Tag Archives: James Tissot

French Painter James Tissot’s British Clients: Rising Industrialists, by Lucy Paquette for The Victorian Web

The Victorian Web, a vast resource on literature, history and culture in the age of Victoria, published this article in March, 2018:

By 1865, French painter James Jacques Joseph Tissot (1836 – 1902) was earning 70,000 francs a year, and had found his entrée to aristocratic patronage with The Marquis and the Marchioness of Miramon and their children (1865, Musée d’Orsay) on the terrace of the Château de Paulhac in Auvergne.  The next year, the marquis commissioned Tissot to paint Portrait of the Marquise de Miramon, née Thérèse Feuillant (1866, Getty Museum, Los Angeles) in her sitting room at the château.

In 1867, while Tissot’s opulent new villa on the most fashionable of Baron Haussmann’s boulevards was under construction, he painted the president of Paris’ exclusive Jockey Club, Portrait of Eugène Coppens de Fontenay (1824 –1896), now at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  He moved into his elegant house by 1868, the year he painted a hearty slice of the French aristocracy in a group portrait of an exclusive club, founded in 1852, The Circle of the Rue Royale (1868, Musée d’Orsay).  At the Salon in 1868, Tissot exhibited two oil paintings, one of which, Beating the Retreat in the Tuileries Gardens (private collection), was purchased by Napoleon III’s influential cousin, Princess Mathilde.

But after the Franco-Prussian War in 1870–71, and its bloody aftermath, the Paris Commune uprising in the spring of 1871, Tissot moved to London.  Within two years, he established himself in a large house in the London suburb of St. John’s Wood with a studio, a conservatory and a luxurious garden.  While British aristocrats did not purchase the French artist’s paintings, plenty of newly-wealthy industrialists sought his work as they enhanced their social status by building art collections.  Because provenance (the history of ownership) of Old Masters paintings was not always meticulously documented at this time, many new collectors – wary of fakes – concentrated on contemporary artists so they would know exactly what they were getting for their money.

William Agnew (1825 – 1910), the most influential art dealer in London, specialized in “high-class modern paintings” and represented Tissot for a time during the 1870s.  Tissot’s The Last Evening was purchased from Agnew’s by Charles Gassiot (1826 – 1902), a London wine merchant and art patron who lived in a mansion in Upper Tooting, Surrey.  Gassiot bought The Last Evening in February, 1873, before it was exhibited at the Royal Academy, for £1,000.  Gassiot also purchased Tissot’s Too Early, from Agnew’s in March, 1873 (before its exhibition at the Royal Academy that year), for £1,155.  Gassiot and his wife Georgiana, a childless couple, donated a number of his paintings, including The Last Evening and Too Early, to the Guildhall Art Gallery from 1895 to 1902.

james-jacques-joseph_tissote28099s_a_visit_to_the_yacht2c_sotheby27s

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

Tissot sold La Visite au Navire (A Visit to the Yacht, private collection) to Agnew’s, London, in mid-June 1873.  Less than five months later, at the beginning of November, Agnew’s, Liverpool sold the painting to art collector David Jardine (c. 1826 – 1911) of Highlea, Beaconsfield Road, Woolton.  Jardine, a timber broker and ship owner, was the head of Farnworth & Jardine, world famous for their mahogany auctions; a man of considerable ability and courtesy, he was well liked for his “courtly bearing.”

Les Adieux (Bristol Museum and Art Gallery, U.K.) was reproduced as a steel engraving by John Ballin and published by Pilgeram and Lefèvre in 1873 – an indication of its popularity.  The picture was owned by wealthy international railway contractor Charles Waring (c. 1827 – 1887).

The Ball on Shipboard (c. 1874, Tate) was purchased from Tissot by William Agnew the year it was completed and sold to Hilton Philipson (1834 – 1904), a solicitor and colliery owner living at Tynemouth.  (Philipson also spent 620 guineas at Agnew’s for John Everett Millais’ 1874 painting, The Picture of Health, a portrait of Millais’ daughter, Alice (later Mrs. Charles Stuart Wortley).

23-limperatrice_eugenie_et_son_fils_-_1878_-_james_tissot-public-domain-image

The Empress Eugénie and the Prince Impérial in the Grounds at Camden Place, Chislehurst (c. 1874), by James Tissot.

In 1874, two of James Tissot’s paintings were purchased by aristocrats, one Irish and the other French.  Mervyn Wingfield, 7th Viscount Powerscourt (1836 – 1904), whose forebears had lived since 1300 on a magnificent estate outside Enniskerry, County Wicklow, Ireland, paid £1,000 for Avant le Départ (private collection).  By autumn, Tissot was commissioned to paint a double portrait of the exiled Empress of France, widow of Napoléon III, Eugénie de Montijo (1826 –1920), and their son, The Empress Eugénie and the Prince Impérial in the Grounds at Camden Place, Chislehurst (c. 1874, Musée Nationale du Château de Compiègne, France).  However, these sales were anomalies, and his clients continued to be industrialists.

SAG65029

The Convalescent (1875/1876), by James Tissot.  Museums Sheffield, U.K.

Kaye Knowles, Esq. (1835-1886), was a London banker whose vast wealth came from shares in his family’s Lancashire coal mining business, Andrew Knowles and Sons.  Knowles, a client of London art dealer Algernon Moses Marsden [1848-1920, see Who was Algernon Moses Marsden?], owned a large art collection, including works by Sir Edwin Landseer, John Everett Millais, William Holman Hunt, Lawrence Alma-Tadema, Rosa Bonheur, Giuseppe De Nittis, Atkinson Grimshaw and Édouard Detaille.  He eventually owned four oil paintings by James Tissot, including The Empress Eugénie and the Prince Impérial in the Grounds at Camden Place, Chislehurst; On the Thames (1876, The Hepworth Wakefield, U.K.); and In the Conservatory (also known as Rivals, c1875-1876, Private Collection).  Incidentally, after Knowles’ sudden death, In the Conservatory (Rivals) was sold with his estate as Afternoon Tea by Christie’s, London, on May 14, 1887.  William Agnew bought the painting at this sale for 50 guineas and passed it to one of Kaye’s executors, his brother, Andrew Knowles, on May 16, 1887.  Andrew Knowles also owned The Convalescent (1875/1876, Museums Sheffield, U.K.), which was exhibited at the 1876 Royal Academy exhibition.

James_Tissot_-_Chrysanthemums

Chrysanthemums (c. 1874-76), by James Tissot.  Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute at Williamstown, Massachusetts

Chrysanthemums (c. 1874-76, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute at Williamstown, Massachusetts) was purchased by British cotton magnate, MP and contemporary art collector Edward Hermon (1822 – 1881) by 1877.  Hermon eventually owned over 70 paintings, including works by J.M.W. Turner, Sir Edwin Landseer, and John Everett Millais, which he displayed in the picture gallery of his magnificent French Gothic estate, Wyfold Court, built at Rotherfield Peppard, Oxfordshire between 1872 and 1878.

Portsmouth Dockyard (c. 1877, Tate) originally was owned by Henry Jump (1820 – 1893), a wealthy Justice of the Peace and corn merchant living at Gateacre, Lancashire.

File:James Tissot - Portrait of Mrs Catherine Smith Gill and Two of her Children - Google Art Project.jpg

Portrait of Mrs Catherine Smith Gill and Two of her Children (1877), by James Tissot.  Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, U.K.

Mr. Chapple Gill (c.1833 – 1901/2), was the son of Robert Gill, a Liverpool cotton broker of Knotty Cross and R. & C. Gill; the son joined the business in 1857 and had risen to senior partner [by 1880, he became head of the firm].  In 1877, he commissioned French painter Tissot, then living in London, to paint a portrait of his wife, Catherine Smith Carey (1847-1916), whom he had married on June 10, 1868 at Childwall.  She was the only child of Thomas Carey (1809 – c. 1875), a wealthy, retired estate agent.  Tissot’s portrait of Catherine Smith Gill (Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool) shows her – heiress at age 30 – sitting with her two children in the drawing-room window of her mother’s home at Lower Lee, at Woolton near Liverpool, which was built by Catherine’s father.

William Menelaus (1818 – 1882) was a Scottish-born engineer, iron and steel manufacturer, and inventor. Widowed after only ten weeks of marriage, he never remarried but raised two nephews (William Darling, who became a law lord, and Charles Darling, who became an MP and later a baron). Menelaus earned a fortune at the Dowlais Ironworks in South Wales, and his only extravagance was his art collection, which was said to fill his home in Merthyr. He donated pieces to the Cardiff Free Library, then upon his death, bequeathed to it the remaining thirty-six paintings, valued at £10,000. His bequest included James Tissot’s Bad News (The Parting), 1872, now at the National Museum Cardiff.

File:James Tissot - Quiet.jpg

Quiet (c. 1881), by James Tissot.  Private Collection.

Quiet (c. 1881) was purchased by Richard Donkin, M.P. (1836 – 1919), an English shipowner who was elected Member of Parliament for the newly created constituency of Tynemouth in the 1885 general election.  The small painting remained in the family and was a major discovery of a Tissot work when it appeared on the market in 1993, selling for $ 416,220/£ 280,000.  In perfect condition, it shows Tissot’s mistress and muse, Kathleen Newton (1854 – 1882), and her niece, Lilian Hervey in the garden of Tissot’s house at 17 Grove End Road, St. John’s Wood, in north London.  It was Lilian Hervey who, in 1946, publicly identified the model long known only as “La Mystérieuse” – the Mystery Woman – as her aunt, Kathleen Newton.

The story of James Tissot’s Victorian patrons is the story of social transition:  in the late nineteenth century, art collecting ceased to be the prerogative of the aristocracy and became a status symbol for the rising industrial classThe wealth of contemporary collectors of Tissot’s oil paintings gives an idea of the monetary value of his canvases as well as their perceived value as status symbols.

File:James Tissot - On the Thames, A Heron - Google Art Project.jpg

On the Thames, A Heron (c. 1871-1872), by James Tissot.  Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

An interesting side note is that, for one prominent financial dynasty, the value of Tissot’s paintings as investments did not hold.  On the Thames, A Heron (c. 1871-1872, Minneapolis Institute of Arts) was one of Tissot’s first paintings after his arrival in London – and it was the first on record to be sold at auction in England.  Calculated to appeal to Victorian tastes, this Japanese-influenced scene initially was owned by London banker José de Murrieta (c. 1834 – 1901), a member of a Spanish family who had made their fortune within two generations by trading, especially with Argentina.  Murrieta tried to sell the painting in May, 1873 as On the Thames: the frightened heron for 570 guineas, but it did not find a buyer.  José, who was married, lived at Wadhurst Park in East Sussex, designed by E.J. Tarver in 1872-75.  It was purchased by his bachelor brothers Cristobal (1839 – 1891) and Adriano (1843 – 1891); they resided in the mansion they built about 1854 at 11, Kensington Palace Gardens (which was decorated by Alfred Stevens, with Walter Crane painting a frieze in the ballroom they added in 1873).  José and his intelligent and witty wife, Jesusa (c.1834 – 1898), were members of the Prince of Wales’ set and entertained lavishly at the houses in London and Sussex, both showcases for the vast collection of modern British and Continental painting they  had amassed.  The Prince scandalized the Foreign Office before and after his trip to India by traveling to Menton on the Mediterranean for Easter with Mrs. Murrieta in March 1875, and spending three days sightseeing with her in April, 1876, while he stayed at lodgings taken for him under an assumed name.  José soon received royal favor himself, being created the first Marques de Santurce in October 1877 by 20-year-old King Alfonso XII of Spain.  Meanwhile, Lillie Langtry, a young married beauty from Jersey, consumed the Prince’s interest from mid-1877, and it was rumored that the Murrietas created a love nest for the Prince and her at Wadhurst.  The Prince’s attentions wandered by mid-1880, but by 1881, another wing had been added to Wadhurst to entertain him.  Within two years, the art collection was expendable.  In April 1883, among other paintings including a Turner and several Alma-Tademas, José offered At the Rifle Range (1869, Wimpole Hall, Cambridgeshire) for sale at Christie’s, London as The Crack Shot; at £220.10s, it failed to find a buyer. In June 1883, José attempted and failed to sell On the Thames for 273 guineas. The Murrietas, who invested heavily in Argentinian railways, were bankrupted in 1890, when Argentina defaulted on bond payments.

in-the-conservatory

Afternoon Tea, by James Tissot.  Private Collection.

Had José de Murrieta known that London wine merchant Charles Gassiot purchased The Last Evening in February, 1873 for £1,000 and Too Early in March, 1873 for £1,155, perhaps he might have been able to sell him On the Thames: the frightened heron for 570 guineas in May, 1873.  The Spanish banker might have been prudent to have tried slipping his “high-class modern paintings” past William Agnew’s discerning taste; then again, Agnew snapped up Afternoon Tea at Christie’s in 1887 for a mere 50 guineas.  In 2013, this picture was deaccessioned [regrettably] by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York – selling at Christie’s, New York to a private collector for $1,700,000 (Hammer price).]

 

©  2018 by Lucy Paquette.  All rights reserved.

My thanks to The Victorian Web‘s Editor-in-Chief and Webmaster, George Landow, and to Associate Editor Jackie Banerjee.

Selected Bibliography

Brooke, David S. “James Tissot and the ‘Ravissante Irlandaise.'” Connoisseur. May 1968.

Graves, Algernon, F.S.A. Art Sales from Early in the Eighteenth Century to Early in the Twentieth Century. London: Algernon Graves, 1918.

Misfeldt, Willard E. James Jacques Joseph Tissot: A Bio-Critical Study. Ph.D. diss. Ann Arbor: Washington University, 1971.

Paquette, Lucy. “Who was Algernon Moses Marsden?” The Hammock. Web. 26 March 2018.

Ridley, Jane. The Heir Apparent: A Life of Edward VII, The Playboy Prince. New York: Random House, 2013.

Wadhurst History Society Newsletter. Web. 26 March 2018.

 

See my other articles on The Victorian Web:

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

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

 

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.

Advertisements

James Tissot, the painter art critics love to hate

BAL12493

Self portrait (c.1865), by James Tissot. Oil on panel, 49.8 x 30.2 cm (19 5/8 x 11 7/8 in.). The Legion of Honor, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, California. Museum purchase, Mildred Anna Williams Collection, 1961.16. 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.

If you’re a regular reader, you know that both my blog and my book, The Hammock:  A novel based on the true story of French painter James Tissot, celebrate French painter James Tissot and his work.  You also know that April 1 is my birthday, and that I write an annual April Fool’s Day post, so once again, here’s something a little different for you.

In the nine years that I’ve been researching Tissot, I’ve been startled and mystified by the nature of criticism of his work.  I can tell you my least favorite of his paintings and why I don’t like them.  But I find that Tissot’s critics – past and present – can’t seem to do only that.  Their animosity toward Tissot has a bizarre personal thrust of resentment and spite, as if their dislike of his work is based on some grudge that ensued after a formerly tight friendship, along the lines of “I loved that man until he stole my girlfriend/was promoted over me at work/bought a Ferrari and wouldn’t let me test drive it.”  And yes, these reviewers who love to hate James Tissot almost always happen to be male.

My introduction to the conflation of dislike of Tissot’s work with unhinged hatred of James Tissot himself was a 1985 review of a new Tissot biography published in advance of exhibitions of Tissot’s work in France and the U.S.  The reviewer for The New York Times called his paintings “gloomy and inconclusive,” illustrating “boredom, tinged…with bitterness.”  He continued, weirdly, “As for Tissot himself…Californians have access to him in the debonair but slightly shifty self-portrait that is in the Legion of Honor Museum in San Francisco…In short order, the devious, would-be jaunty little fellow who looks out at us from Degas’s portrait [at the Metropolitan Museum of Art] was making a fortune in Paris in his early 30’s [sic] and riding high in a fashionable townhouse.”

Tissot, by Degas-1868

James-Jacques-Joseph Tissot (c. 1867-68), by Edgar Degas.  Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY.

When the reviewer adds, “Unhindered by any personal commitment to anything in particular, he could take time off to see what the public wanted,” you might ask yourself, “So what’s so offensive about a successful single guy in his 30s?”  According to this reviewer:  “But what matters in the end is to get rich with good paintings and not with bad ones.”

800px-henry_wallis_-_chatterton_-_google_art_project

Chatterton (1856), by Henry Wallis.  Tate.  (Photo:  Wikipedia.org)

bill_gates_world_economic_forum_2007

Bill Gates, World Economic Forum 2007 (Photo:  Wikimedia.org)

Why?  Matters to whom?  Who gets to decide whose paintings are good enough for them to “get rich” by, if not those who buy them?  Whose ring are they supposed to kiss – the leader of the Establishment, or the anti-Establishment?  Is there some rule that artists have to prove themselves by suffering for some cause, starving in a garret, dying young, or perhaps killing themselves for being misunderstood, before they are promoted to Officially Important Artist?

Does it count that Tissot fought in the Franco-Prussian War, was wounded in a battle at the front that his unit unexpectedly was sent to one morning?  That he stayed in Paris during the Commune while his peers all fled and alone recorded mass executions by the French Government that no one wanted to know about at the time?  That, after emigrating to London, he was no longer considered a real French artist, nor considered an English one, so his work must speak for itself?  James Tissot became wealthy through his own independent nature, talent, and hard work; isn’t that something universally admired?

Enough people thought, and continue to think, well enough of Tissot’s work that they have paid enormous sums for it, and museum curators think highly enough of Tissot’s work that it hangs in major art museums around the world, from the Musée d’Orsay in Paris to the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York to the Tate in London, the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, Ontario, to the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia.  Why, then, is James Tissot even now such an object of scorn to certain people?

This New York Times reviewer in 1985 summed Tissot up as a “dexterous careerist” and “a minor master, in way above his head.”  As a parting shot, he referred to Tissot’s mistress, the young divorcée Kathleen Newton, as a “concubine…lolling around like a beached porpoise,” modelling for “many a droopy painting.”

CH377762

The Hammock (1879), by James Tissot. 50 in./127 cm. by 30 in./76.20 cm. Image 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

The current EY Exhibition at Tate Britain, “The Impressionists in London:  French Artists in Exile 1870-1904,” (through May 7, 2018) features a great deal of work by James Tissot, including some never before displayed in public, as well as a horrified letter he wrote to an English aristocrat describing executions he witnessed.  While visitors are even now crowding around these items, many reviewers tore into Tissot in the days before the show opened.

“How I despise the obsequies and sneers of James Tissot, his meringue frills and cupcake palette,” wrote the critic for London’s Evening Standard, who made no comment on Tissot’s elegant watercolor, The Wounded Soldier (c. 1870), or his May 29, 1871 watercolor of a dozen men being pushed off the ramparts outside Paris to their grisly deaths, a government massacre he witnessed.

le-premier-homme-tue-que-jai-vu-souvenir-du-sige-de-paris-the-first-killed-i-saw-souvenir-of-the-siege-of-paris

Le premier homme tué que j’ai vu (Souvenir du siège de Paris) (The First Killed I Saw (Souvenir of the Siege of Paris)), by James Tissot.  (Courtesy of http://www.jamestissot.org)

The Telegraph’s reviewer also ignored Tissot’s extraordinary war reportage, and let him have it:  “Really, though, Tissot was a manicured and superficial fawner, with an excessive interest in flouncy, expensive women’s fashions.  As an artist, he was always too eager to please.”  He called Tissot’s work “irredeemably insincere” and “finicky,” filled with “meretricious flash and sparkle.”

The Financial Times’ art critic (the rare female) was sweet by comparison, merely lambasting Tissot’s “queasily compressed compositions” and “his easy facility and brittle surfaces.”

The Guardian’s critic termed Tissot a  “bore” – “a famous one whose work is still familiar from greetings cards and paperback covers of classic novels.”  He begrudgingly mentioned that Tissot, though an exile from French tumult, remained in London for a decade, “living in increasing affluence in St John’s Wood.”  Tissot’s affluence seems to be the lightning rod for many, while this critic also trots out the charge of plagiarism made against Tissot by his frenemies, James McNeill Whistler and Edmond de Goncourt:  “There’s a twist of Degas, a pinch from Manet, a whole subject from Whistler, all ironed flat by his noncommittal brushwork.”

whistlers_mother_high_res

Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1, also called Portrait of the Artist’s Mother (1871), by James Abbott McNeill Whistler.  Musée d’Orsay, Paris. (Photo: Wikimedia.org)

rembrandt2c_portrait_of_catrina_hooghsaet

Portrait of Catrina Hooghsaet (1657), by Rembrandt van Rijn. Penrhyn Castle, Gwynedd, Wales. (Photo: Wikimedia.org)

[See Was James Tissot a Plagiarist? and

More “Plagiarists”: Tissot’s friends Manet, Degas, Whistler & Others.  To the left, Whistler with a soupçon of Rembrandt (right).]

The kiss of death from this Guardian critic?  “He has more to offer the historian of costume than the historian of art.”  But in 1869, the reviewer for L’Artiste praised this and more about Tissot’s work exhibited at the Paris Salon:  “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.”

The Gallery of HMS Calcutta (Portsmouth) c.1876 by James Tissot 1836-1902

The Gallery of HMS Calcutta (Portsmouth) c.1876, by James Tissot.  Tate.

A week later, a different reviewer for The Guardian decried Tissot’s work for “how shallow and calculated some of his scenes are,” and was especially affronted that, “A woman accidentally displaying her bottom perfectly plays to Victorian sexual hypocrisy.”  Clearly, the display of this bottom was not accidental.

But not all art critics despise Tissot and his work.

WAK41966

On the Thames (1876), by James Tissot. Oil on canvas, 74.8 by 110 cm.  The Hepworth Wakefield.  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.

Time Out’s reviewer had just begun describing the Tate’s EY Exhibition for his readers, before his excitement brimmed over:  “…then you get hit with a room full of James Tissot paintings, and that’s where it gets good.  Tissot came to England to make a name for himself as a society painter, and boy did he ace it.  His paintings of parties in mansions, picnics in the garden, trysts on the Thames are lush, cool, refined and debauched.  His colours are deep and luxurious, his fabrics flowing and infinitely detailed.  This is society painting at its finest: knowing, cynical and sexy.  He’s an obscure and not particularly cool artist, but it’s such a treat to see so many of his works together.”  (To hipsters and sophisticates, most people described as “knowing, cynical and sexy” would, indeed, be considered cool.  Why not James Tissot?)

image-jacques_joseph_tissot_french_-_portrait_of_the_marquise_de_miramon_nc3a9e_thc3a9rc3a8se_feuillant_-_google_art_project

Portrait of the Marquise de Miramon, née, Thérèse Feuillant (1866), by James Tissot. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles. (Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program.)

I never have had to struggle through determined museum crowds to see a painting as I did at “Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity” at the Met in 2013.  The dense, semi-circular crushes before Tissot’s The Marquis and the Marquise de Miramon and their Children (1865), Portrait of the Marquise de Miramon, née, Thérèse Feuillant (1866), and The Circle of the Rue Royale (1868) were astounding, and deserved.  But a New York Times reviewer couldn’t resist disparaging the Portrait of the Marquise de Miramon, née, Thérèse Feuillant as “zealously detailed,” when that’s why it’s so wonderful.  People (including me) vied for a position close enough to examine its every exquisite detail, and the masterful brush curls of the gown’s ruffled edging.

Likewise at the Tate’s “Impressionists in London” recently, with waves of visitors flowing past, I had to anchor myself in front of Tissot’s The Wounded Soldier (1870) and his eyewitness account in watercolor, The Execution of Communards by French Government Forces at Fortifications in the Bois de Boulogne, 29 May 1871 (private collection), displayed in public for the first time.

Call James Tissot “devious,” “shifty,” “a manicured and superficial fawner,” whatever makes you feel superior to a man who’s been dead for 116 years but lives on in continued public popularity.  It’s said, “The best revenge is living well,” and Tissot, with his champagne on ice for visitors at his large private villa in the leafy suburbs of London, his hot girlfriend, and his enormous self-generated income and therefore his independence, lived better than pretty much anyone.  If you’ve got it, flaunt it.

“…there is something of the human soul in his work and that is why he is great, immense, infinite…”  

Vincent van Gogh on James Tissot, in a letter to his brother, Theo, September 24, 1880

© 2018 by Lucy Paquette.  All rights reserved.

Thank you for celebrating my birthday with me, and please enjoy other posts on my blog as well as my book, The Hammock:  A novel based on the true story of French painter James Tissot.

If you’d like to learn more about James Tissot and his work, see this show if you can, and let me know what you think:

The EY Exhibition: Impressionists in London, French Artists in Exile (1870 – 1904)

November 2, 2017 – May 7, 2018

Tate Britain

Previous April Fool’s Day posts:

The Missing Tissot Nudes

Was James Tissot a Plagiarist?

Tissot and his Friends Clown Around

Happy Hour with James Tissot

Tissot’s Tiger Skin: A Prominent Prop

 

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

CH377762If you do not have a Kindle e-reader, you may download free Kindle reading apps for PCs, Smartphones, tablets, and the Kindle Cloud Reader to read The Hammock:  A novel based on the true story of French painter James Tissot.  Read reviews.

The Hammock:  A novel based on the true story of French painter James Tissot, brings Tissot’s world from 1870 to 1879 alive in a story of war, art, Society glamour, love, scandal, and tragedy.

Illustrated with 17 stunning, high-resolution fine art images in full color

Courtesy of The Bridgeman Art Library  

(295 pages; ISBN (ePub):  978-0-615-68267-9).    See http://www.amazon.com/dp/B009P5RYVE.

 

A Closer Look at Tissot’s “Algernon Moses Marsden”

I recently had the rare opportunity to see James Tissot’s Algernon Moses Marsden, one of three of his oil paintings on temporary loan to the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford from a private collection.  My thanks to the gentleman on Twitter who kindly drew my attention to this.

James Tissot painted Algernon Moses Marsden’s portrait in 1877, and it remained in the Marsden family for nearly a century.  It’s a compelling image; Marsden, at age 30, appears sophisticated and well-to-do.  Unfortunately, he was a complete cad.  He was Tissot’s art dealer for a short time in the mid-1870s, and the setting of the portrait is the elegant new studio of Tissot’s home in St. John’s Wood [not Marsden’s study, as it formerly was identified].

IMG_8023 (2), copyright by Lucy PaquetteMarsden was a witty and engaging gambler, bankrupt and rogue who foisted his debts on his father and deserted his wife and ten children.  When his father died in 1884, he disinherited his son but provided legacies for his abandoned family members.  In 1901, bankrupt for at least the third time, Algernon, at age 54, fled to the United States with another woman.

He was bankrupt again in 1912, and he died eight years later in upstate New York.  His tombstone in Mt. Hope Cemetery (Section S) in Rochester, New York, is inscribed:  “MARSDEN Algernon Moses of London, Eng.; d Jan 23, 1920 æ 72y” [at the age of 72 years].

Tissot’s portrait, which captures the man in his moment of youth and apparent success, was sold at Sotheby’s, London in 1971 for $4,838/£2,000.  In 1983, it was sold at Christie’s, London for $65,677/£45,000.  [Hammer prices.]

During my visit to the Ashmolean, I was alone in the gallery with this portrait for some time, and Algernon Moses Marsden is eerily alive.  A highly-educated professional woman I encountered at the museum told me he made her “swoon.”

Enjoy these close-up photographs of the man and that tiger skin – which Tissot uses to provide visual interest to the otherwise plain leather armchair, but which also functions as a startling emblem of Marsden’s virility:  through Tissot, we see Algernon Moses Marsden the way he saw himself.

(And yes, the blue dots are reflections on the glass.)

IMG_7964, Algernon Moses Marsden, copyright by Lucy Paquette

IMG_7969 (2), copyright by Lucy Paquette

IMG_7967 (2), copyright by Lucy Paquette

IMG_7970 (2), copyright by Lucy Paquette

IMG_7994 (2), copyright by Lucy Paquette

IMG_7989 (2), copyright by Lucy Paquette

IMG_7991 (2), copyright by Lucy Paquette

IMG_8030 (2), copyright by Lucy Paquette

IMG_7965 (2), copyright by Lucy Paquette

 

© 2018 Lucy Paquette.  All rights reserved.

Related Posts:

A Closer Look at Tissot’s “Quarrelling”

Who was Algernon Moses Marsden?

Tissot’s Tiger Skin: A Prominent Prop

 

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.

Exhibition note:

The EY Exhibition: Impressionists in London, French Artists in Exile (1870 – 1904),” November 2, 2017 – May 7, 2018.

 Curator, Dr. Caroline Corbeau-Parsons, Assistant Curator 1850-1915

Tate Britain

And see “James Tissot, the Englishman,” by Cyrille Sciama, Curator of the 19th century collections at the Musée d’arts de Nantes, in the exhibition catalogue.

A Closer Look at Tissot’s “Quarrelling”

It’s a rare thing to see a painting by James Tissot from a private collection.  For this opportunity, I thank a lovely gentlemen I know from Twitter, who alerted me last fall that three of Tissot’s oil paintings were on temporary loan to the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.  I made the trip to see Quarrelling (c. 1874-76), The Bunch of Lilacs (1875), and Algernon Moses Marsden (1877).

IMG_8012, copyright by Lucy PaquetteIn Quarrelling, which Tissot exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1876, a stylish couple stand in uncomfortable silence on opposite sides of one of the cast-iron columns in the graceful, curved colonnade that Tissot added to his garden at 17 (now 44), Grove End Road, St. John’s Wood, around 1875.  Copied from the colonnade in Parc Monceau in Paris, it became the backdrop for a number of Tissot’s paintings in the next few years.

photo 1

Parc Monceau, Paris.  (Photo by Lucy Paquette.)

Everything in this picture is beautiful – and beautifully painted:  the man’s dapper beige lounge suit, his flamboyant tan and white leather spectator shoes, and his straw boater with its black band; the woman’s chic fur-trimmed ensemble, which Tissot used in other paintings, the slick black cast iron, the slightly broken surface of the ornamental pond, and the quietly rippling willow branches.  Enjoy Tissot’s brushwork in the photographs below!

IMG_7950, Quarreling, copyright by Lucy Paquette

IMG_7982 (2), copyright by Lucy Paquette

IMG_7953, copyright by Lucy Paquette

IMG_7961 (2), copyright by Lucy Paquette

IMG_7985, copyright by Lucy Paquette

IMG_7973, copyright by Lucy Paquette

IMG_7983, copyright by Lucy Paquette

IMG_7997, copyright by Lucy Paquette

IMG_7972, copyright by Lucy Paquette

IMG_7954, copyright by Lucy Paquette

IMG_7956, copyright by Lucy Paquette

IMG_7957, copyright by Lucy Paquette

IMG_7977, copyright by Lucy Paquette

Stay tuned for another private viewing in my next post, “A Closer Look at Tissot’s Algernon Moses Marsden.”

As for The Bunch of Lilacs, one of my favorite of all Tissot’s oil paintings, this is what I found during my visit:

IMG_8031, copyright by Lucy Paquette

 

© 2018 Lucy Paquette.  All rights reserved.

Related Posts:

A Closer Look at Tissot’s “Too Early”

A Closer Look at Tissot’s “The Fan”

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

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

 

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.

Exhibition note:

The EY Exhibition: Impressionists in London, French Artists in Exile (1870 – 1904),” November 2, 2017 – May 7, 2018.

 Curator, Dr. Caroline Corbeau-Parsons, Assistant Curator 1850-1915

Tate Britain

And see “James Tissot, the Englishman,” by Cyrille Sciama, Curator of the 19th century collections at the Musée d’arts de Nantes, in the exhibition catalogue.

A spotlight on Tissot at the Tate’s “The EY Exhibition: Impressionists in London”

A month ago, I flew to London to visit “The EY Exhibition:  Impressionists in London:  French Artists in Exile 1870-1904″ at Tate Britain.  Its premise is summarized by the Tate:  “In the 1870s, France was devastated by the Franco-Prussian war and insurrection in Paris, driving artists to seek refuge across the Channel.  Their experiences in London and the friendships that developed not only influenced their own work but also contributed to the British art scene.”

IMG_6912The exhibition is huge, and the galleries were crowded on each of the two days I visited.  There is a great deal of beauty on display, but it’s also a very ambitious, cerebral show, so you have to pace yourself.

James Tissot fought to defend Paris in the Franco-Prussian War, served as a stretcher-bearer, participated in the bloody Commune the following spring, and fled to London in June, 1871.  For me, this show was an opportunity to view several works by Tissot never before displayed in public, as well as many of Tissot’s most intriguing oil paintings in a single venue.  These have been cleaned for the occasion, and the colors are as vibrant as if they’d been newly painted.  I was one of many visitors transfixed by the restored beauty of Tissot’s brushwork and the details revealed.

le-foyer-de-la-comedie-francaise-pendant-le-siege-de-paris-the-gallery-of-the-comedie-francaise-during-the-siege-of-paris-1870-or-un-souvenir

The Green Room of the Théâtre-Français (1877), by James Tissot.  Courtesy of http://www.jamestissot.org

I’ve created the following virtual tour for those who cannot make it to London to see this – or who have not yet seen it, and may soon.  Commentary is mine unless otherwise noted.

In the first gallery of the exhibition, with its walls painted a somber aubergine, I was one of many fascinated by sketches and watercolors Tissot made during the Franco-Prussian War.  Since I have a special interest in his life and work during the war, the Siege of Paris, and the Commune, I’m afraid I may have impeded traffic in this section of the gallery.

For additional information on this tumultuous period, see my posts:

James Tissot and The Artists’ Brigade, 1870-71

Paris, June 1871

London, June 1871

The Artists’ Rifles, London

Tissot’s elegant watercolor, The Wounded Soldier (c. 1870), acquired by the Tate in 2016, is a singularly beautiful image of a restless young man in uniform perched on the arm of a sofa.  Thanks to the staff in the Tate Study Room, I had a chance to view this work closely on an earlier visit to London in the weeks before this exhibition.  It likely was painted within the city walls of Paris, where the wounded were brought to convalesce in public buildings.  The Wounded Soldier is James Tissot’s most sensitive, profound, and arresting work and shows him in a new light.  The exhibition text notes that he kept it in his studio all his life, never exhibiting it.  This is the first time it has been displayed in public.  Photography is prohibited in the exhibition, but click here to see an image of it.

In the bitter aftermath of the war, French citizens engaged in a bloody uprising against the new republican government.  My research indicates that Tissot participated in the Commune in some way, and like many of his peers, including Manet, Degas and Renoir, he seemed sympathetic to the plight of the Communards when the government ended the standoff with mass executions.  Tissot, renowned for painting the ruffles and ribbons of women’s fashions, documented this period in French history in a way no one else did.  The exhibition features his eyewitness account in watercolor, The Execution of Communards by French Government Forces at Fortifications in the Bois de Boulogne, 29 May 1871 (private collection), displayed in public for the first time.  This horrifying image was sent along with a letter to Lady Waldegrave (1821 – 1879), a prominent Liberal hostess in London whom Tissot likely met through J.E. Millais, if not his friend Tommy Bowles (Thomas Gibson Bowles (1841 – 1922).

The letter has been expertly translated from the original French by the exhibition curator, Dr. Caroline Corbeau-Parsons, Assistant Curator 1850-1915 at Tate Britain.  In it, Tissot writes a graphic stream-of-consciousness narrative of executions of Communards, or suspected Communards, by government soldiers.  Dr. Corbeau-Parsons, who organized the exhibition, notes that his “broken language” and his lack of grammatically correct accents betrays how traumatized he was in witnessing this horror, and yet Tissot is surprisingly thorough in relating this experience to Lady Waldegrave.  Exhibition visitors stop to read this translated letter in its entirety.  There is so little documentation on Tissot that it is as if he finally has a voice; otherwise, his work must speak for itself.  But this exhibition, with its new works by Tissot, gives him a chance to do that.

Passing through the second gallery, which refreshes the mood of the exhibition with its sky blue walls, I found my gold mine of Tissot’s oils in the spacious third room, where the tan walls come alive with his colors.

First, take a look at the smaller items that rarely (if ever) have been displayed in public.  Here, you will find Tissot’s sketch of the handsome young Bowles,  used as an illustration in The Defence of Paris; narrated as it was seen, published in London in 1871, Bowles’ eyewitness account as a special correspondent for The Morning Post.  (Incidentally, this book is a great read, as Bowles was terribly witty and writes with a startlingly unperturbed and ironic tone.)

For additional information on the relationship between Tissot and Bowles, see my posts:

1869: Tissot meets “the irresistible” Tommy Bowles, founder of British Vanity Fair

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

Tissot’s graphite drawing, A Cantinière of the National Guard (1870-71), is much more interesting than the engraving of it used as an illustration in Bowles’ book.  A cantinière, the exhibition text explains, was “something like a nurse and a sutler (supplier of provisions) accompanying the troops – cantinières also took up arms on many occasions, playing an increasingly important role in the siege.”

portrait-of-m-b

Portrait of Mrs. B (Mrs. Thomas Gibson Bowles, 1876), by James Tissot.  (Photo: Wikipaintings.org)

Don’t miss Tissot’s etching of Bowle’s wife, Portrait of Mrs. B (1876).  Tommy Bowles was the illegitimate son of Thomas Milner Gibson and a servant, Susannah Bowles.  Jessica Evans-Gordon, daughter of Major-General C. G. Evans Gordon, Governor of Netley Hospital, married Bowles in December 1875 and died at 35 in 1887, having borne him four children.  Though Tommy Bowles was quite high-spirited in his youth, he was devoted to the prudent Jessie, so very sober in this image.  After her death, he wrote “So bright and joyous, so gentle and gracious a spirit as hers…still more rarely has been so ordered by a sense of duty.  She was as near perfect wife and mother as may be.”

Then, indulge in the visual feast of some of Tissot’s best, and most well-known, oil paintings – brimming with his wit, flair, psychological insight and unparalleled ability to capture moments of Victorian life and transport us to his world.

photo 1 (3)

Captain Frederick Gustavus Burnaby (1870), by James Tissot.  Oil on panel, 50 by 61 cm.  National Portrait Gallery, London.  (Photo by Lucy Paquette, 2014).

4-napoleon_iii_vanity_fair_1869-09-04-public-domain-image

Napoléon III, by Tissot (Photo:  Wiki)

Tissot, 33 when he painted this small picture of the debonair Captain Frederick Gustavus Burnaby (1870).  Tissot owned a villa on the most prestigious avenue in Paris (now avenue Foch), and he occasionally supplied his British friend Tommy Bowles with caricatures of prominent men for Vanity Fair, Tommy’s new Society magazine which had made its début in London in 1868.  (The exhibition features Tissot’s caricature, Napoléon III, Emperor of France, published in Vanity Fair on September 4, 1869.)  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).  Tommy Bowles was 29 when he commissioned Tissot to paint Burnaby’s portrait.

[To learn about another portrait commission from Bowles to Tissot (not included in the exhibition), see my post:  James Tissot’s “Miss Sydney Milner-Gibson” (c. 1872).]

BAG4346

Les Adieux (The Farewells) 1871, by James Tissot, oil on canvas, 100.3 by 62.5 cm.  Bristol Museum and Art Gallery.  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

huguenot_lovers_on_st-_bartholomew27s_day

A Huguenot (1851-52), by J.E. Millais.  (Photo:  Wiki)

James Tissot fled Paris in June, 1871.  He arrived in London with less than one hundred francs, and with the help of a handful of friends, he proceeded to rebuild his career.

In 1872, Tissot exhibited Les Adieux (The Farewells, 1871) at the Royal Academy.  A sentimental costume piece calculated to appeal to the British public, it is displayed adjacent to J.E. Millais’ A Huguenot (1851-52), which it greatly resembles.  [See my post, Was James Tissot a Plagiarist?]

Les Adieux was reproduced as a steel engraving by John Ballin and published by Pilgeram and Lefèvre in 1873 – an indication of its popularity.

This exhibition is a great opportunity to see this painting.

Too Early 2

Too Early (1873), by James Tissot.  Oil on canvas, 71 by 102 cm.  Guildhall Art Gallery.  (Photo by Lucy Paquette, 2014)

James Tissot exhibited Too Early at the Royal Academy in 1873, where it was his first big success after moving to London from Paris two years previously.  According to his friend, the painter Louise Jopling (1843 – 1933), Too Early “made a great sensation…It was a new departure in Art, this witty representation of modern life.”  Too Early was purchased by London art dealer William Agnew (1825 – 1910) – who specialized in “high-class modern paintings” – and sold in March, 1873 (before its exhibition at the Royal Academy that year) to Charles Gassiot for £1,155.  Gassiot (1826 – 1902) was a London wine merchant and art patron who, with his wife Georgiana, donated a number of his paintings to the Guildhall Art Gallery, London, including Too Early.  For more on this painting, see my post, A Closer Look at Tissot’s “Too Early”.

londonvisitors_james_tissot_1874

London Visitors (c. 1874), by James Tissot. Oil on canvas, 86.3 by 63.5 cm.  Milwaukee Art Museum.  (Photo: Wikipedia)

According to interesting new research by Tissot scholar Krystyna Matyjaszkiewicz, this painting is not a smaller replica of London Visitors in the collection of the Toledo Museum of Art, as formerly believed.  Mrs. Matyjaszkiewicz has learned from records in the National Gallery Archive that the smaller painting was completed several months before the other.  First called The Portico, the picture in this exhibition was sold by Thomas Agnew & Sons as Country Cousins.  This is a rare opportunity to see London Visitors up close.

23-limperatrice_eugenie_et_son_fils_-_1878_-_james_tissot-public-domain-image

The Empress Eugénie and the Prince Impérial in the Grounds at Camden Place, Chislehurst (c. 1874), by James Tissot. Oil on canvas, 105 by 150 cm.  Musée Nationale du Château de Compiègne. (Photo: Wikimedia.org)

The Empress Eugénie and the Prince Impérial in the Grounds at Camden Place, Chislehurst (c. 1874) depicts the exiled French Empress (1826 – 1920), living outside London after the collapse of the Second Empire, and her son, Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte (1856 – 1879), who would be killed at age 23, in the Zulu War.  The only child of Napoléon III of France, he was accepted to the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, in 1872 and is pictured in his uniform as a cadet.  The Empress is in her first year of mourning following the death of her husband in January, 1873, after surgery to remove bladder stones.

Alison McQueen, in Empress Eugénie and the Arts:  Politics and Visual Culture in the Nineteenth Century (Routledge, 2017), states that the picture was commissioned by the Empress and adds, “The wicker chairs and carpet reappear in A Convalescent (c. 1875-76), which further suggests Tissot constructed these scenes in his studio and was not recording mother and son from life studies executed on the property at Camden.”

According to Krystyna Matyjaszkiewicz, who wrote the exhibition catalogue entry, he painted this double portrait of the exiled French royals for the 1875 Royal Academy exhibition, but it was rejected, along with two others (while yet two others, Hush! (The Concert) and The Bunch of Lilacs, were accepted.)

The painting was purchased by Kaye Knowles, Esq. (1835-1886), a client of London art dealer Algernon Moses Marsden [1848-1920, see Who was Algernon Moses Marsden?].  Knowles, whose vast wealth came from shares in his family’s Lancashire coal mining business, owned a large collection of paintings by contemporary artists, including three other oils by Tissot.

hush-the-concert

Hush! (The Concert, 1875), by James Tissot.  Oil on canvas, 73.7 by 112.2 cm.  Manchester Art Gallery.  (Photo: Wikiart.org)

James Tissot displayed Hush! (The Concert) at the Royal Academy exhibition in 1875, at the height of his success in London.  It depicts a crowded Kensington salon, said to have been hosted by Lord and Lady Coope, which features a performer believed to be Moravian violinist Wilma Neruda (1838 – 1911).  Though Tissot received an invitation to this soirée, he was not given permission to make portraits of any of the guests.  Acquired by the Manchester Art Gallery in 1933, Hush! is a lovely picture that, on closer inspection, is quite witty.  For more on this painting, see my post, A Closer Look at Tissot’s “Hush! (The Concert)”.

www.jamestissot.org, The-Garden

View of the Garden at 17 Grove End Road (c. 1882), by James Tissot.  Oil on canvas, 27 by 21 cm. Geffrye Museum of the Home.  Courtesy http://www.jamestissot.org

By 1873, two years after Tissot arrived in London, he had established himself in a Queen Anne-style villa at 17 (now 44), Grove End Road, St. John’s Wood.  He designed his garden as a blend of English-style flower beds and plantings familiar to him from French parks.  Gravel paths led to kitchen gardens and greenhouses for flowers, fruit and vegetables.  View of the Garden at 17 Grove End Road (c. 1874-1882) is unusual in that Tissot seldom depicted a landscape that was not a background for figures.  Previously in a private collection, View of the Garden was sold to Agnew’s at Sotheby’s, London in 2000 and purchased by the Geffrye in 2004.

portrait-of-miss-lloyd

Summer (A Portrait, 1876), by James Tissot.  Oil on canvas, 91.4 by 50.8 cm.  Tate.

Summer (A Portrait), 1876 is radiant and has benefited from recent cleaning.  The woman’s white muslin gown, with its lemon-yellow stain bows, shimmers, and details such as her ring, and the designs on the blue-green curtains, pull you into the scene.

This painting was exhibited by Tissot at the new Grosvenor Gallery, London, from May to June 1877 as A Portrait.

The Gallery of HMS Calcutta (Portsmouth) c.1876 by James Tissot 1836-1902
The Gallery of HMS Calcutta (Portsmouth), c.1876, by James Tissot. Oil on canvas, 68.6 by 91.8 cm.  Tate.

Though I’ve visited the Tate numerous times, this is the first time I’ve seen The Gallery of HMS Calcutta in person.  What can I say – it’s one of Tissot’s masterpieces, and I was rooted to the spot studying it, as was everyone around me.  You just cannot take your eyes off the gowns, the bows, the faces, the curvaceous wrought-iron railing, the way Tissot painted the caned chairs, the curves of the windows, the rigging of the ships in the distance…it’s an all-you-can-eat buffet for the eyes.  Tissot exhibited it at the Grosvenor Gallery in 1877 to rather cutting reviews.  Go see it while you can, and form your own opinion.

Also in this third gallery are a few etchings and photographs of Kathleen Newton (1854 –1882), Tissot’s young mistress and muse from about 1876 until her death from tuberculosis six years later.  An idea for a future exhibition would be a display of the numerous images of Mrs. Newton that Tissot produced, with all known photographs of her and of the two of them together, but this exhibition is not about their relationship.

Keep walking, because in a further gallery showcasing images of “British Sports, Crowds, and Parks,” you will find more of Tissot’s paintings.

James_Tissot_-_Holyday

Holyday (c. 1876), by James Tissot. Oil on canvas, 76.2 by 99.4 cm.  Tate.

In Holyday (c. 1876), Tissot painted members of the famous I Zingari cricket club (which still exists, and is one of the oldest amateur cricket clubs) in their distinctive black, red and gold caps in his garden at 17 Grove End Road, St. John’s Wood, which was only a few hundred yards from Lord’s cricket ground.  Holyday was owned by James Taylor, who lent it for exhibition at the Grosvenor Gallery in London from May to June, 1877.  The painting was purchased by the Tate in 1928.

I’ve long wanted to see Holyday up close, and I found it so intriguing.  The painting includes a woman I’d never noticed in print or digital images – she is indicated only by her white straw bonnet, behind the man leaning against a tree on the far right of the picture.  And the addition of the two other women on the picnic blanket is indicated in the bottom left corner by their skirts, one black-and-white striped, one brown, with the soles of her shoes peeking out behind her knife-pleated hemline.  There’s also a little girl, whom I’ve never noticed, sitting at the feet of the old lady in the wicker chair.  This is such a merry picture!  It makes you want to join this lively group for a cup of tea and a slice of cake.

Ball on Shipboard

The Ball on Shipboard (c. 1874), by James Tissot.  Tate.  (Photo: Lucy Paquette, 2014)

The Ball on Shipboard (1874) is a large, dramatic, detailed painting that invites speculation:  an enigmatic image as precise as a photograph but which evades precise meaning.  You find yourself transfixed as you try to puzzle it out.

In the center are two women wearing matching blue-and-white yachting gowns.  Scholars have written that Tissot had a fixation with twins, though in the 2013 blockbuster exhibition, “Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity”  exhibition curator Gloria Groom of The Art Institute of Chicago asserted that in The Ball on Shipboard, Tissot was satirizing the rise of ready-to-wear fashion (and, of course, the vulgar social climbing efforts 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).  In fact, according to my own research, Alexandra, Princess of Wales (1844 – 1925) and her sister, at that time Grand Duchess Maria Feodorovna of Russia. (1847 –1928, formerly Princess Dagmar of Denmark), were very close and had a habit of wearing identical ensembles when they were together, setting off a general fad for “double-dressing.”  When the Grand Duchess and her husband the Tsarevich visited London in the summer of 1873, the two sisters wore the same costumes on at least thirteen occasions.

In “Impressionists in London,” it is asserted the pair of women in the center of The Ball on Shipboard actually are the Princess of Wales and Maria Feodorovna of Russia, and the occasion an afternoon dance held on the royal naval frigate HMS Ariadne on August 12, 1873, according to research by Krystyna Matyjaszkiewicz.

Ball, detail 3I’m not on board with this theory.  Making royal portraits on, or of, such an occasion would have required that Tissot receive official permission.  This was unlikely, since he was a foreigner and regarded with suspicion for his participation, real or rumored, in the Paris Commune of 1871.  He was not granted permission to make portraits of any of the guests at Lord and Lady Coopes’ salon for Hush! (The Concert, 1873).   Had he received such permission from the royal family, it would have been common knowledge at the time.  But instead of recognizing this as a royal dance, one reviewer wrote, “The girls who are spread about in every attitude are evidently the ‘high life below stairs’ of the port, who have borrowed their mistresses’ dresses for the nonce,” and another objected to the unseemly amount of cleavage revealed by the women wearing the blue and green day dresses (left of center).  Another critic found in the picture, “no pretty women, but a set of showy rather than elegant costumes, some few graceful, but more ungraceful attitudes, and not a lady in a score of female figures,” and another found it “garish and almost repellent.”  While Tissot’s contemporaries (but interestingly, not Tissot himself) identified the setting as the yearly regatta at Cowes, on the Isle of Wight, no one at the time considered this a painting of a royal event.  It also makes no sense that Tissot would have made portraits of these two royal women in their matching nautical gowns – and painted the same gown in Reading the News (c. 1874).  It makes more sense that Tissot seized on the concept of a regatta scene while showcasing his skill at painting women’s fashions during the craze for double-dressing, also celebrated by the pairs of women in blue and in green in the center background.

Ball, detail 2If The Ball on Shipboard had featured a double portrait of royalty, it was not purchased by anyone connected to the royal family.  London art dealer William Agnew (1825 – 1910) – who specialized in “high-class modern paintings” – purchased The Ball on Shipboard from Tissot that year and sold it to Hilton Philipson (1834 – 1904), a solicitor and colliery owner living at Tynemouth.  It was later owned by equine painter Alfred Munnings (1878 – 1959), who presented it to the Tate in 1937.

WAK41966

On the Thames (1876), by James Tissot. Oil on canvas, 74.8 by 110 cm.  The Hepworth Wakefield.  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.

Remember to look behind the partition at the back of the room for On the Thames (c. 1876), a masterpiece of texture:  wood, wicker, fabric, fur, leather, metal, water, and mist.  Take a long, close look at the picnic hamper.

Tissot displayed this picture as The Thames at the Royal Academy exhibition in 1876, the year he painted it.  It was attacked by reviewers for The Times, the Athenaeum, the Spectator and the Graphic as depicting a subject they considered thoroughly unBritish – prostitution.  What else would the Victorians think of a painting of a rakish officer in a boat with two attractive women and a picnic hamper with three bottles of champagne?  The women were perceived as “undeniably Parisian ladies,” and the picture itself, “More French, shall we say, than English?”

This criticism prompted Tissot to paint the more innocent Portsmouth Dockyard (How Happy I Could be with Either!, c. 1877).  A much smaller picture than On the Thames, it is displayed earlier in the exhibition, but I wish the two had been displayed side-by-side.

Portsmouth Dockyard circa 1877 by James Tissot 1836-1902

Portsmouth Dockyard (c. 1877), by James Tissot.  Oil on canvas, 38.1 by 54.6 cm.  Tate.

By this time, you will need to seek seating and sustenance, but your brain will be fully sparked.  The details in all Tissot’s paintings are extraordinary – really enthralling to observe close-up.  To learn more about a number of the Tissot oils in the show, see my posts:

Tissot in the U.K.:  London, at the Tate

Tissot in the U.K.:  London, at The Geffrye & the Guildhall

Tissot in the U.K.: Northern England.

There is a great deal more to “Impressionists in London” than James Tissot, of course, and more than one visit is necessary to take in works by Monet – including a group of his Houses of Parliament series – Pissarro, Sisley, Alphonse Legros, sculptor Aimé-Jules Dalou, André Derain, and others.  But if you love Tissot’s work and want to learn more about him, see this show if you can, and let me know what you think.

The EY Exhibition: Impressionists in London, French Artists in Exile (1870 – 1904),” November 2, 2017 – May 7, 2018.

Tate Britain

See “James Tissot, the Englishman,” by Cyrille Sciama, Curator of the 19th century collections at the Musée d’arts de Nantes, in the exhibition catalogue.

My gratitude to Alexandra Epps and Dr. Caroline Corbeau-Parsons

for their kindness during my visits to the exhibition.

© 2018 Lucy Paquette.  All rights reserved.

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

Related posts:

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

James Tissot is now in Italy!

 

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.

Tissot’s Study for “Young Women looking at Japanese Objects” (1869)

James Tissot’s working methods reflected his academic training in Paris.  Before executing the final version of a picture, he made meticulous studies of its composition as well as detailed studies of the figures in it.  Often, he experimented with different poses and positions within the work.

Young_Women_Looking_at_Japanese_Objects

Jeunes femmes regardant des objets japonais (Young Women Looking at Japanese Objects, 1869), by James Tissot. Oil on canvas, 24 by 19 in. (60.96 by 48.26 cm). Private Collection. (Photo: Wikipedia.org)

On a recent trip to the Tate Britain, I was able to view one of Tissot’s studies for the kneeling figure in Jeunes femmes regardant des objets japonais (Young Women looking at Japanese Objects, 1869).  The study is not on display, but one of the joys of conducting research in London is having access to works in storage by appointment.  It felt like a great luxury to view this and other treasures in the privacy of the Tate Study Room.

IMG_1343Tissot enrolled at the Académie des Beaux-Arts on March 9, 1857, though there is little documentation on the regularity of his attendance at classes, which included mathematics, anatomy and drawing, but not painting.  He studied painting independently under Jean-Hippolyte Flandrin (1809 – 1864) and Louis Lamothe (1822 – 1869), both of whom had been students of the great Neoclassical painter Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780 – 1867) and taught his principles. Flandrin, who had earned a first-class medal at the Paris Exhibition of 1855, was a prolific artist, and he increasingly directed his students to his former student, Louis Lamothe.  Lamothe was a clear and precise draftsman with a passion for detail, and Tissot acknowledged that his own work was significantly influenced by Lamothe’s instruction.

BAL12493

Self portrait (c.1865), by James Tissot. Oil on panel, 49.8 x 30.2 cm (19 5/8 x 11 7/8 in.). The Legion of Honor, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, California. Museum purchase, Mildred Anna Williams Collection, 1961.16. 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.

James Tissot quickly achieved success in the Second Empire art establishment, through a combination of artistic virtuosity, confidence, charm and financial aptitude. In 1866, thirty-year-old James Tissot bought land to build a villa on the most prestigious of Baron Haussmann’s grand new boulevards, the eleven-year-old avenue de l’Impératrice (now avenue Foch). By the Salon of 1868, Tissot had occupied his newly built mansion:  the intriguing details in La Cheminée (The Fireplace, c. 1869, private collection) and L’escalier (The Staircase, 1869, private collection) almost certainly were painted from its opulent interior.

Tissot’s studio, a showcase for his renowned collection of Japanese art, became a landmark to see when touring Paris – and, for Tissot, it was a brilliant marketing tool to attract commissions.  His collection of Japanese art and objets had grown to include a model of a Japanese ship, a Chinese shrine and hardwood table, and a Japanese black lacquered household altar, along with dozens of embroidered silk kimonos, Japanese dolls, folding screens and porcelains.  In 1869, he assimilated these exotic items into elegant compositions in three similar paintings featuring young women looking at Japanese objects.  [See James Tissot’s brilliant marketing tool, 1869.]

The drawing at the Tate reveals how Tissot experimented with the composition of one of the versions of this picture, in studies for the figure of the woman in black, kneeling to get a better look at the details painted on the folding screen.

IMG_1323

Studies of a Kneeling Woman, by James Tissot. Graphite on paper, 12 7/8 by 19 1/4 in. (33 by 48.8 cm).  Tate, London.

He initially drew the woman kneeling, looking slightly to the right so that her face is not in full profile.  Then, to the side, he sketched a second version of her head turned slightly left, so that while she still is not in full profile, we see more of her face as well as her chic hat.

IMG_1403

Detail, Studies of a Kneeling Woman, by James Tissot. Tate, London.

Between the two head studies, Tissot sketches a more graceful position of the fingers the woman holds under her chin.  In the painting, we can see that he chose to use the second option for her right hand.

IMG_6920

Detail, Studies of a Kneeling Woman, by James Tissot. Tate, London.

Young_Women_Looking_at_Japanese_Objects, left hand

But he knew from the beginning how he wanted to paint her left hand, though he decides to part her little finger and raise it slightly, in a more graceful gesture.

 

 

 

IMG_1402

Detail, Studies of a Kneeling Woman, by James Tissot. Tate, London.

In his studies, Tissot uses only a few pencil strokes in delineating the woman’s lovely face.  In the finished painting, Tissot chose to present her in full profile.

Young_Women_Looking_at_Japanese_Objects, hat to elbow

Detail, Jeunes femmes regardant des objects japonais (1869), by James Tissot.

IMG_6922

Detail, Studies of a Kneeling Woman, by James Tissot. Tate, London.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_6923

Detail of Studies of a Kneeling Woman, by James Tissot. Tate, London.

Tissot’s work is known (and often derided) for showing every ruffle and trim of fabric on the women’s costumes.  Interestingly, even his study shows every detail of each pleat, flounce, and drape of fabric, though the woman’s gown in the painting differs.  For example, the cuff in the study is wider than that in the painting.  The tiers of pleated flounces at the bottom of the skirt are different in the painting, and so is the hat.  This drawing indicates that while Tissot made careful preparatory studies, he was not bound by them in his finished paintings.

It is amusing to imagine him seated at his easel before a beautiful live model, completely lost in his work and constitutionally incapable of merely sketching the outline of the gown or indicating its trimmings with the few quick strokes he used in his studies of the woman’s face.

A special thank you to the wonderful staff at the Tate Britain Study Room.

Related posts:

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

“The three wonders of the world”: Tissot’s japonisme,1864-67

James Tissot’s brilliant marketing tool, 1869

© 2017 by Lucy Paquette.  All rights reserved.

CH377762If you do not have a Kindle e-reader, you may download free Kindle reading apps for PCs, Smartphones, tablets, and the Kindle Cloud Reader to read The Hammock:  A novel based on the true story of French painter James Tissot.  Read reviews.

The Hammock:  A novel based on the true story of French painter James Tissot, brings Tissot’s world from 1870 to 1879 alive in a story of war, art, Society glamour, love, scandal, and tragedy.

Illustrated with 17 stunning, high-resolution fine art images in full color

Courtesy of The Bridgeman Art Library  

(295 pages; ISBN (ePub):  978-0-615-68267-9).  See http://www.amazon.com/dp/B009P5RYVE.

 

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

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

hush-the-concert

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

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

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

IMG_6352, 1, Copyright-Lucy-Paquette-2017

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

IMG_6365, 8, Copyright-Lucy-Paquette-2017

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

IMG_6399, 19, Copyright-Lucy-Paquette-2017

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

IMG_6366, 9, Copyright-Lucy-Paquette-2017

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

IMG_6353, 2, Copyright-Lucy-Paquette-2017

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

IMG_6367, 10, Copyright-Lucy-Paquette-2017

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

IMG_6398, 18, Copyright-Lucy-Paquette-2017

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

IMG_6395, 17, Copyright-Lucy-Paquette-2017

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

IMG_6394, 16, Copyright-Lucy-Paquette-2017

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

IMG_6390, 12, Copyright-Lucy-Paquette-2017 (2)

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

IMG_6391, 13, Copyright-Lucy-Paquette-2017 (2)

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

IMG_6401 (2), 21, Copyright-Lucy-Paquette-2017

– who needs to impress the wallflower?

IMG_6402 (2), 22, Copyright-Lucy-Paquette-2017

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

IMG_6392, 14, Copyright-Lucy-Paquette-2017 (2)

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

IMG_6357, 5, Copyright-Lucy-Paquette-2017

Not a group of violin connoisseurs.

IMG_6393, 15, Copyright-Lucy-Paquette-2017

However, the thing does provide some unforeseen opportunities.

IMG_6355 (2), 3, Copyright-Lucy-Paquette-2017

It’s Ladies’ Night.

IMG_6356, 4, Copyright-Lucy-Paquette-2017

The violinist is not the belle of the evening…

IMG_6362, 6, Copyright-Lucy-Paquette-2017

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

IMG_6400, 20, Copyright-Lucy-Paquette-2017

…and the scene-stealing, painted fan.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©  2017 by Lucy Paquette.  All rights reserved.


Related Posts:

Tissot in the U.K.: Northern England

A Closer Look at Tissot’s “Too Early”

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

A Closer Look at Tissot’s “The Fan”

James Tissot’s Models à la Mode

CH377762If you do not have a Kindle e-reader, you may download free Kindle reading apps for PCs, Smartphones, tablets, and the Kindle Cloud Reader to read The Hammock:  A novel based on the true story of French painter James Tissot.  Read reviews.

The Hammock:  A novel based on the true story of French painter James Tissot, brings Tissot’s world from 1870 to 1879 alive in a story of war, art, Society glamour, love, scandal, and tragedy.

Illustrated with 17 stunning, high-resolution fine art images in full color

Courtesy of The Bridgeman Art Library

(295 pages; ISBN (ePub):  978-0-615-68267-9).  See http://www.amazon.com/dp/B009P5RYVE.