Tag Archives: Jayne Wrightsman

Tea and Tissot at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

I’ve just been to New York for Tea, the only painting by James Tissot on display in the city – and the state.

IMG_0214 (2), copyright Lucy PaquetteTea (1872), oil on wood, 26 by 18 7/8 in. (66 by 47.9 cm), was one of Tissot’s eighteenth-century paintings calculated to appeal to British collectors once he had moved to London in mid-1871, following the Franco-Prussian War and its bloody aftermath, the Paris Commune.

Tissot’s great friend, Edgar Degas, owned a pencil study for Tea. 

Tea is a version of another of Tissot’s oils from 1872, Bad News (The Parting), now in the collection of the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff.

nmwa184, Bad News-The Parting, Wales

Bad News (The Parting), 1872, National Museum of Wales, Cardiff

Tea was in a private collection in Rome, Italy in 1968.  It was with Somerville & Simpson, Ltd., London, by 1979-81, when it was consigned to Mathiessen Fine Art Ltd., London.  The painting was purchased from Mathiessen by Mr. and Mrs. Charles Wrightsman, New York.

Charles B. Wrightsman (1895–1986), president of Standard Oil of Kansas and a tournament polo player, married his second wife, Jayne Larkin (b. 1919) from Flint, Michigan, in 1944.  The couple began collecting fine art in 1952, and Mr. Wrightsman was elected to the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Board of Trustees in 1956.  In 1961, the Wrightsmans’ collection was described by The New York Times as “one of the most important private collections in the world.”

Socialite, philanthropist and fine arts collector Mrs. Charles Wrightsman was elected to the Met’s Board of Trustees in 1975.  Upon Mr. Wrightsman’s death in 1986, the collection became her sole property.

Mrs. Wrightsman owned Tea until 1998, when she gifted it, and eventually three other Tissot oil paintings, to the Met.

Though the Met’s collection included these four Tissot oils between 2006 and 2013, none was displayed.

En plein soleil (In the Sunshine, c. 1881) was purchased in 1983 by Mr. and Mrs. Wrightsman.  Mrs. Wrightsman kept the picture until 2006, when she gifted it to the Met.

Spring Morning (c. 1875) was purchased in 1981, as Matinée de printemps, by Mr. and Mrs. Wrightsman.  Mrs. Wrightsman gifted it to the Met in 2009.

In the Conservatory (Rivals) was purchased by the Wrightsmans in 1981.  Mrs. Wrightsman gifted Rivals to the Met in 2009.  Inexplicably, this major work among the Tissot oils donated to the Met by Mrs. Wrightsman was deaccessioned in 2013.

When I wrote, “New York, New York!  It has everything – except paintings by James Tissot that you can see,” in Tissot in the U.S.:  New York (December 10, 2013), the Met still was exhibiting none of its Tissots.  Tea was put on display in 2014.

IMG_2163, Tea by Tissot, Met, copyright Rick Zuercher

Tea (1872), by James Tissot.  Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY.  (Photo:  R. Zuercher)

Tea includes Tissot’s beautiful and deftly painted surfaces:  the wood table, silver tea service, porcelain, the flocked fabric of the woman’s gown and her black lace mitts.  Here are some close-ups from my visit for you to enjoy!

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DT1925, TEA, Tissot, Met Open Access image

Tea (1872), by James Tissot. Oil on wood, 26 x 18 7/8 in. (66 x 47.9 cm.). Metropolitan Museum of Art, Open Access

Here are more details, from the Met’s Open Access image, above, in which you can see how Tissot painted reflections, shadows, and details in the distance:

DT1925, TEA, Tissot, Met Open Access image (4)

DT1925, TEA, Tissot, Met Open Access image (2)

DT1925, TEA, Tissot, Met Open Access image (3)
DT1925, TEA, Tissot, Met Open Access image (5)

DT1925, TEA, Tissot, Met Open Access image (6)

DT1925, TEA, Tissot, Met Open Access image (7)

 

Below, you can compare Tea and the left side of Bad News (The Parting).  While at first glance they look identical, there are many differences:  the position of the wooden blinds, the scenes outside the windows, the shapes of the silver trays, the coffeepots, and the urns, the placement of the cakes and the chairs, and the style of the wooden tables.  As always with Tissot’s oil paintings, there is more than meets the eye.
DT1925, TEA, Tissot, Met Open Access image                     nmwa184, Bad News-The Parting, Wales (3)

Related posts:

Tissot in the U.S.:  New York

For sale: In the Conservatory (Rivals), c. 1875, by James Tissot

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

© 2018 Lucy Paquette.  All rights reserved.

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

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.

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.

 

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James Tissot’s popularity boom in the 1980s

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

Victorian art, which included the work of James Tissot, was rediscovered in the 1960s and quickly gained popularity in the 1970s – just in time for the Thatcher years, 1979 – 1990. Sydney Morning Herald columnist John McDonald wrote, “During that decade [the 1980s]…the new rich hastened to acquire all the trappings of wealth, and grand Victorian paintings were once again on the menu.”

But Victorian paintings weren’t popular only in the United Kingdom.  American publishing magnate Malcolm Forbes (1919 – 1990), who with his college-age son, Kip, began collecting Victorian paintings in 1969, exhibited a portion of his collection in 1981:  “32 Victorian Paintings from the Forbes Magazine Collection” at The Fine Art Society, Glasgow.  The show included Tissot’s “Good-bye” – On the Mersey, which Malcolm Forbes had purchased at Christie’s, London, in 1970.  ”The 80’s were a decade when businessmen were celebrities, and Malcolm fit into that well,” a colleague later observed.

Le banc de jardin (The Garden Bench, 1882), by James Tissot. Oil on canvas, 99.1 by 142.2 cm. Private collection. (Photo: Wikimedia.org)

American millionaire Frederick Koch (b. 1933) also began collecting Victorian paintings in the 1980s.  One of four brothers and heirs to Koch Industries, the family oil conglomerate, Frederick sold his stake to two of his brothers for over $700 million in 1983.  The Yale Drama graduate funded almost £ 2 million toward the full refurbishment of Shakespeare’s Swan Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon in the 1980s, and he began collecting rare books, opera manuscripts, and fine art.

James Tissot’s Le banc de jardin (The Garden Bench, c. 1882) set an auction price record in 1983, when Fred Koch paid $ 803,660/£ 520,000 for it at Christie’s, London.  This was a favorite image of Tissot’s, depicting his happy half-dozen years with his mistress and muse, Kathleen Newton (1854 – 1882), and her children in his garden; the artist kept it all his life.

Koch built a superb collection of Victorian paintings, which he intended for a museum in the heart of London by 1986.  But he was refused permission by Westminster Council and English Heritage to turn historic St. John’s Lodge in Regent’s Park into a museum.  He put the paintings, including Tissot’s L’Orpheline, in storage.  

American oil executive and arts patron Charles B. Wrightsman (1895 – 1986), who used to entertain U.S. President John F. Kennedy at his home in Palm Beach, Florida, purchased Tissot’s Spring Morning (Matinée de printemps, c. 1875) at Sotheby’s, Belgravia for $ 89,972/£ 40,000 in 1981.  Later that year, Mr. Wrightsman and his wife, Jayne (b. 1919) purchased In the Conservatory (The Rivals) from the Richard Green Gallery, London.  In 1983, Victor Hervey, 6th Marquess of Bristol (1915 – 1985), sold Tissot’s En plein soleil (c. 1881) to Stair Sainty Gallery, London, where it was purchased that year by the Wrightsmans.  Upon Mr. Wrightsman’s death in 1986, the pictures became the sole property of Mrs. Charles Wrightsman.

In the spring of 1984, London’s Tate Gallery held “The Pre-Raphaelites,” the first comprehensive exhibition of their work.  It turned Australian businessman John Schaeffer on to Victorian art.  “It really opened my eyes,” he said.  In the decades that followed, Schaeffer has continued to build his collection.  “I have traditional tastes…and love narrative,” he has said. “I like beautiful things, and I don’t like modern or contemporary art.”  Along with Andrew Lloyd Webber, Schaeffer is recognized as one of the world’s foremost collectors of the Pre-Raphaelites.

Lucy in London, 1984 (2)

Entranced by the Pre-Raphaelites in London, 1984.

As an undergraduate, studying art history in London, I was mesmerized by the Tate’s Pre-Raphaelite exhibition and spent a great deal of time in the galleries.  In fact, I completely missed The Barbican Art Gallery’s major exhibition, “James Tissot, 1836-1902” that year (the exhibition, curated by Krystyna Matyjaszkiewicz, included one hundred eighty-five works and travelled from London to the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester and the Musée du Petit Palais in Paris).

Four years later, in 1988, the Isetan Museum of Art in Tokyo, held James Tissot.

Though Tissot’s oil paintings were worth a great deal on the art market, five more entered public collections in the 1980s – all in the United States – though another was deaccessioned in this decade.

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

Tissot exhibited July (Speciman of a Portrait), along with nine other paintings, at London’s Grosvenor Gallery – a sumptuous, invitation-only showcase for contemporary art in New Bond Street – in 1878, the year it was painted.  It is one in a series representing months of the year, and the figure is modeled by Kathleen Newton.  At some point, another artist painted a frizzy red hairstyle (probably considered more up-to-date) on Mrs. Newton.  In 1980, the painting was donated to the Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio at the bequest of Noah L. Butkin.  It currently is on view in Gallery 220.

The Artists’ Ladies (1885), by James Tissot. Oil on canvas, 57 1/2 by 40 in. (146.1 by 101.6 cm). The Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, Virginia. (Photo: Wikimedia.org)

Shortly after Kathleen Newton died of tuberculosis in 1882, James Tissot left London and returned to Paris.  During his eleven years in London, he had declined Edgar Degas’ invitation to show his work with the artists who became known as the Impressionists.  Making his comeback in Paris in 1885, Tissot displayed a set of fifteen paintings at the Galerie Sedelmeyer called La Femme à Paris (The Parisian Woman). 

One of them, The Artists’ Wives (also called The Artists’ Ladies, 1885) depicts a gathering of artists and their wives on Varnishing Day, the evening before the official opening of the Salon, the annual art exhibition in Paris at the Palais de l’Industrie.

By 1981, the painting was with M. Knoedler and Co. in New York.  It was a gift of Walter P. Chrysler, Jr., and The Grandy Fund, Landmark Communications Fund, and “An Affair to Remember” to the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, Virginia, in 1981.  It is on view.

The Fan (1875), by James Tissot. 15 by 19 in. (38.10 by 48.26 cm). Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, Connecticut. (Photo: Wikimedia.org)

The Fan (1875) simultaneously demonstrates Tissot’s facility depicting plant life, fashion, female beauty and japonisme.  It was sold at Sotheby’s, London in 1982 for $ 73,974/£ 42,000 to Charles Jerdein (1916 – 1999).  Jerdein was the trainer who officially received the credit when thoroughbred Gilles de Retz landed the 2,000 Guineas in 1956; the Jockey Club did not recognize the female trainer, Helen Johnson-Houghton.  Jerdein left Mrs. Johnson-Houghton’s operation that year, trained on his own for a short time, then concentrated on his business as an art dealer in London, though he occasionally had a horse in training in Newmarket.  By the early 1960s, Jerdein had pioneered the market for paintings by James Tissot’s friend, the Dutch-born Victorian painter Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1836 – 1912), before Alma-Tadema’s name became associated with the American television personality who collected his work, Allen Funt of “Candid Camera.”

Shortly after he purchased it, Jerdein sold The Fan to the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, Connecticut, which was able to acquire it due to the generosity of The Ella Gallup Sumner and Mary Catlin Sumner Collection Fund.  In 2013, The Fan was in the Mississippi Museum of Art’s “Old Masters to Monet” exhibition, one of fifty master works of French art spanning three centuries from the Wadsworth’s collection.  The Fan next was on display at the Denver Art Museum’s exhibition, “Court to Café: Three Centuries of French Masterworks from the Wadsworth Atheneum,” during the winter of 2013 – 2014.  The painting is not currently on display at the Wadsworth.

Study for “Mrs. Newton with a Child by a Pool” (c. 1877-78), by James Tissot. Oil on mahogancy panel, 12 ¾ by 16 ¾ in. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA), Richmond, Virginia. (Photo: Wikiart.org)

Study for “Mrs. Newton with a Child by a Pool” (c. 1877-78) depicts Kathleen Irene Ashburnham Kelly Newton in the garden of Tissot’s home in St. John’s Wood, London.  This lively oil sketch was given to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) in Richmond, Virginia by the American collectors and philanthropists Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon in 1983.  It usually is on view, but the gallery it is in is closed for repairs through the next few months.

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Young Women looking at Japanese articles, 1869 (oil on canvas) by James Jacques Joseph Tissot (1836-1902); 27 3/4 by 19 3/4 in. (70.5 by 50.2 cm); Cincinnati Art Museum, Ohio, USA; Gift of Henry M. Goodyear, M.D. 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

Tissot had left his home in Nantes, a seaport on the west coast of France, at age 19 before his birthday in 1856.  In Paris, the young artist started out renting a succession of student rooms in the Latin Quarter.   With his increasing success, he began a collection of Japanese art and objets, and by late 1867 or early 1868, he moved into a villa he had built on the prestigious avenue de l’Impératrice (now avenue Foch).  [Read more about Tissot’s villa here.]

In 1869, Tissot assimilated pieces from his art collection into elegant compositions in three similar paintings featuring young women looking at Japanese objects in his villa’s lavish interiors filled with Oriental carpets, furniture, fabrics, carvings, vases and wall hangings.

By the 1930s, the version above was hanging in an interior decorator’s store on Third Street in Cincinnati and was purchased by Dr. Henry M. Goodyear; he and his wife gifted Tissot’s picture to the Cincinnati Art Museum in 1984.

One public collection, also in the U.S., de-accessioned a Tissot oil in this decade.  The Newark Museum, in Newark, New Jersey, sold Sur la Tamise (Return from Henley), which it had received from a donor in 1926.  To benefit the museum’s acquisition fund, the picture was sold at Sotheby’s, New York in 1985 for $ 370,000/£ 293,860.

Scholars enhanced interest in Tissot’s life and work during the 1980s.  In 1982, Tissot scholar Willard E. Misfeldt (b. 1930) published The Albums of James Tissot, a partial record of Tissot’s work from available photograph albums that the artist maintained.  The catalogue from the Barbican’s 1984 Tissot exhibition, edited by curator Krystyna Matyjaszkiewicz, included eight scholarly essays on Tissot and varying aspects of his art as well as images of and commentary on the works displayed.  Michael Wentworth (1938 – 2002), who had established himself as the world’s leading Tissot scholar by 1978, published the most comprehensive biography of Tissot to date, James Tissot, in 1984.  Two years later, Victorian art expert Christopher Wood (1941 – 2009), published Tissot:  The Life and Work of Jacques Joseph Tissot, 1836-1902.

The Return from the Boating Trip (1873), by James Tissot. Oil on panel, oil on panel, 24 by 17 in. (60.96 by 43.18 cm). Private Collection. Courtesy http://www.jamestissot.org

Dozens of Tissot oils changed hands during from 1980-89:

The Return from the Boating Trip (1873) was sold at Christie’s, London in 1982 for $ 31,852/£ 20,000.

The Bunch of Lilacs (c. 1875), by James Tissot.  Image courtesy of The Bridgeman Art Library for use in "The Hammock:  A novel based on the true story of French painter James Tissot," by Lucy Paquette © 2012

The Bunch of Lilacs (c. 1875), by James Tissot. Oil on canvas, 21 by 15 in. (53.34 by 38.10 cm). Private Collection. Image courtesy of The Bridgeman Art Library for use in “The Hammock: A novel based on the true story of French painter James Tissot,” by Lucy Paquette © 2012

The Bunch of Lilacs (1875) was sold at Christie’s, London in 1975 for $ 15,249/£ 7,000.  In 1982, it was sold again at the same auction house for $ 134,235/£ 75,000.

Algernon Moses Marsden (1877), by James Tissot. 19 by 29 in. (48.26 by 73.66 cm). Private collection. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tissot’s 1877 Portrait of Algernon Moses Marsden, which, was sold at Sotheby’s, London in 1971 for $4,838/£2,000, was sold at Christie’s, London for $65,677/£45,000 in 1983.  [See Who was Algernon Moses Marsden?]

The Dreamer, by James Tissot. Private Collection. Courtesy http://www.jamestissot.org

James Tissot painted Kathleen Newton in the study above [called The Dreamer] in 1878, selling it for £206 as Rêverie at the Dudley Gallery in London. In the 1920s, a man bought it “for a few pounds.”  In 1984, the man’s daughter brought the picture to a valuation day at Woodbridge Community Hall in Suffolk, England.  She had no idea what it was, but said, “It has been on the wall for as long as I can remember.  My dad always used to poke around the sale rooms and this just came home.  I can’t remember when.  The story always was that he bought it because it reminded him of my mother, they both had the same auburn colored hair.  Nobody knew anything about it in the family.  We had it re-framed, and while it was at the framer’s somebody offered us £600 for it and so we thought we should get it looked at professionally.”  A Sotheby’s representative at the valuation day said, “I remember turning round to say something to my secretary and when I turned back again this gentleman had put the picture down on the table in front of me.  I remember taking one look at it and thinking to myself, “My God, a Tissot.”

The 1878 oil study, measuring 11 by 17 in. (27.94 by 43.18 cm), was sold at Sotheby’s, London in 1984 as Rêverie for $ 38,678/£ 32,000.

Reading the News (1874) was sold at Christie’s, London in 1947 for $ 1,168/£ 290 – and then in 1983 for $ 252,892/£ 170,000.  Just six years later, it was sold at Sotheby’s, New York in 1989 for $ 1,250,000/£ 797,295 –  at that time, the highest auction price on record for an oil painting by Tissot.

Reading the News (1874), by James Tissot. 34 by 20 in. (86.36 by 50.80 cm). Private Collection. (Photo: Wikimedia.org)

 

Related posts:

James Tissot in the era of Abstract Expressionism

James Tissot and the Revival of Victorian Art in the 1960s

If only we’d bought James Tissot’s paintings in the 1970s!

©  2014 by Lucy Paquette.  All rights reserved.

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

CH377762

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.

For sale: In the Conservatory (Rivals), c. 1875, by James Tissot

On Monday, October 28, 2013, a masterpiece by French painter James Tissot will be sold at Christie’s fall sale of 19th Century European Art in New York.

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In the Conservatory (Rivals), c. 1875, by James Tissot. Oil on canvas, 15 1/8 by 20 1/8 in./38.4 by 51.1 cm. (Photo:  Wiki)

In the Conservatory (Rivals) (c. 1875) is being deaccessioned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  The painting was donated to the Met in 2009 by socialite, philanthropist and fine arts collector Mrs. Jayne Wrightsman (b. 1919), widow of oil executive Charles B. Wrightsman (1895–1986).  In the four years that In the Conservatory (Rivals) has been in the Met’s collection, it has not been exhibited – inexplicably, it was not even included in the blockbuster exhibition, “Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity” which debuted at the Musée d’Orsay from September 25, 2012 to January 20, 2013, travelled to the Met from February 26 to May 27, 2013, and made its finale at the Art institute of Chicago from June 26 to September 29.

Mrs. Wrightsman, now an emeritus trustee of the Met, donated three other Tissot oils to the museum:

Tea (1872), oil on wood, 26 by 18 7/8 in./66 by 47.9 cm., gifted in 1998

En Plein Soleil (c. 1881), oil on wood, 9 3/4 by 13 7/8 in./24.8 by 35.2 cm., gifted in 2006

Spring Morning (c. 1875), oil on canvas, 22 by 16 3/4 in./55.9 by 42.5 cm., gifted in 2009

Of the four Tissot paintings that Mrs. Wrightsman donated, only In the Conservatory (Rivals) can be considered a major work, and it is considered a highlight of the Christie’s sale on October 28.

A little background:  Charles B. Wrightsman, president of Standard Oil of Kansas and a tournament polo player, married his second wife, Jayne Larkin from Flint, Michigan, in 1944.  The couple began collecting fine art in 1952, and Mr. Wrightsman was elected to the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Board of Trustees in 1956.  In 1961, the Wrightsmans’ collection was described by The New York Times as “one of the most important private collections in the world.”  In addition to paintings by Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Johannes Vermeer, it included ”one of the finest collections of Louis XV furniture in the country,” according to The Times.

At a London auction in 1961, Mr. Wrightsman paid $392,000 for a 20 x 25 inch portrait of the first Duke of Wellington, attributed to Francisco Goya.  The possibility that the painting would be removed from England created a storm of protest.  Mr. Wrightsman offered to sell the painting to London’s National Gallery at cost, and the museum accepted.  [Two weeks after that purchase, the painting was stolen from the head of the gallery’s main staircase.  It was recovered in 1965.]

Upon his retirement in 1975, Charles Wrightsman was made Trustee Emeritus, a position he held until his death at age 90.  In 1975, Jayne Wrightsman was elected to the Board of Trustees.

Mr. and Mrs. Wrightsman made many gifts that enriched the Metropolitan Museum of Art, including the eight Wrightsman Rooms, furnished and decorated in the style of 18th-century France, and three galleries for exhibiting furnishings and art objects from the same period.  These galleries opened to the public between 1969 and 1977.

Among the paintings that the Wrightsmans gave to the museum in 1977 were works by Jacques-Louis David, Nicholas Poussin and Giovanni Battista Tiepolo.

When it was learned in 1977 that the couple had purchased David’s Antoine Laurent Lavoisier and His Wife for the museum at a cost of about $4 million, Mr. Wrightsman stated, ”Mrs. Wrightsman and I lead a very quiet life and we try to avoid publicity.”

But early in 1978, in a widely publicized acquisition, the Wrightsmans bought a painting by the 17th-century Flemish artist Peter Paul Rubens, a self-portrait with his wife and son, for a price believed at the time to be between $3 million and $4 million.  Purchased from the collection of Baron Guy de Rothschild in Paris, the painting was described by an official of the Metropolitan Museum as ”the greatest Rubens in this country.”  The Wrightsmans gave the Rubens to the Met in 1981.

In May 1979 the Wrightsmans gave the Met two exceptional Old Masters paintings:  The Miracle of Christ Healing the Blind by El Greco and The Penitent Magdalen by Georges de La Tour.  The museum’s director said of the donors, ”They set the highest possible standards of excellence for all acquisitions, a goal to be reached for even if rarely to be obtained.  Our debt to the Wrightsmans is, once again, beyond measure.”

That year, they also donated Vermeer’s Portrait of a Young Woman (also known as Study of a Young Woman, or Girl with a Veil), c. 1666-67.  One of only twenty-four Vermeers in the world, the Wrightsmans bought it from the Prince d’Arenberg for an estimated £400,000.

Jayne Wrightsman, a close friend of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis who served as the First Lady’s mentor during the 1961-63 restoration of the White House, is considered the grande dame of New York society and one of the great art collectors and museum patronesses of the 20th century.  “As a collector, she’s very high up in the pantheon,” said banker Jacob Rothschild, a close friend, in a January 2003 Vanity Fair article. “She has given her life to the Met.”

Regardless, it is “rare to see a work sold only three years after its acquisition,” observes La Tribune de l’ Art, an independent French source of art history news in an October 3, 2013 article [La Tribune had announced the Met’s acquisition of Tissot’s In the Conservatory (Rivals) on June 16, 2010]. It is clear that the donor has agreed to the sale but it probably would have been more logical to avoid this little passage through the Met, unless we should see in this round trip a desire to increase the value of the canvas by a prestigious provenance.  But is it really the role of museums, even in America, to become art dealers in this way?”  The article notes that the selling price of this Tissot painting (estimated at $2,500,000-3,500,000) “is a drop in the acquisition budget of the Metropolitan Museum.”

New York-based journalist Judith H. Dobrzynski recently wrote about the Met’s deaccessioning of In the Conservatory (Rivals):

“Using the Met’s website, I could not find an image, let alone an exhibition history there.  But the Christie’s catalogue says the gift came in 2009, and the last exhibition it cites was in 1955.  Still, I am a bit surprised at this sale.  Tissot is no genius, but what he did, he usually did well — and this painting, in the slide, looks worth exhibiting to me.”

Interest in – and appreciation for – Tissot’s work dramatically increased in the U.S. with the inclusion of a dozen of his most memorable images (thanks to the insistence of curator Gloria Groom) in “Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity” in New York and Chicago.  You can see this reflected all over social media.  The Met enjoyed the fruits of the turnout, but could potentially shut the public out in the sale on October 28.

It is partly because some of Tissot’s most beautiful works have only recently been acquired by art museums that the public has had the opportunity to learn about and appreciate him.  The Marquis and the Marquise de Miramon and their Children was acquired by the Musée d’Orsay in 2006, and the “Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity” show is the first time it’s been exhibited anywhere else since 1866.  The Musée d’Orsay acquired The Circle of the Rue Royale in 2011 from the descendants of one of the sitters.

Meanwhile, Gloria Groom – who conceived the “Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity” exhibition and organized it with the Metropolitan Museum and the Musée d’Orsay – and who has newly been promoted to the Chicago Art Institute’s first “senior curator” position, recently noted that the Art Institute doesn’t own a single painting by James Tissot.  “Maybe now,” she said in an  August 19, 2013 article article in the Chicago Reader, “we can do something about that.”

Perhaps the Getty Museum in Los Angeles will purchase In the Conservatory (Rivals), after purchasing Tissot’s Portrait of the Marquise de Miramon, née, Thérèse Feuillant from her descendants in 2007.  Until the Getty exhibited this gorgeous portrait, it hadn’t been displayed in public since the 1867 Paris International Exhibition.

Or perhaps a smaller, well-funded art museum would find In the Conservatory (Rivals) a welcome addition to its permanent collection.

James_Tissot_-_Algeron_Moses_Marsden

In the Conservatory (Rivals) has an illustrious enough provenance without the enhancement of four years in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  It is thought to have been sold by London art dealer Algernon Moses Marsden [1848-1920; see Who was Algernon Moses Marsden?]:  it was owned by Kaye Knowles, Esq., London, (1835-1886), a banker whose vast wealth came from shares in his family’s Lancashire coal mining business, Andrew Knowles and Sons.  Kaye Knowles, who owned three other oil paintings by Tissot, was a client of Marsden’s.  After Knowles’ sudden death, In the Conservatory (Rivals) was sold with his estate as Afternoon Tea at Christie’s, London, on May 14, 1887.  William Agnew (1825 – 1910), the most influential art dealer in London – who represented Tissot for a time during the 1870s – 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.  It passed to Robert Knowles – probably their younger brother – and was owned by Mrs. Mary Grant by 1936 to at least 1955.  From then, it was in the possession of J. E. Grant, Esq. and Mrs. P. M. Mackay Scobie until 1981, and they sold it – as Rivals – at Christie’s, London, on October 16, 1981 for $ 109,848/£ 60,000.  It was purchased by the Richard Green Gallery, London, and sold to Mr. and Mrs. Charles Wrightsman, New York, in 1981.  Upon Mr. Wrightsman’s death in 1986, Rivals became the sole property of Mrs. Charles Wrightsman, who gifted to it the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2009.

As the Christie’s sale catalogue emphasizes, Tissot’s In the Conservatory (Rivals) has not been on the market in over three decades.

May the Met’s loss be a gain for an institution that values this work, and for Tissot fans
worldwide who would appreciate its inclusion in a public collection.

Note:  On October 28, 2013, In the Conservatory (Rivals) sold for $1,700,000 (Hammer price; total with Buyer’s Premium was $2,045,000 USD/£ 1,270,817 GBP).  There is no indication it was purchased for a public collection.

Related posts:

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

James Tissot oils at auction: Seven favorites

Kathleen Newton by James Tissot: eight auctioned oil paintings

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

Tissot in the Conservatory

Video:  “The Strange Career of James Tissot”  (2:33 min.)

© 2013 by Lucy Paquette.  All rights reserved.

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

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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  

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