured through the unguarded Porte de Saint-Cloud in the ring of fortifications around the capital — less than three miles south of Tissot’s villa near the Porte Dauphine.  As the soldiers battled their way into the city, they arrested anyone suspected of being a Communard and shot anyone at a barricade or in a National Guard uniform.  Others were taken prisoner – or shot on sight.  Paris became a bloodbath as the French government massacred its citizens to suppress the Commune.


Elihu B. Washburne (Photo credit: Library of Congress, public domain)

Still, on Monday, May 22, 1871, Elihu Washburne (1816 – 1887), the United States Minister to France, wrote in his journal, “The day is magnificent and thank Heaven we are safe in our quarter as it is all in possession of the troops.  I can now go back to my house and we will have no more bombs.”  Washburne, a neighbor of James Tissot on the former avenue de l’Impératrice [renamed avenue Uhrich by the Communards], added, “Our house has escaped wonderfully.  The piece of shell that entered it did but little harm further than smashing some windows.”  [James Tissot owned his Paris villa for the rest of his life, so whether or not it was damaged, it did survive the war and the Commune.]

By 9 p.m. on Tuesday, May 23, the Tuileries Palace — formerly the residence of Napoleon III — was ablaze.  An eyewitness wrote, “The immense column of fire went up into the sky, as straight as an arrow.”  The Tuileries burned the whole next day and night.  A wing of the Louvre – the library, housing 100,000 books — also went up in flames. 

The Communards became savage.  Twelve soldiers who had been imprisoned at Montmartre for refusing to fight for the Commune were set free – after they each had both their hands cut off at the wrists.

By the early hours of Wednesday, May 24, the Hôtel de Ville (City Hall) was on fire.  By 9 p.m., the Prefecture of Police was burning.  It had not rained for weeks, and the flames spread to the Palais de Justice and the Palais Royal.  Heavy winds carried the flames to the splendid residences along the rue de Rivoli and half of the rue Royale.  The Audit Office, where Berthe Morisot’s father worked, also burned down.  At the time, the French government blamed the Communards for arson; recent scholarship argues that this was propaganda to galvanize loyalist forces.  With the exception of the Hôtel de Ville, which was destroyed by members of the National Guard as they retreated, government buildings caught on fire by street fighting and incendiary shells.

The Burning of the Tuileries Palace, May 24, 1871 (Photo: wikimedia.org)

On the evening of May 24, the Communards executed the archbishop of Paris by firing squad.  When government soldiers retaliated by executing Communard prisoners, the Communards killed more of their prisoners — ten monks and 36 government soldiers.

On Thursday, May 25, the Grenier d’Abondance burned down.  This storehouse for four months’ supply of grain, flour, corn and sugar for the inhabitants of Paris had stood on the Boulevard Bourdon near the Place de la Bastille since 1816.  Montmartre was destroyed, and on the Left bank of the Seine, part of the Gobelins factory burned down.  All the tapestry and looms of the great workshops were reduced to ash. 

Berthe Morisot had been staying with her married sister, Edma, in Cherbourg on the English Channel, since early May.  But her mother wrote to her from Saint-Germain-en-Laye, west of Paris:

“Paris is on fire.  It is unimaginable.  Half-burned papers, some of them still readable, have been carried here all day long by the wind.  A vast column of smoke covers the city, which at night is a red, luminous spot, horrible to look at, like a volcanic eruption.”  Resentful that Edgar Degas sympathized (from afar) with the Communards, she added, “If Monsieur Degas could be roasted a little in it, he would have what he deserves.”  Manet also was disgusted with the new French government, calling its monarchist leaders “doddering old fools.” 

Elihu Washburne noted in his journal on May 25, “The state of feeling now existing in Paris is fearful beyond description.  Passing events have filled the whole population opposed to the Commune with horror and rage.  Arrests are made by the wholesale, of the innocent as well as the guilty.”

A heavy rain – the first in several weeks — fell all day on Friday, May 26, extinguishing the fire at the Louvre.

Government troops now occupied the Left Bank.  They piled up Communard corpses in the streets, and the carnage continued.  By Saturday, May 27, the Communards had executed 92 of their prisoners.  At dawn on Sunday, May 28, the last organized Communards – 147 of them — were lined up with their backs against a wall at Père Lachaise Cemetery and executed.  The sun broke out that day, and around noon, the French government declared that Paris had been saved:  “Order, labour, security will be reborn.”  By 4:00 p.m., government troops marched thousands of Communards (and suspected Communards) tied together with rope along the boulevards of the city, west to Versailles.  The prisoners were former soldiers in uniform, some in the tunics of the National Guard, deserters, civilians, women of all classes – some in silk gowns and some dressed as men — and even boys of 14 or 15.  They were marched through the Porte Dauphine, right past James TIssot’s villa.

Prisoners of the Versailles government, June 24, 1871 (Photo:  wikimedia.org)

There was no mercy.  Tissot’s neighbor, Elihu Washburne, wrote, “The rage of the soldiers and the people knows no bounds.”  He recorded an incident in which a “well-dressed respectable looking man was torn into a hundred pieces” for expressing a word of sympathy for a suspected Communard being savagely beaten.

The French government massacred thousands in retribution; the total is estimated at 20,000.  Corpses were everywhere, and the stench of decomposing bodies was overwhelming.  On Monday, May 29, the French government officially disbanded the National Guard.  This is the Paris that James Tissot fled, sometime between May 29 and June 19, 1871.

Français : Cadavres de soldats fédérés durant ...

Dead Communards, Paris 1871 (wikipedia.org)

Paris Commune. Photo taken on May 29, 1871, af...

Paris on May 29, 1871 (Photo: wikipedia.org)

By Wednesday, May 31, residents displayed the tricolor at their homes and even on their carriages, to forestall searches by the authorities.  Within the next few weeks, Parisians who had fled after March 18 returned.  Cook’s Tours of London began offering special trips to Paris to see the still-smoking ruins, considered hauntingly beautiful and magnificent.  Photographers’ images of the charred remains of the capital appeared in the shop windows, purchased by Parisians and tourists alike.


Paris ruins, 1870 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Burnt stone shell of the Tuileries Palace afte...

Burnt stone shell of the Tuileries Palace after the 1871 fire — as seen from the Louvre courtyard (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ruins, La Place, Saint-Cloud 1871, by Adolphe Braun (1811 – 1877). Photo: wikimedia.org

Paris ruins, by Adolphe Braun, 1871 (1811 – 1877). Photo: wikimedia.org

Curious foreigners visit the ruins of Paris, 1871 (Photo: wikimedia.org)

Berthe Morisot’s mother returned to Paris.  “It’s unbelievable,” she wrote, “you rub your eyes, wondering if you are really awake.”  On June 5, 1871, she wrote to Berthe:  “I saw only the Hôtel de Ville on the morrow of my arrival.  It’s a beautiful ruin.  Your father wants to have the debris preserved as historical evidence and as a sacred reminder of the horror of popular revolutions.”  She added that their son, Tiburce (a lieutenant in the Versailles army who had been captured, imprisoned in Germany and just released), encountered two Communards – Manet and Degas!  “Even now, they blame the authorities for having resorted to energetic means of repression.  I think they are insane.  What do you think?”

Gustave Courbet

Gustave Courbet (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Gustave Courbet, not quite 52, was arrested on June 7, 1871.  On September 6, 1870, Courbet had been designated president of the Art Commission charged with the protection of works of art in Paris and its outlying districts.  After the war and the armistice, Courbet was as bitter against the new French government as other Parisians, but he saw an opportunity to reform the arts and the annual Salon.  He was elected to the Commune on April 16 to work toward this end, and he happily spent twelve hours a day in committee meetings.  “I am in heaven,” he wrote to his parents at Ornans on April 30.  “Paris is a true paradise; no police, no nonsense, no oppression of any kind, no disputes.  Paris runs by itself as if on wheels. It should always be like this.”   He added, “The Commune of Paris is more successful than any other form of government has ever been.”  Now, just five weeks later, he was being taken to Versailles to be court-martialed for his involvement in the Commune and the destruction of government property.

Édouard Manet, who had left Paris on February 12, 1871 for Oloron-Sainte-Marie to be reunited with his wife, Suzanne, his mother and his 19-year-old godson, Léon Leenhoff, was now with them at villa in Arcachon, a seaside resort in southern France.  On March 2, Manet’s brother, Gustave, urged him not to return to Paris, as “the state of the sanitation in the city is far from reassuring.”  A few days after the Commune was established, Manet wrote to a friend, “I’m not looking forward to the return to Paris at all.”

When Manet did return, in early June, he found that his studio in the rue Guyot had been destroyed during Bloody Week, but he was able to rescue his paintings there as well as those he had left in a friend’s cellar.  He moved them to a new studio on the ground floor of 51, Rue de Saint-Pétersbourg, next door to his mother’s apartment.

On June 10, Manet wrote to Berthe Morisot that he was glad that her family’s house in Paris had been spared.  “I hope, Mademoiselle,that you will not stay a long time in Cherbourg.  Everybody is returning to Paris; besides, it’s impossible to live anywhere else.”

In some of the only good news from this time – good for Berthe Morisot, still so attracted to Édouard Manet — Berthe’s mother wrote to her that Suzanne had grown fat and “Mademoiselle Gonzalès [his attractive young student] has grown ugly.”

Edgar Degas had been in Paris through February and early march, but in mid-March, accepted an invitation to stay with friends in Normandy, where he sketched, rested and ate very well.  By May, he was making studies of horses and painting portraits of his friends’ children.

Edgar Degas, Portrait of Mlle. Hortense Valpin...

Portrait of Mlle. Hortense Valpinçon, by Edgar Degas, 1871 (Photo credit: 16 Miles of String)

Tissot, unlike his friends Manet and Degas, had endured life in Paris throughout the war and the Commune.  Now, he alone did not find it “impossible” to live anywhere else.  There is almost no documentation on his life at this time.  Exactly when and why James Tissot fled, and whether he had a choice, we may never know.

© 2013 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.

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