Tag Archives: Frédéric Bazille

The few images of people of color by the Impressionists and James Tissot

To cite this article: Paquette, Lucy. “The few images of people of color by the Impressionists and James Tissot.” The Hammock. https://thehammocknovel.wordpress.com/2020/06/15/the-few-images-of-people-of-color-by-the-impressionists-and-james-tissot/. <Date viewed>.


How hard is it to think of an Impressionist painting that features a black model?

1862, Manet, Baudelaire's Mistress, Jeanne_Duval, WIKI

Baudelaire’s Mistress, Reclining (Jeanne Duval, 1862), by Édouard Manet. Oil on canvas, 90 by 113 cm. Szépművészeti Múzeum, Budapest, Hungary. (Wiki)

And yet, surely you’ve seen Manet’s painting, Baudelaire’s Mistress, Reclining (1862). That skirt! The subject, Jeanne Duval, is no shrinking violet; in fact, her bold posture and frank gaze makes the aristocratic Berthe Morisot seem timid in Manet’s Repose (c. 1871).

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Repose (c. 1871), by Édouard Manet. Rhode Island School of Design Museum

Jeanne Duval was born in Haiti in the 1820s. Duval’s grandmother, a slave from Guinea, was sent to Europe to work in a brothel, and it’s likely that Jeanne’s father and grandfather were both white.

When she moved to France, she played bit parts at a small theater in the Latin Quarter, where she met the man who would become known as the photographer Nadar. She was Nadar’s mistress in 1838-39, when he was 18 and 19. In 1842, his friend, a free-spending dandy named Charles Baudelaire, saw her perform and was immediately infatuated with her; she became his “mistress of mistresses.”

Scholarly articles by Marc Christophe (1990) and Therese Dolan (1997) shed light on their intense and stormy twenty-year relationship, and Duval was the subject of a major exhibition at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in 2003 based on the work of poet, artist, photographer and historian Maud Sulter.

Dessin_de_Jeanne_Duval_, by Baudelaire - WIKI

Jeanne Duval (c. 1850), by Charles Baudelaire

Nadar, who did not photograph Duval, described her in terms equally sexist and racist which are only hinted at in this brief excerpt: “A tall, almost too tall girl…A special dish for the ultra-refined palate. Beneath the impetuous luxuriance of her ink-black and curling mane, her eyes, large as soup-plates, seemed blacker still…She looked serious, proud, even a bit disdainful.  Her figure was long-waisted, graceful and undulating as a snake…”

Gustave Courbet painted Duval standing next to Baudelaire in The Artist’s Studio (1854-55, Musée d’Orsay), but the figure was removed at the poet’s request after a quarrel. Four years later, Duval suffered a stroke. In 1862, Baudelaire told his mother his liaison with Duval was over, but three years later, while in Brussels, he made a pen and ink drawing of her (below) from memory.

1850 c, Baudelaire drawing of Jeanne_Duval, WIKI

Portrait of Jeanne Duval (1865), by Charles Baudelaire. Pencil and ink, 20.6 by 14.5 cm. Musée d’Orsay (Wiki)

Manet exhibited his painting of Duval in 1865, at the Galerie Martinet. Nadar claimed to have last seen Duval around 1870, on crutches and rapidly declining from syphilis. (Baudelaire, who had shown symptoms of syphilis from the time he met Duval, died from its effects in 1867.) Manet’s untitled, undated picture was found in his studio after his death in 1883, and his wife, Suzanne, helped the notaries to title it merely Baudelaire’s Mistress for their inventory. A small watercolor version is in the collection of the Kunsthalle Bremen, Germany.

In 1861 or 1862, Manet painted a black nurse with the little girl on the right in Children in the Tuileries Gardens (Rhode Island School of Design Museum). Only recently has the woman been identified as Laure; Manet described her as a “very beautiful black woman” and recorded her address in a studio notebook.

RISDM 42-190

Children in the Tuileries Gardens (c. 1861-62), by Édouard Manet. Oil on canvas, 37.8 x 46 cm (14 7/8 x 18 1/8 inches). Rhode Island School of Design Museum.

In 1862, Manet painted a bust-length portrait of an unnamed woman, La Négresse, now subtitled Portrait of Laure (Pinacoteca Giovanni e Marella Agnelli Gallery, Turin, Italy), which later was owned by Manet’s one-time student, Éva Gonzalès.


La Négresse (Portrait of Laure), by Édouard Manet. Oil on canvas, 61 by 50 cm (24 by 20 in.). Pinacoteca Giovanni e Marella Agnelli Gallery, Turin, Italy (Wiki)

And now we know it is Laure who modeled for the maid in Olympia, which Manet exhibited at the Salon in 1865.

An important work on the black female body is “Olympia’s Maid: Reclaiming Black Female Subjectivity,” written in 1992 by American artist and critic Lorraine O’Grady. But it was Denise Murrell   who discovered that this black woman was named Laure, a “free, wage-earning woman” who lived among the Impressionists in the Batignolles neighborhood of Paris, in researching her 2014 thesis, “Posing Modernity: The Black Model from Manet and Matisse to Today.”

This research was the basis for an exhibition of the same name held at Columbia University’s Wallach Art Gallery in New York from October 24, 2018 – February 10, 2019. Dr. Murrell, the museum’s first Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Research Scholar, curated the show. An expanded version, “The Black Model, from Géricault to Matisse,” was held at the Musée d’Orsay from March 26 – July 14, 2019, and Dr. Murrell was a co-curator. In January of this year, she began her new post of associate curator for 19th- and 20th-century art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, making her the first full-time black curator on the Met’s staff.

1863, Manet, Olympia, Musée_d'Orsay, WIKI

Olympia (1863), by Édouard Manet. Oil on canvas, 130 by 190 cm. Musée d’Orsay. (Wiki)

In 1869 or 1870, Frédéric Bazille painted La Toilette, featuring an exotically-garbed black servant in the foreground, viewed from the back and partially nude. He believed the Salon jury would be impressed by this Orientalist touch, and so he spared no expense. “I have found a ravishing model who is going to cost me an arm and a leg,” he wrote to his mother, “10 francs a day plus bus fare for her and for her mother who accompanies her.” He later added the figure on the right, believed to be Lise Tréhot, Renoir’s companion and model. The jury rejected this work for the Salon in 1870, perhaps punishing Bazille for a painterly style too similar to Manet’s.

1869-70, Bazille, La_Toilette, Musee_Fabre, Montpelier, WIKI

La Toilette, by Frédéric Bazille. Oil on canvas, 52 by 50 in. (132 by 127 cm). Musée Fabre, Montpellier, France. (Wiki)

Bazille also painted his new model in modern attire in Young Woman with Peonies (National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.) in 1870, giving the completed canvas to his friend, the musician and art collector, Edmond Maître.

1870, Bazille, Young Woman with Peonies, NGA

Young Woman with Peonies (1870), by Frédéric Bazille. Oil on canvas, 60 by 74 cm. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

A second version of this painting is known as African Woman with Peonies. Though the model is unknown, it is striking that Bazille featured her in these attentive character studies. She, with her expressive eyes, hands and self-possessed demeanor, is the subject of both canvases, amid the Dutch-inspired floral still life. Who knows how else he may have depicted this woman who knew her own worth and whom he valued, had he not been killed in the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, at age 28? His family kept this painting until his brother gifted it and La Toilette to the Musée Fabre in Montpellier in 1918.

1870, Bazille, Young Woman with Peonies, Fabre Museum, WIKI

African Woman with Peonies (1870), by Frédéric Bazille. Oil on canvas, 60 by 75 cm. Musée Fabre, Montpellier, France. (Wiki)

Another artist who was killed in the Franco-Prussian War, Henri Regnault, painted a black model, a man, in a grisly work, Execution without Judgment under the Moorish Kings (1870, Museé d’Orsay). Regnault’s image is, however, in the Orientalist tradition of painters like Eugène Delacroix and Jean-Léon Gérôme rather than a depiction of a contemporary black person like Bazille’s woman arranging peonies.

1870, Regnault, Execution without Judgment, Musee d'Orsay, WIKI

Execution without Judgment under the Moorish Kings (1870), by Henri Regnault. Oil on canvas, 301 by 143 cm. Museé d’Orsay. (Wiki).

In 1871, when James Tissot left the turmoil of war-torn Paris for London, his American-born friend who lived there, James Whistler, famously painted his mother. In a 2018 article for BBC Culture, American poet and art critic Kelly Grovier wrote of Whistler’s “penchant for racist remarks and his fondness for slapping abolitionists in the face. The artist of course shouldn’t be tarred by the appalling allegiances of his brother, who wore the grey uniform of the Confederacy in its doomed efforts to perpetuate slavery, but the fact adds context. Whistler’s mother herself, who once tried to stop the black wife of her uncle and their children from acquiring family land, makes an ironic subject for a painting whose official title, on reflection, feels more than a little racially charged: Arrangement in Grey and Black.”

A reviewer for for James Abbott McNeill Whistler: A Life, by Gordon Fleming (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1991), wrote, “This withering biography knocks Whistler (1834-1903) off a pedestal. The man [was] a combative hothead given to fistfights, a racist who once punched a Haitian in the face simply because he was black.”

A 2001 review in the Hartford Courant of an exhibition of Whistler’s lithographs at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art begins with the curator’s observation, “James McNeill Whistler was not a nice man.” The reviewer comments, “Even though Whistler, a West Point dropout and native of Lowell, Mass., was safely out of the country, happily pursuing a bohemian life in Europe during the Civil War, he remained a stalwart supporter of the Confederate cause and remained a virulent racist throughout his life.”

It appears there are no images of people of color in Whistler’s work.

1872, Degas, children-on-a-doorstep, WIKI

Courtyard of a House (New Orleans, a sketch), also known as Children on a Doorstep, 1872, by Edgar Degas. Oil on canvas, 60 by 73.5 cm. Ordrupgaard, Copenhagen, Denmark. (Wiki)

Tissot’s good friend Edgar Degas visited New Orleans during the Reconstruction period from late October 1872 to early March 1873; his Creole mother’s family, the Mussons, lived there, but another branch of the family that lived there was black, as discussed in a 1999 review in the New York Times of “Degas and New Orleans: A French Impressionist in America,” at the New Orleans Museum of Art. Degas’ maternal grandfather was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, of French parentage into the wealthy planter class and had made a fortune in Louisiana cotton. Degas’ mother died when he was thirteen, and he was visiting her younger brother, Michel Musson, who lived in a rented mansion and kept black servants. Edgar’s brother, René, had joined Michel’s cotton business and married one of his daughters, Estelle. The extended family lived together.

Art critic and scholar Christopher Benfey, author of Degas in New Orleans: Encounters in the Creole World of Kate Chopin and George Washington Cable (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997), previously had “set the city astir by revealing that a branch of the Degas family in this city is descended from a black woman, Constance Vivant, who had six children with Vincent Rillieux, a brother of Degas’s maternal grandmother. One of the children, Norbert Rillieux, became a prominent engineer responsible for advances in sugar refining.” [The reviewer notes, “Neither the Rillieuxes nor the Mussons knew of each other before Mr. Benfey’s book.”]

The reviewer adds, “Mr. Benfey’s book went on to point out the membership of several of Degas’s close relatives here, including René, in the Crescent City White League, a fundamentally racist group bent on wresting political power from the more diverse (if no less corrupt) post-Civil War carpetbaggers…Degas himself wrote frequently in his letters home about black people observed in the street, black women taking care of white children. But with the exception of one partly obscured figure in one painting, he didn’t paint them.”

That painting is Courtyard of a House (New Orleans, a sketch), also known as Children on a Doorstep (Ordrupgaard, Copenhagen, Denmark), which depicts a black nurse watching children of varied skin tones in the large Musson household in the French Quarter in 1872. Degas’ letters from New Orleans to his friends in Paris discussing “the black world” use racist terminology (such as “quadroon” and “forests of ebony”). He notes of the racial mingling in this Southern city, “I shall be very surprised to live among white people only in Paris.”

In 1873, Degas painted A Cotton Office in New Orleans (Musée des beaux-arts de Pau, France), which portrays Michel Musson with his partners and others, including Degas’ brothers René and Achille. It was exhibited in the second Impressionist show in Paris in 1876 and was the first painting by an Impressionist to be purchased by a museum, the newly-founded Musée des beaux-arts de Pau, France, in 1878.

1879, Degas, Miss La La at the Cirque Fernando, National Gallery London, WIKI

Miss La La at the Cirque Fernando (1879), by Edgar Degas. Oil on canvas, 117.2 by 77.5 cm. National Gallery, London. (Wiki)

1880, Miss_Lala

Miss Lala (1880) (Wiki)

Several years later, Degas painted a circus performer of mixed race, a petite twenty-one year old woman named Olga Brown, known as Miss La La, who had been born in Stettin (now in Poland) to a black father and a white mother.

She began performing at age 9, eventually touring circuses and music halls throughout Europe and also performing at London’s Royal Aquarium central hall and Manchester’s Gaiety Theatre. A 2007 article by Marilyn R. Brown reveals much more about her.

In January 1879, Degas attended several of this superstar’s aerial performances at the Cirque Fernando in Montmartre. Suspended from a rope clenched between her teeth, the exceptionally strong acrobat was raised seventy feet toward the circus’s domed ceiling. Degas made multiple studies, in graphic, pastel, and oil, of Miss La La and the circus building, and she visited his studio in the rue Fontaine, near the Cirque Fernando. In his diary, he referred to her as “my beautiful negress.” A pastel study at the Getty shows how he lightened the performer’s skin tone in the completed painting, which focuses on her dramatic feat. He identified her only by her stage name.

The painting was first shown at the Fourth Impressionist Exhibition in Paris in 1879.

1879, Degas, Miss La La at the Cirque Fernando, pastel, GETTY Open Content

Miss Lala at the Fernando Circus (1879), by Edgar Degas. Pastel on faded blue paper, 46.4 by 29.8 cm (18 1/4 by 11 3/4 in.) Getty Open Content.

An 1883 poster advertises Miss La La’s performances, twice a day, at the Hippodrome at the Pont de l’Alma, the setting of James Tissot’s painting of [white] performers in glittering costumes, Women of Paris: The Ladies of the Chariots, exhibited in Paris in 1885 and in London in 1886.

Tissot seems to have made friends easily and maintained numerous mutually satisfying relationships over many years – with both men and women, of varied ages, religions, sexual orientations, backgrounds, and temperaments. But there is no documentation on his views on race or any relationships he might have had with people of color, and in his paintings of groups that included soldiers, sailors, dock workers, and servants, all the figures are white.

1867, Tissot, beating-the-retreat-in-the-tuileries-gardens, WIKI-I think

Beating the Retreat in the Tuileries Gardens (1867), by James Tissot. Oil on panel. Private collection. (Photo: Wikipaintings.org)

But James Tissot made one image of a person of color: the Zouave drummer of the Imperial Guard who is the main figure in Beating the Retreat in the Tuileries Gardens (1867, private collection). In late 1854, Napoléon III ordered a special regiment, the Zouaves of the Imperial Guard, created from the Zouave regiments in the French Army. These Zouaves, by this time native Frenchmen stationed in Algeria, originally were members of the fierce Kabyli tribe of Zouaoua living in the rocky hills of Algeria and Morocco who had volunteered to fight with the French colonial army in 1830. Formed on March 15, 1855, the Zouaves of the Imperial Guard served through all the campaigns of the Second Empire, including the Franco-Austrian War of 1859 and the Mexican Intervention (1864-66). The Zouaves earned a reputation for reckless bravery, and they became famous for their distinctive uniforms, which included a short, collarless, open-fronted jacket, baggy trousers, sashes and Oriental head gear, modeled on Algerian native dress.

In this one picture, Tissot the Realist painter gives us a glimpse of a moment he engaged with a person of color, whom he clearly respected: he made a detailed, sensitive and fairly large oil study of the man, inscribed with his name and military unit, Jousef/Ben Moustapha/3ième Bataillon. Tissot exhibited the painting at the Salon in 1868, where it was purchased for 7,000 francs by the emperor’s cousin, Princess Mathilde.

© 2020 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:

The Company He Kept: James Tissot’s Friends

“Chi-so”: Tissot teaches a brother of Japan’s last Shogun, 1868


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.

Courage & Cowardice: The Impressionists at War, 1870 (Part 1 of 2)

To cite this article: Paquette, Lucy. Courage & Cowardice: The Impressionists at War, 1870 (Part 1 of 2). The Hammock. https://thehammocknovel.wordpress.com/2013/03/13/courage-cowardice-the-impressionists-at-war-1870-part-1-of-2/. <Date viewed.>


By September, 1870, Channel boats were lined up to ferry people to safety in England.

English: , Dutch-British painter

Lawrence Alma-Tadema (Photo: Wikipedia)

Lawrence Alma-Tadema, who had been working in Paris over the summer but who lived in Brussels, boarded a Channel boat at the beginning of September 1870* with his two small daughters and his sister Artje.  In London, he rented a house and studio at 4 Camden Square that belonged to British artist Frederick Goodall (Goodall, who like Alma-Tadema was one of the dealer Ernest Gambart’s artists, was travelling in Egypt).  Alma-Tadema immediately arranged to give painting lessons to Laura Epps, now 18, whom he had met and fallen in love with on a trip to London in December 1869.  Laura, a doctor’s daughter with two sisters who also studied painting, modeled for In the temple (No 132, 1871).  The thirty-four-year-old Alma-Tadema proposed marriage, and though her father at first was opposed, he finally agreed as long as they would wait and get to know each other better first.

Portrait of the painter Claude Monet

Portrait of the painter Claude Monet, by Pierre-Auguste Renoir (Photo: Wikipedia)

After the news of Napoléon’s surrender on September 2, 29-year-old socialist Claude Monet left for London to avoid the war – without his former model and new wife, Camille, and their infant son, Jean, both of whom joined him later.  They first lived at 11, Arundel Street, near Piccadilly Circus and then moved to 1, Bath Place, Kensington.

Paul Cézanne, 31, also dodged the draft.  He took his twenty-year-old model and mistress, Hortense Fiquet – whom he had met the previous year — nearly twenty miles north of Marseilles to Aix-en-Provence, where he had been raised.  When the authorities came after him, he and Hortense fled to L’Estaque, a remote fishing village closer to Marseilles.

Camille Pissarro, now 40, was a socialist willing to fight for his ideals but unwilling to fight for Napoléon III.  In September, he fled from Louveciennes (west of Paris) with his pregnant mistress, Julie Vellay, a vineyard grower’s daughter and his mother’s maid, and his two children, Jeanne (called Minette, age 5) and Lucien (age 7).  They took refuge at a friend’s farm in Brittany.  The baby died at birth on November 5, and Pissarro wanted his family to be safe.  Since he was born on the Caribbean island of St. Thomas, which was owned by Denmark, he was legally Danish.  He had lived in Paris only since 1855.  He wrote to his mother in London, and she replied, “You are not French.  Don’t do anything rash.”  By Christmas, 1870, Pissarro took his family to England, where they joined his mother and family living south of London in Upper Norwood.

www.camille-pissarro.org, Self-Portrait,-1873

Camille Pissarro, Self-Portrait (www.camille-pissarro.org)

Renoir by Bazille

Renoir by Bazille, 1867 (Photo: Wikipedia)

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 29, was offered a staff post with the 10th Chasseurs, a light cavalry unit, in October.  Born to a working-class family, Renoir became an accomplished cavalryman, an opportunity usually open only to the sons of aristocrats.  Renoir also gave painting lessons to the daughter of the captain.  He was a pacifist, and he was terrified of gunfire, but as it happened, he did not see any action.  He first was sent to Bordeaux in southwestern France, then to nearby Libourne, where he became so ill with dysentery that he nearly died.  He ended up convalescing with an uncle in Bordeaux and later at his parents’ house in Louveciennes.


Bazille, Frédéric - Self Portrait

Frédéric Bazille – Self Portrait (Photo: Wikipedia)

Frédéric Bazille joined the Third Regiment of the Zouaves, a light infantry regiment, in mid-August 1870.  By October, Bazille was in a village near Besançon in eastern France, and not having seen a single Prussian soldier yet, he was frustrated.  But on November 28, in the minor Battle of Beaune-la-Rolande near Orléans (about 80 miles southwest of Paris), when Bazille’s officer was injured, Bazille took command.  He led an assault on the Prussians – an unsuccessful one – and Bazille was struck twice during the retreat.  He died on the battlefield at age 28.  His father claimed his body from the snow and buried Bazille at Montpelier the following week.  Some of Bazille’s friends, such as Édouard Manet, did not learn of his death until February, 1871.

Alfred Sisley, a 31-year-old painter in Édouard Manet’s circle, lived near the avenue de Clichy in Paris, and his wealthy and cultivated parents lived in Bougival, west of Paris.  Sisley’s parents were English, but he was born in France and brought up in the capital.  He retained British citizenship though he had never mastered the English language.  Sisley lost everything he owned, and most of his paintings were looted or destroyed, when Prussian troops ransacked the family’s estate along with the town of Bougival.  By 1870, Sisley had been involved with Marie Louise Adélaïde Eugénie Lescouezec a 36-year-old artist’s model and florist from Brittany, for four years.  Sisley and she now had a three-year old son, Pierre, and an infant daughter, Jeanne.  Sisley traveled to London, where – like Monet and Pissarro — he met the art dealer Durand-Ruel and became one of his stable of artists.

Portrait of Alfred Sisley, painted by Pierre-A...

Portrait of Alfred Sisley, painted by Pierre-Auguste Renoir in 1868 (Photo: Wikipedia)

Paul Durand-Ruel, 39, also had fled Paris — with a hoard of paintings, many entrusted to him for safekeeping by various artists.  On December 10, 1870, he opened his first Annual Exhibition of the Society of French Artists at his new gallery at 168 New Bond Street.  Though there was no opportunity to exhibit or sell paintings in France during the war, the British would see the newest art from Paris.  It was mostly ignored – until British artists, trying to earn a living selling to the same pool of patrons, eventually became threatened by this different kind of siege.


Lawrence Alma-Tadema*, in my book, The Hammock:  A novel based on the true story of French painter James Tissot © 2012, remains in Paris through Christmas, 1870 so that I can introduce him in the second chapter.

© 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. 

How much do you know about the Impressionists & War?  Take my quiz on goodreads.com!


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.

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.

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


Tissot’s last Salon: Paris, 1870

To cite this article: Paquette, Lucy. Tissot’s last Salon: Paris, 1870. The Hammock. https://thehammocknovel.wordpress.com/2013/02/05/tissots-last-salon-paris-1870/. <Date viewed.>


On January 2, 1870, the Comte de Nieuwerkerke – the former lover of Princess Mathilde Bonaparte – lost his position of complete control over the arts in France.  It was only due to the Princess’ reluctance to see him totally disgraced, after he abruptly ended their twenty-five-year liaison to marry a young girl, that he was not dismissed outright. Napoleon III’s reform-minded new deputy replaced him with a liberal Minister for the Fine Arts, and Nieuwerkerke was demoted from Superintendent of the Fine Arts to Superintendent of the Imperial Museums, under the young Minister.

For Manet, this was invigorating news.  Under new rules for the selection of the Salon jury, he campaigned for election but lost.  Two of his paintings, however, were accepted for exhibition, held May 1 through June 20, 1870:  The Music Lesson (modeled by his friend, the sculptor Zacharie Astruc, 1833 – 1907) and a portrait of his student, Eva Gonzalès.

Portrait of Eva Gonzalès, 1869-1870, by Édouar...

Portrait of Eva Gonzalès, 1869-1870, by Édouard Manet. The painting she is shown completing here demonstrates the mastery she had achieved at that age. However, this depiction of Gonzales is less than flattering in that her dress, her posture and technique are not actually those of a professional to painting. The painting that Gonzales is working on is not her own, but actually one of Manet’s. It is currently on display at the National Gallery in London. (Photo and caption: Wikipedia)

Manet’s portrait of Eva Gonzalès was called a “flat and abominable caricature in oils.”  Other critics said Manet’s paintings were “the most ridiculous things you could imagine,” that his work “provokes only laughter or pity,” and that he was painting “in defiance of art, the public and the critics.”  The only encouragement Manet received was, ironically (or perhaps not?) from the critic he had injured in a duel in February over an unflattering review.  Now he called Manet “one of the first painters of the age.”

Eva Gonzalès, not quite 21, made her Salon debut in 1870 with three paintings including her take on Manet’s The Fifer (rejected by the Salon jury in 1866).  One critic said of Gonzalès’ full-length Little Soldier, “It is an astoundingly strong statement from such a pretty little author” – summarizing the struggle she faced to be taken seriously.

Enfant de troupe, Musée Gaston Rapin, Villeneu...

Enfant de troupe (1870), by Eva Gonzalès.  Musée Gaston Rapin, Villeneuve-sur-Lot, France (Photo: Wikipedia)

Berthe Morisot, at 29, was extremely unhappy about the place Manet gave Eva in his life and art.  She wrote her sister, Edma, “Manet has been lecturing me and sets up that eternal Mademoiselle Gonzalès as an example to me.”  As Berthe’s mother was trying to marry her off, Berthe wrote, “I feel sad; I feel alone, disillusioned and old into the bargain.”


The Mother and Sister of the Artist by Berthe Morisot. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. Open Access.

Manet did not take her art as seriously as he took Eva’s.  Berthe had made her Salon début six years ago, in 1864; at the Salon this year she exhibited The Harbor at Lorient, and The Mother and Sister of the Artist (also called Reading).  When she completed Reading in March, she made the mistake of asking Manet’s opinion of it – whereupon he took her brushes and palette and spent hours redoing the mother’s face and black gown.  Her mother, standing by, was amused.  Berthe, very upset but unable to protest, watched “her” painting carted off to the Salon, where it met with admiration.  “The one exception is Degas, who has supreme contempt for everything I do,” Berthe wrote.  She, however, appreciated his work, and wrote to her sister Edma, “Degas sent a very pretty painting [Mme. Camus, a brilliant pianist who was the wife of his and Manet’s doctor] but his masterpiece is the portrait of Yves [the eldest Morisot sister] in pastel.”


Madame Camus in Red, by Edgar Degas. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. Open Access.

Degas’ oil portrait, Madame Camus in Red, received mixed reviews from the critics.  This would be the last year Degas exhibited in the Salon:  in April, his letter to the Paris- Journal was published, listing numerous specific, logical suggestions on how to improve the exhibition for artists and the viewing public.  Since Degas’ name was virtually unknown in the capital, his letter was prefaced by a friend, a sympathetic art critic – the same one whom Manet stabbed in their February duel.

Among the 3,000 canvases exhibited in the Salon of 1870 were paintings by artists well known to Degas and Manet:  Renoir, Pissarro, Sisley and the American Mary Cassatt submitted works that were accepted by the jury.  Pictures by Monet and Cézanne were rejected.  Frédéric Bazille had one painting rejected (La Toilette) and one accepted (Summer Scene (Bathers), 1869).

The Toilet

La Toilette, Bazille (Photo: Wikipedia)

Other artists, outside their immediate circle, won the prizes.  The top prize, the Grand Medal of Honor, went to Tony Robert-Fleury (1837 – 1912), 33, the son of the director of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts; his The Last Day of Corinth was, presciently, a brutal scene of the sacking of the Greek city of Corinth by the Romans in 146 B.C.

Fleury, Robert, 1870, Le_Dernier_Jour_de_Corinthe, 1870, Wikimedia

The Last Day of Corinth, by Tony Robert-Fleury (Photo: Wikimedia)

Twenty-seven year-old Henri Regnault (1843 – 1871), son of the famous chemist and physicist Victor Regnault (1810 – 1878), won the coveted Prix de Rome, for his Salomé, considered a masterpiece of contemporary art.

Salomé, by Henri Regnault (1870).

Salomé, by Henri Regnault (1870). (Photo: Wikipedia)

A great honor – peer adulation – was accorded to Manet, with Henri Fantin-Latour’s painting in the Salon of 1870, A Studio in the Batignolles (Homage to Manet), which was caricatured as Jesus Painting Among His Disciples.

English: Henri Fantin-Latour's art

A Studio in the Batignolles (Homage to Manet), 1870, by Henri Fantin-Latour (Photo: Wikipedia)

Clustered in admiration around Manet in this painting are the writer and art critic Zola, the young painters Renoir, Monet and Bazille, and the sculptor Astruc – but not the prosperous and accomplished artist James Tissot, whose Salon paintings this year were Young Lady in a Boat/Jeune femme en bateau and Partie carrée/The Foursome, a light-hearted and fully clothed eighteenth-century take on Manet’s Luncheon on the Grass (rejected by the Salon jury in 1863).

James Tissot, Young_Lady_in_a_Boat, oil

Young Lady in a Boat, 1870, by James Tissot. Private Collection.

Tissot surely enjoyed the fact that he was the sole painter among his peers from their student days who had achieved success.  He seemed to get along well with everyone while steering clear of controversy – a luxury he could not enjoy for much longer.

© 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. 

Watch my new videos:

The Strange Career of James Tissot” (2:33 minutes)


Louise Jopling and James Tissot” (2:42 minutes)

James Tissot, La_Partie_carrée (1)

Partie carrée/The Foursome, 1870, by James Tissot. National Gallery of Canada. (Photo: Wiki)

Exhibition note:

Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Art and Design, 1848-1900
February 17–May 19, 2013 at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

The first major survey of the art of the Pre-Raphaelites to be shown in the United States features some 130 paintings, sculptures, works on paper, and decorative art objects.

For more information, visit http://www.nga.gov/exhibitions/preraphaelites.shtm


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.