Tag Archives: Edward Burne-Jones

James Tissot and the Pre-Raphaelites

There is very little documentation on James Tissot’s personality, behavior, and habits, including his interaction with the members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.  We can only extrapolate their relationships based on a few known facts.


Ecce Ancilla Domini! (The Annunciation, 1849-50), by D. G. Rossetti (Photo:  Wikipedia.org)

The leading members of the P.R.B., all ambitious art students in their early 20s, were William Holman Hunt (1827–1910), Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828–1882), and John Everett Millais (1829–1896), and the rebellious aim of their secret society was to create a new British art.  Rather than paint mannered historical or dull genre scenes, they wanted to return to the sincerity, minute detail, and luminous palette of medieval and early Renaissance painting.  They began with an attempt to revive religious art but quickly resorted to literary subject matter.

The first P.R.B. works appeared at the Royal Academy Exhibition in 1849, when James Tissot (1836 – 1902) was 13 years old.  In six years, he moved to Paris, and became an Academically-trained painter, favoring medieval subjects.  He was greatly influenced by the work of the Belgian painter Hendrik Leys (1815  1869).  Leys’ painting, The Trental Mass of Berthal de Haze – replete with numerous characters enacting a medieval drama against a minutely-detailed architectural background  won a gold medal at the 1855 Paris International Exhibition.

Promenade dans la Neige

A Walk in the Snow, by James Tissot

In 1862, Tissot traveled to London, where the first exhibition of his work was not at the Royal Academy but the International Exhibition.  Tissot showed one of his début paintings from the 1859 Salon, giving his medieval picture the English title, A Walk in the Snow.

He also must have met Britain’s most popular painter, John Everett Millais, who had moved to London with his wife, Effie.  With their growing family to provide for, Millais 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).

At the 1862 London International Exhibition, the retired first British Minister to Japan, Sir Rutherford Alcock (1809-1897) showed his collection at his Japanese Pavilion.  It was a sensation.  With the signing of the first commercial treaty between Japan and America in 1854, more than 200 years of Japanese seclusion came to an end.   In Paris, a host of import shops cropped up, and like Alcock, those with the means could collect exotic treasures – handcrafted pottery, lacquer, bamboo and ivory – that seemed even more exquisite compared to the Industrial Revolution’s mass-produced wares.


Young Women Looking at Japanese Articles (1869), by James Tissot.  (Image Courtesy of The Bridgeman Art Library)

Pre-Raphaelite artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti, who lived in Chelsea near James McNeill Whistler, tried to shop for Japanese items in Paris in November, 1864.  But, as he wrote to his mother from Paris, he “found all the costumes were being snapped up by a French artist, Tissot, who it seems is doing three Japanese pictures, which the mistress of the shop described to me as the three wonders of the world, evidently in her opinion quite throwing Whistler into the shade.”

Rossetti’s comment indicates that James Tissot was unknown to him prior to this, and that, with resentment at losing out on these treasures to him, he imagined Tissot was an inferior artist.

However, Rossetti became an admirer of Tissot’s work within months, when a book was published that included illustrations by several artists, including Millais and Tissot.  On February 3, 1865, Rossetti wrote to his friend, Alexander Macmillan, “I have seen the frontispiece & vignette to Tom Taylor’s Breton Ballads [Ballads and Songs of Brittany] designed by Tissot, which are admirable things. Could you as their publisher let me have a proof of each separate from the work?”  Macmillan made Rossetti a gift of one of Tissot’s drawings, either The Crusader’s Wife  or the one for the frontispiece.


Apple Blossoms (Spring, 1859), J.E. Millais. (Photo: Wikipedia)


Spring (1865), by James Tissot. (Photo: Wikipaintings.org)







Tissot continued to be inspired by Millais.  At the Paris Salon of 1865, though one of Tissot’s medieval pictures was a disappointment to the critics, his second picture, Spring,  received some praise because of its similarities to Millais’ Apple Blossoms (Spring), exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1859.


Portrait of Effie Millais (1873), by J.E. Millais (Photo:  Wiki)

In early June, 1871, Tissot fled Paris, along with thousands of others, after the Bloody Week, when French government troops brutally suppressed the Commune uprising that followed the Franco-Prussian War.  He arrived in London with 100 francs in his pocket, but he had had enough time to pack a few drawings before he left Paris:  on June 19, 1871, he dedicated an exquisite graphite rendering of a reclining French soldier at his ease with a rifle to Effie Millais (1828 – 1897).  Tissot had fought bravely in the Battle of Malmaison, west of Paris, on October 21, 1870; this drawing is inscribed to Effie, “a la Malmaison/le 22 Oct 1870.”

With the help of a handful of friends, including Millais, Tissot proceeded to rebuild his career in London.


A Huguenot, on St Bartholomew’s Day, refusing to shield himself from danger by wearing the Roman Catholic badge (1851-52), by J.E. Millais.  (Photo:  Wiki)


Les Adieux (The Farewells, 1871), by James Tissot. (Photo courtesy of The Bridgeman Art Library)













At the Royal Academy exhibition in 1872, Tissot showed Les Adieux (The Farewells, 1871).  A sentimental costume piece calculated to appeal to the British public, it clearly was inspired by Millais’ A Huguenot (1851-52).  Neither the critics nor the public objected to the French artist’s emulation of a Pre-Raphaelite masterpiece; rather, Tissot’s painting was so popular that it was reproduced as a steel engraving by John Ballin and published by Pilgeram and Lefèvre in 1873.


The Hammock (1879), by James Tissot.  (Image courtesy of The Bridgeman Art Library)

Later in the decade, when Tissot ceased exhibiting his work at the Royal Academy and instead displayed it at the innovative, elegant new Grosvenor Gallery, his supreme talent was acknowledged, but his paintings were considered a perversion of Pre-Raphaelitism:

“Mr. James Tissot, one of the eccentrics of the Grosvenor school, has sent in eight pictures.  In six or seven of them the leading figure is a girl in a hammock or in a swing, or lying down.  She is always surrounded by green trees and green grass, so green that you have to hunt for the figures, and so clever that you want to have Mr. Tissot sent for that you may call him names for prostituting his talents to a silly affectation of realism.   Pre-Raphaelitism gone mad is the motive power of this wild man of the studio.  Whistler has not quite satisfied us whether he can paint or not; but under Tissot’s eccentricities lurks a laughing giant.”   The New York Times, May 12, 1879


Pan and Psyche (1872-74), by Edward Burne-Jones.  (Photo:  Wikimedia.org)

In an 1896 letter to Helen (May) Gaskell, Edward Burne-Jones (1833 – 1898), who had been a close follower of Rossetti, described Tissot’s paintings of “ladies in hammocks, showing legs & ladies smoking – and all manner of things not tending to edification.”  Burne-Jones had met and fell in love with May, an unhappily married Society hostess, in 1892.

Burne-Jones’ wife of thirty-eight years, Georgiana (1840 – 1920), wrote to Tissot after her husband’s death, asking if they had ever met or if there had ever been any correspondence between the two artists.  In January, 1899, she received a letter from him with a “beautiful answer” to her questions:


Georgiana Burne-Jones, c. 1882.  (Photo:  Wikimedia)

“I am back from America and upon my return I find your letter which I hasten to answer. I did not know your husband very well.  I only remember that around 1875 I went to see him; he received me with great simplicity, and I judged the man according to what I saw in his studio – that is, great things on the easel rendered with a touching primitive simplicity.  I felt the heights where he hovered and the materiality where I struggled more and more; all this intimidated me so much that I was not going to see him anymore. He grew so much and I left England. Since then I have made this Life of Christ, I know he has been to see it.  I knew he liked it, and I would have a really good time seeing him on one of my trips to London when I learned of his death. He never wrote to me, otherwise I would put at your disposal what would remain of this great artist, one of the purest glories of your country. ”

Tissot, one of the most self-confident, ambitious and materially successful artists of his time, offered these effusive sentiments to a widow tasked with writing her husband’s biography.


The Finding of the Savior in the Temple (1854–60), by William Holman Hunt.  (Photo:  Wikimedia.org)

As for the third leading founder of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, William Holman-Hunt wrote in his memoir, Pre-Raphaelitism and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, Vol. II:

“The Franco-German war had brought many French artists to England, some of whom had returned to Paris, while others remained here.  One evening at a small bachelors’ gathering at Millais’ studio, a foreigner, being told that I had just returned from Jerusalem, asked if I were Holman-Hunt, the painter of ‘The Finding of Christ in the Temple’ [1854-55], which he had lately seen in Mr. Charles Mathews’ collection. He said that he had admired it and my principle of work so much that he had resolved some day to go to the East and paint on the same system.  I then learnt that this artist was young Tissot.”


The Youth of Jesus (1886-94), by James Tissot.  (Photo:  Wikiart.org)

Either this is true, and “young Tissot,” finding himself rebuilding his reputation in London at age 35, taking career cues from the practical, businesslike Millais, dreamed of imitating Holman-Hunt’s artistic quest in the Holy Land – or, more likely, Holman-Hunt as an elderly man was burnishing his reputation by taking credit for inspiring Tissot’s highly lucrative Bible illustrations, researched in Palestine after a “spiritual awakening” in 1885 and published to worldwide acclaim in 1896 and 1897.  Tissot’s series of 365 gouache illustrations for the Life of Christ were shown to wildly enthusiastic crowds in Paris (1894 and 1895), London (1896) and New York (1898), after which they toured North America until 1900, bringing in $100,000 in entrance fees; the Brooklyn Museum then acquired them by public subscription for $60,000.  After Tissot’s death in 1902, his assistants completed his Old Testament project, which was published in 1904.  Holman-Hunt published his autobiography in 1905.

And so, from James Tissot’s earliest years as a painter until his death, the Pre-Raphaelites were intertwined with him and his success.

© 2018 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 Posts:

London Début: Tissot explores a new art market, 1862

Ready and waiting: Tissot’s entrée, 1865

The competition: Tissot’s friends Whistler, Degas, Manet, Courbet, Alma-Tadema & Millais in 1866

Welcome to the Royal Academy Exhibition: London, 1870 (Part I)

London, June 1871

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.


The Stars of Victorian Painting: Auction Prices

All 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.] 

What is the current value of paintings by the most popular artists of the mid- to late Victorian era?  Can you guess whose work brings the top price to date?  Where do James Tissot and your favorite artist rank?  Here is a list of the twenty-three most valuable pictures sold in the past twenty-one years, from bottom up:


23.  John William Waterhouse (1849 – 1917), Ophelia (1894)

Phillips, London (2000):  $ 2,253,300/£ 1,500,000

Ophelia (1894), by John William Waterhouse. Oil on canvas, 49 by 29 in. (124.46 by 73.66 cm). (Photo: Wikipaintings.org)


22.  Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1836 – 1912), Roses of Heliogabalus (1888)

Christie’s, London (1993):  $ 2,288,250/£ 1,500,000

Roses of Heliogabalus (1888), by Lawrence Alma-Tadema. Oil on canvas, 52 by 84 in. (132.08 by 213.36 cm). (Photo Wikimedia.org)


21 (tie).  James Tissot (1836 – 1902), Mavourneen (Portrait of Kathleen Newton, 1877)

Christie’s, New York (1995):  $ 2,300,000/£ 1,433,915

Mavourneen (Portrait of Kathleen Newton, 1877), by James Tissot. Oil on canvas, 36 by 20 in. (91.44 by 50.80 cm). (Photo: Wikipaintings.org)


21 (tie).  Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1836 – 1912).  Baths of Caracalia – Thermae Antoniniane (1899)

Sotheby’s, New York (1993):  $ 2,300,000/£ 1,488,191

Baths of Caracalia – Thermae Antoniniane (1899), by Lawrence Alma-Tadema. Oil on canvas, 60 by 37 in. (152.40 by 93.98 cm). (Photo: Wikiart.org)


20.  James Tissot (1836 – 1902), La cheminée (At the Fireside, c. 1869)

Christie’s, London (2003):  $ 2,334,780/£ 1,400,000

La cheminée (At the Fireside, c. 1869), by James Tissot. Oil on canvas, 20 by 13 in. (50.80 by 33.02 cm). (Photo: Wikimedia.org)


19.  James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834 – 1903), Harmony in grey, Chelsea in ice (1864)

Christie’s, New York (2000):  $ 2,600,000/£ 1,768,106


18.  John William Waterhouse (1849 – 1917), Ophelia (1889)

Sotheby’s, London (2001):  $ 2,633,290/£ 1,850,000

Ophelia (1889), by John William Waterhouse. Oil on canvas, 39 by 62 in. (99.06 by 157.48 cm). (Photo: Wikimedia.org)


17.  James Tissot (1836 – 1902), L’Orpheline (Orphans, 1879)

Christie’s, New York (1993):  $ 2,700,000/£ 1,867,865

L’Orpheline (Orphans, 1879), by James Tissot. Oil on canvas, 85 by 43 in. (215.90 by 109.22 cm). (Photo: Wikipaintings.org)


16.  James Tissot (1836 – 1902), Preparing for the gala (c. 1874-76)

Christie’s, London (2006):  $ 2,763,150/£ 1,500,000


15.  William Holman Hunt (1827 – 1910), The Shadow of Death (1873)

Sotheby’s, London (1994):  $ 2,778,650/£ 1,700,000

The Shadow of Death (1873), by William Holman Hunt. Oil on panel, 41 by 32 in. (104.14 by 81.28 cm). (Photo: wikipaintings.org)


14.  James Tissot (1836 – 1902), October (1878)

Sotheby’s, New York (1995):  $ 2,800,000/£ 1,775,185

October (1878), by James Tissot. Oil on canvas, 46 by 21 in. (116.84 by 53.34 cm). (Photo: Wikipaintings.org)


13.  Sir John Everett Millais (1829 – 1896), Sleeping (1865)

Christie’s, London (1999):  $ 3,041,520/£ 1,900,000

Sleeping (1865), by John Everett Millais. Oil on canvas, 35 by 27 in. (88.90 by 68.58 cm). (Photo: Wikipaintings.org)


12.  Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828 – 1882), The Salutation of Beatrice (1869)

Christie’s, London (2012):  $ 3,334,788/£ 2,169,250 (Premium)

The Salutation of Beatrice (1869), by Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Oil on canvas, 22.48 by 18.50 in. (57.10 by 47.00 cm). (Photo: Wikipedia.org)


11.  Albert Joseph Moore (1841 – 1893), Jasmine (c. 1880)

Christie’s, London (2008):  $ 3,476,301/£ 1,777,250 (Premium)

Jasmine (c. 1880), by Albert Moore. Oil on canvas, 26.22 by 19.72 in. (66.60 by 50.10 cm). (Photo: Wikiart.org)


10.  Sir John Everett Millais (1829 – 1896), Sisters (1868)

Christie’s, London (2013):  $ 3,492,865/£ 2,301,875 (Premium)

Sisters (1868), by John Everett Millais. Oil on canvas, 42.52 by 42.52 in. (108.00 by 108.00 cm).  (Photo: Wikimedia.org)


9.  Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828 – 1882), Pandora (1869)

Christie’s, London (2000):  $ 3,605,280/£ 2,400,000

In 2004, Pandora sold for $ 2,378,480/£ 1,300,000 (Hammer) at Christie’s, London.

Pandora (1869), by Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Pastel on paper, 37 by 26 in. (93.98 by 66.04 cm). (Photo: Wikiart.org)


8.  James Tissot (1836 – 1902), Le banc de jardin (The Garden Bench, 1880)

Sotheby’s, New York (1994):  $ 4,800,000/£ 3,035,093

Le banc de jardin (The Garden Bench, 1880). Oil on canvas, 39 by 56 in. (99.06 by 142.24 cm). (Photo: Wikimedia.org)


7.  William Holman Hunt (1827 – 1910), Isabella and the Pot of Basil (1867)

Christie’s, London (2014):  $ 4,890,161/£ 2,882,500 (Premium)

Isabella and the Pot of Basil (1867), by William Holman Hunt. Oil on canvas, 23.86 by 15.24 in. (60.60 by 38.70 cm). (Photo: Wikimedia.org)


6.  Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828 – 1882), Proserpine (1880)

Sotheby’s, London (2013):  $ 5,279,476/£ 3,274,500 (Premium)


Proserpine (1880), by Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Colored chalks, 47.24 by 22.05 in. (120.00 by 56.00 cm). (Photo: Wikimedia.org)

5.  Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828 – 1882), A Christmas Carol (1867)

Sotheby’s, London (2013):  $ 7,463,337/£ 4,562,500 (Premium)

A Christmas Carol, by Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Oil on panel, 17.91 by 14.96 in. (45.50 by 38.00 cm). (Photo: Wikimedia.org)


4.  John William Waterhouse (1849 – 1917), St. Cecilia (1895)

Christie’s, London (2000):  $ 9,013,200/£ 6,000,000

St. Cecilia (1895), by John William Waterhouse. Oil on canvas, 48 by 79 in. (121.92 by 200.66 cm). (Photo: Wikimedia.org)


3.  Sir Edward Coley BurneJones (1833 – 1898), Love among the Ruins (1873)

Christie’s, London (2013):  $ 22,527,130/£ 14,845,875 (Premium)

Love Among the Ruins (1873), by Edward Burne-Jones. Watercolor, 37.99 by 60.00 in. (96.50 by 152.40 cm) (Photo: Wikimedia.org)


2.  Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1836 – 1912), The Meeting Of Antony And Cleopatra: 41 BC (1883)

Sotheby’s, New York (2011):  $ 29,202,500/£ 17,802,060 (Premium)

The Meeting of Antony and Cleopatra: 41 BC (1883), by Lawrence Alma-Tadema. Oil on panel, 25 3/4 by 36 in. (65.5 by 91.4 cm). (Photo: Wikimedia.org)


1.  Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1836 – 1912), The Finding of Moses (1904)

Sotheby’s, New York (2010):  $ 35,922,500/£ 22,080,336 (Premium)

The finding of Moses sold for $ 2,500,000/£ 1,558,603 (Hammer) at Christie’s, New York in 1995.

The Finding of Moses (1904), Lawrence Alma-Tadema. Oil on canvas, 53.82 by 84.02 in. (136.70 by 213.40 cm). (Photo: Wikimedia.org)


This price list is not in perfect order because, as I noted at the outset, some prices are hammer price (the winning bid amount) and some include the premium (hammer price with an additional percentage charged by the auction house, plus taxes).  But I’ve compiled the list using the best information available, and I hope you enjoy it!

©  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 posts:

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

James Tissot oils at auction: Seven favorites

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.





The Artists’ Rifles, London

Lord Ranelagh at the volunteer gathering in Brighton, 1863. Illustrated London News. (Photo: Wikimedia.org)

By the summer of 1859 – as the ambitious 23-year-old Jacques Joseph Tissot, a member of the National Guard in Paris, was making his Salon début under the name James Tissot – the British feared a French invasion under Napoléon III because of an assassination attempt on the Emperor and Empress on January 14, 1858, with bombs made and tested in England by an Italian revolutionary, Felice Orsini (1819 – 1858).  A year later, on April 29, 1859, France and the Austrian Empire went to war.  On May 12, 1859, the British government authorized the formation of volunteer rifle corps to be called out “in case of actual invasion, or of appearance of an enemy in force on the coast, or in case of rebellion arising in either of these emergencies.”  By the end of the year, the volunteer corps comprised thousands of patriotic men all over Great Britain, and was said to be “a force potentially the strongest defence of England.”

The idea of a special corps of artists was conceived by Edward Sterling, an art student and ward of Scottish historian Thomas Carlyle.  In May, 1859, Sterling held a meeting at his studio of fellow students in the life class of Carey’s School of Art, Charlotte Street, Bloomsbury.  The rooms of artist Arthur Lewis (1824 – 1901) in Jermyn Street became a gathering-place for those who pursued the plan.

The Artists’ Rifles was established on February 28, 1860 as the “The 38th Middlesex (Artists’) Rifle Volunteers.”  The Corps met to elect officers at the St. George Street studio of portraitist Henry Wyndham Phillips (1820 – 1868), who became the regiment’s first commander.  [Phillips also served for thirteen years as Secretary of the Artists’ General Benevolent Institution, founded in 1814 to assist professional artists in financial distress due to illness, accident or old age.]  The regiment initially was headquartered at the Argyll Rooms, a notorious pleasure establishment in Windmill Street, just north of Piccadilly.  Members met for preliminary drills in plain clothes, learning the goose step, the “balance-step without gaining ground,” and other rudimentary soldiering skills such as musketry – how to use a ramrod.  The government had purchased Burlington House, a Palladian mansion in Piccadilly, in 1854, and the Artists’ Rifles was granted space in it until 1868, when the Royal Academy established itself there.  From 1868 until 1889, when members built a permanent headquarters at 17 Duke’s Road, Euston, the Artists’ Rifles met and drilled at various addresses in central London.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, October 7, 1863 (Photo: Wikimedia.org)

Founding members of the Artists’ Rifles included painters George Frederic Watts (1817 – 1904), William Cave Thomas (c. 1820 – 1876), William Holman Hunt (1827 – 1910), Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828 – 1882), John Everett Millais (1829 – 1896), Edward Coley Burne-Jones (1833 – 1898), William Morris (1834 – 1896), Edward Poynter (1836 – 1919), and the 22-year-old Valentine (Val) Cameron Prinsep (1838 – 1904).  Members nominated friends as recruits.

James Tissot fled to London in late May or early June of 1871, after serving as a volunteer sharpshooter in the Artists’ Brigade in war-torn Paris.  During the decade that Tissot rebuilt his career in England, members of the Artists Rifles included Field Talfourd (1815-1874), portraitist Lowes Cato Dickinson (1819 – 1908), author and critic  John Ruskin (1819 – 1900), the German-born painter Carl Haag (1820 – 1915), Ford Madox Brown (1821 – 1893), George Price Boyce (1826 – 1897), Robert Braithwaite Martineau (1826 – 1869), William Wilthieu Fenn (1827 – 1906), portraitist Henry Tanworth Wells (1828 – 1903), John Bagnold Burgess (1829 –1897),  Edwin Longsden Long (1829 –  1891), John Roddam Spencer Stanhope (1829 – 1908), Frederic Leighton (1830 – 1896), watercolorist and War Office clerk Joseph Middleton Jopling (1831 – 1884), Arthur Hughes (1832 –1915), George Vicat Cole (1833 – 1893), Henry Holiday (1839 –1927), Charles (Carlo) Edward Perugini (1839 – 1918), Simeon Solomon (1840 – 1905), Marcus Stone (1840 – 1921), Frederick Walker (1840 – 1875), Albert Joseph Moore (1841 –1893), William Blake Richmond (1842 – 1921), Samuel Luke Fildes (1843 – 1927) and his friend Henry Woods (1846 – 1921), Walter William Ouless (1848–1933), and John William Waterhouse (1849 – 1917).

Charles Edward Perugini (1855), by Frederic Leighton (Photo: Wikimedia.org)

Frederick Walker (Photo: Wikimedia.org)

Robert Braithwaite Martineau (1860) by William Holman Hunt (Photo: Wikimedia.org)

Self-portrait, William Holman Hunt (1867) (Photo: Wikimedia.org)


Simeon Solomon in Oriental costume, photographed by David Wilkie Wynfield (Photo: Wiki)

Members of the “The St. John’s Wood Clique” – a group of gentlemen painters who resided in that affluent suburb north of London – joined the Artists’ Rifles, including Frederick Goodall (1822 – 1904), Henry Stacy Marks (1829 – 1898), John Evan Hodgson (1831 – 1895), Philip Hermogenes Calderon (1833 – 1898), George Adolphus Storey (1834 – 1919), George Dunlop Leslie (1835 –1921), William Frederick Yeames (1835 –1918) and the photographer who recorded images of many of the artists of his day, David Wilkie Wynfield (1837–1887).

William Frederick Yeames in fancy dress (c. 1860), by David Wilkie Wynfield (Photo: Wikimedia.org)

George Frederic Watts in fancy costume, by David Wilkie Wynfield (Photo: Wikimedia.org)

Valentine Cameron Prinsep, by David Wilkie Wynfield (Photo: Wikimedia.org)

Self-portrait, David Wilkie Wynfield (Photo: Wikimedia.org)

Sculptors who were members of the Artists’ Rifles included Thomas Woolner (1825 –1892), Charles Bell Birch (1832 – 1893), Thomas Brock (1847 – 1922) and William “Hamo” Thornycroft (1850 – 1925).  The regiment also included illustrators and engravers, architects, musicians, vocalists, composers, engineers, actors, authors, journalists, and at least one caricaturist, John Leech (1817 – 1864).  Drama critic and author Edward Dutton Cook (1829 – 1883) was a member, as was poet Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837 – 1909).  While French-born photographer Camille Silvy (1834 – 1910) lived in London from about 1859 to 1868 and became a member of the Artists’ Rifles, there is no indication that James Tissot joined.

Caricature of Algernon Charles Swinburne, Vanity Fair, November 21, 1874. Caption reads, “Before sunrise.” (Photo: Wikimedia.org)

There were two classes of membership in the Artists’ Rifles:  active members enrolled in military service paid an entrance fee of 10s.6d. and an annual subscription of £1.1s., providing their own uniform and firearms (subject to approval of the War Office for the sake of uniformity).  Honorary Members were not committed to military service.  They paid an additional 10s.6d. entrance fee and an annual subscription of £2.2s. (or a one-time payment of £10.10s.).

Members served with various levels of commitment.  In Katey: The Life and Loves of Dickens’s Artist Daughter (2006, Doubleday U.K.), author Lucinda Hawksley notes that Carlo Perugini, who joined the Artists’ Rifles in 1860 and served for twelve years, sent the occasional reminder letter to members who missed drill sessions.  To be considered active by the government, volunteer riflemen needed to attend eight days of drill and exercise in four months, or 24 days within a year.

English: Photograph of Sir John Everett Millai...

John Everett Millais, 1854 (Photo: Wikipedia)

Painter William Wilthieu Fenn, who became blind and was grateful for Millais’ kindness and practical assistance in alerting his friends to his inability to earn a living, later recalled that “Millais never quite took to” volunteering.  The drills at Wimbledon, where the National Rifle Competition was held, amused Millais, Fenn wrote, “but he tired of it soon, I suspect, and was at any rate very irregular in his attendances.”  Millais displayed “a flash of enthusiasm” when rifles were first served out, “but it was not sustained.”  Fennn had no memory of Millais ever wearing a uniform:  “I don’t think he ever did more than order one, even if he did that.  The discipline, loose though it was in all conscience at that date, seemed to irk him; it was not consonant with his painter’s disposition, and besides, it made too long-drawn demands upon his time, hard worker that he was, especially after his family increased as it was rapidly doing by 1860.”  Fenn added, “Beyond a few  visits to the camp at Wimbledon [in 1861], and a few shots at the targets of various ranges, soldiering did not suit him, and he very soon, I suspect, vanished from the ranks of the active volunteers.”  But Millais and fellow rifleman Joe Jopling – who won the Queen’s Prize at Wimbledon in 1861 for his bulls-eye – became great friends during this time.

Officers were drawn from the ranks.  Frederic Leighton, who joined on October 5, 1860, was promoted to command A Company within a few months.  Henry Wyndham Phillips died in 1868, and on January 6, 1869, Leighton was elected to command the Artists’ Rifles.  He was promoted from Captain to Major, and in 1875, he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel.  Three years later, Leighton was elected President of the Royal Academy, and he resigned as Commanding Officer of the Artists’ Rifles in 1883.  [At his funeral in 1896, his coffin was carried into St. Paul’s Cathedral past an honor guard of The Artists’ Rifles.]

Frederic Leighton in Renaissance costume, by David Wilkie Wynfield (Photo: Wikimedia.org)

The Artists’ Rifles regimental badge (Photo: artistsriflesassociation.org)

The regimental badge was designed by another member, Leonard Charles Wyon (1826 – 1891), the Queen’s medallist.  It depicted the profiles of Mars, the god of War, and Minerva, the goddess of Wisdom.  The men recited a regimental rhyme:  “Mars, he was the God of war, and didn’t stop at trifles. Minerva was a bloody whore. So hence The Artists’ Rifles.”

Monet The Thames at Westminster 1871 Westminster

The Thames below Westminster (c. 1871), by Claude Monet (Photo: Wikipedia)

Ironically, the “French invasion” from which the Artists’ Rifles were protecting Britain turned out to be artistic, as many painters – including Claude Monet and Camille Pissarro – fled Paris in 1870 and 1871 and sought success in London’s competitive art market.  With the exception of French etcher Alphonse Legros (1837 – 1911), who emigrated to England in 1863, married an English girl in 1864, and assimilated easily into British circles, these foreign artists were not exactly welcomed with open arms by the British public nor the close-knit community of painters who bonded in the Artists’ Rifles as well as in London’s many gentleman’s clubs.

In fact, the members of the Artists’ Rifles so enjoyed socializing with each other that, in 1863, they established the Arts Club in a beautifully preserved Adams-style mansion at 17 Hanover Square.

The Artists’ Rifles served with great distinction in the Boer War and The Great War.  The apostrophe was dropped in 1937, when the regiment’s title was officially simplified to “The Artists Rifles.”  During the Second World War, the regiment functioned as an Officer Cadet Training Unit, supplying officers to other regiments.  The regiment was disbanded in 1945 but was re-established two years later as the Special Air Service Regiment, now the 21 Special Air Service Regiment (Artists) (Reserve).

For more information on The Artists’ Rifles, past and present, see:

Artists Rifles Association

Artists Rifles Clubhouse

A History of The Artists Rifles 1859–1947, by Barry Gregory (2006, Barnsley: Pen & Sword Books)

Speaker, writer and self-described “thoroughly good egg and ex-soldier,” Patrick Baty:

© 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 videos, “The Strange Career of James Tissot” (Length:  2.33 minutes) and

Louise Jopling and James Tissot” (Length:  2.42 minutes).


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Courtesy of The Bridgeman Art Library  

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