Tag Archives: Napolean III

The calm before the storm: Courbet & Tissot in Paris, January to June, 1870

To cite this article: Paquette, Lucy. The calm before the storm: Courbet & Tissot in Paris, January to June, 1870. The Hammock. https://thehammocknovel.wordpress.com/2013/02/21/the-calm-before-the-storm-paris-january-to-june-1870/. <Date viewed.>

 

At the Salon in 1870, Gustave Courbet earned universal praise for his two paintings, The Stormy Sea (also called The Wave) and The Cliffs at Etretat after the storm.  Purchasers flocked to Courbet’s studio:  in April he sold almost forty pictures for a total of about 52,000 francs, and he received additional commissions from ten collectors.

The Stormy Sea (also called The Wave), 1870, by Gustave Courbet. Courtesy www.gustavecourbet.org

The Stormy Sea (also called The Wave), 1870, by Gustave Courbet. Courtesy http://www.gustavecourbet.org

The Cliffs at Etretat after the storm, 1870, by Gustave Courbet. Courtesy www.gustavecourbet.org

The Cliffs at Etretat after the storm (1870), by Gustave Courbet. Courtesy http://www.gustavecourbet.org

In June, 1870, the minister of Beaux-Arts in the cabinet of Napoléon III’s reform-minded new premier, Émile Ollivier, offered Courbet the Legion of Honor, the highest decoration in France.  But Courbet proudly refused it, in a letter that was published throughout the country and offered sentiments such as these:

My opinions as a citizen forbid me to accept an award that belongs essentially to a monarchical regime.  My principles reject this decoration of the Legion of Honor which you have bestowed on me in my absence.  At no time, in no circumstances, for no reason whatever, would I have accepted it.  I am fifty years old and I have always lived in freedom; let me end my life free; when I am dead let this be said of me:  ‘He belonged to no school, to no church, to no institution, to no academy, least of all to any regime except the regime of liberty.’

Courbet angered the Establishment but found himself very popular with those against the Emperor’s regime:

I am overwhelmed with compliments [for refusing the cross], I have received three hundred flattering letters such as no man in the world has ever received before.  In everyone’s opinion I am the greatest man in France…I have so many commissions [for pictures] at present that I cannot supply them.

Courbet had “taken nothing from the family purse for more than twenty years.”  As for Tissot’s friends Degas and Manet, at ages 35 and 38, they were still struggling and still being funded by their parents.  Tissot had made it in Paris on his own from the time he was 19, and was, at 33, so prosperous that he could continue to enjoy the lark of occasionally supplying his British friend Tommy Bowles with caricatures of prominent men for Vanity Fair, the new Society magazine that Tommy pitched as “A Weekly Show of Political, Social and Literary Wares.”  It débuted on November 14, 1868 at sixpence a copy, and its most popular feature was the weekly full-page, color cartoon of some man-of-the-moment that first appeared in February 1869.

Among people of this generation, especially in Paris, it was fashionable to mock tradition and ridicule authority or even oneself.  In 1869, there was a fad for the Grimatiscope, a patented French viewer for creating grotesquely, humorously distorted images from regular photographs.  Portraits of eminent people, friends or oneself could be squeezed into caricatures.  As Degas said, “a true Parisian…knows how to take a joke”; in contributing political cartoons to Vanity Fair, Tissot certainly seemed in his element.  He contributed his work under the pseudonym “Coïdé.”

Émile Ollivier, Vanity Fair, January 15, 1870 by “Coïdé” (James Tissot) . Caption reads “The Parliamentary Empire.”  (Wikimedia.org)

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.  At 28 and already larger-than-life at six feet four inches, Gus Burnaby was looking for more adventure than his hot-air balloon ascents could provide.  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.  Queen lsabella II had been forced to abdicate her throne; the country, under the rule of a provisional government, was on the eve of a revolution.  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).

But Bowles’ staff writers were perhaps, too exceptionally trenchant: Vanity Fair – steadily increasing in circulation and beginning to turn a profit — had gained a reputation for unabashed impudence.  “These boys,” Bowles later observed, “were continually getting me into hot water.”  Around 1870, Burnaby ceased his involvement with Vanity Fair at the command of His Royal Highness The Duke of Cambridge (1819 – 1904), Field Marshal Commander-in-Chief of the British Army who supposedly rebuked an intelligent underling by crying, “Brains? I don’t believe in brains! You haven’t any, I know, Sir!”

The Duke of Cambridge, Vanity Fair, April 23, 1870, by Alfred Thompson. Caption reads: “A military difficulty.” (Wikimedia.org)

In 1870, Tommy Bowles, now 29, commissioned James Tissot to paint a small portrait of Burnaby.  Tissot presented Gus in his “undress” uniform as a captain in the 3rd Household Cavalry – and as an elegant gentleman in a relaxed male conversation.

Captain Frederick Gustavus Burnaby (1870), by James Tissot. Oil on panel, 19.5 by 23.5 in. (Photo: Wikimedia.org)

All the while, Napoléon III was ill with gallstones and prostate trouble, aging and losing his grip on the Empire, but the Princess Mathilde continued to surround herself with all the most vital men in France.  Another young man of talent who had caught her attention, the poet and new playwright François Coppée (1842 – 1908), wrote of his first visits to her:

“She was still in enjoyment – but, alas!  Not for much longer – of all the privileges of her rank of Imperial Highness.  In the sumptuous saloons of her house in the Rue de Courcelles, as also in the pleasant shades of her château at Saint-Gratien, swarmed the official world of the Court, gold-laced generals, ambassadors and ministers covered with orders and ribbons, fair and charming ladies sparking with diamonds, and also, in their sober black coats, the famous writers and artists of the day.  They were all there, or nearly all; at least as many in number as the wonderful pearls in the Princess’ necklace, that famous ornament which was much less precious in her eyes than the intellectual aristocracy which her grace and goodness had succeeded in attracting to her and keeping at her side.”

Was the handsome and self-made James Tissot, whose painting Beating the Retreat in the Tuileries Gardens she had purchased out of the Salon just two years ago, one of the Princess Mathilde’s “intellectual aristocrats”?  It is strange, the life Tissot led – an exclusive address and titled patrons in Paris (and an ongoing friendship with that rising paragon of the British Establishment, J.E. Millais) and yet closer friends with the individualistic Edgar Degas (who ceased to exhibit in the Salon after this year, due to his discontent with it), the illegitimate and irreverent London publisher Tommy Bowles, and the renegade James Whistler, who was considered belligerent and uncouth by this time.

James Tissot’s friendship with the rebellious Édouard Manet is not well documented, especially during this period, but Tissot was not a defender worthy of inclusion in Henri Fantin-Latour’s A Studio in the Batignolles (Homage to Manet), exhibited at the Salon in 1870.  It shows Manet surrounded by the writer and critic  Émile Zola, the painters Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Claude Monet, and Frédéric Bazille, and the sculptor Zacharie Astruc.

English: Henri Fantin-Latour's art

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

Neither was Tissot included in Frédéric Bazille’s 1870 painting, The Artist’s Studio on the rue de la Condamine (which Bazille shared with Renoir from January 1st 1868 to May 15, 1870).  Bazille and Manet stand at the center in this criticism of the Salon, with rejected canvases hung on the studio walls; with them are Renoir, Monet, Astruc and Bazille’s friend Edmond at the piano.

The Artist’s Studio in the rue de la Condmine (1870), by Frédéric Bazille (Wikimedia.org)

Tissot appears to have been content to live well, contribute wicked caricatures of world figures to a slightly subversive London Society magazine, and maintain a fairly low profile in the art world he had conquered within a decade of his arrival as a provincial art student.  Oddly, there are almost no references to Tissot in letters, journals or accounts of his chatty friends and acquaintances during this time, even though his studio was a chic gathering place, and it is likely he visited crowded, gossipy weekly receptions such as those hosted by Princess Mathilde on Fridays and the extremely successful and hospitable painter Alfred Stevens on Wednesdays.  It seems that James Tissot was a peaceable and refined gentleman, truly his own man, with all the advantages and disadvantages that accrue to an individual of independent temperament and means in a circle of talented and passionate associates – and rivals – in a world about to implode.

Related posts:

Tissot’s Last Salon: Paris, 1870

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

© 2013 Lucy Paquette.  All rights reserved.

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

Watch my new videos:

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

and

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

Exhibition notes:

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

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

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

and

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

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

 For more information, visit

http://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2013/impressionism-fashion-modernity

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.

“Hurling towards the abyss”: The Second Empire, 1869

To cite this article: Paquette, Lucy. “Hurling towards the abyss”: The Second Empire, 1869. The Hammock. https://thehammocknovel.wordpress.com/2013/01/09/hurling-towards-the-abyss-the-second-empire-1869/. <Date viewed.>

 

For Tissot’s friend Édouard Manet, 1869 started badly with the government forbidding the exhibition of his new painting, The Execution of Emperor Maximilian.

Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian (1832 – 1867), the idealistic younger brother of the Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph, had been installed in power in Mexico in 1864 by French Emperor Napoléon III as a means of recovering huge debts and of interfering with the United States during its Civil War. Three years later, Napoléon withdrew French military support for the puppet emperor, and Maximilian and two of his generals were captured by Mexican loyalists. They were executed by firing squad on June 19, 1867 under the orders of the Mexican president who had been displaced when the French took control.  When the news reached Paris, Manet, an ardent republican, went to work, first using an eight and a half foot wide canvas, and then restarting on another over nine feet wide before ending with a new one ten feet wide, to portray the outrage that shocked the French. He painted the Mexican soldiers in French uniforms and depicted the executioner in a goatee resembling the one worn by Napoléon III.  Manet also prepared a lithographic version of the scene which could be reproduced and sold to the public as prints. But in January, the government denied permission for the lithograph to be printed, and his incendiary painting was not allowed at the Salon in 1869.

Execution of Emperor Maximilian of Mexico

Execution of Emperor Maximilian, by Manet (Photo: Wikipedia)

Princesse Mathilde (1862), by Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux.  Philadelphia Museum of Art.  Photo by Lucy Paquette

Princesse Mathilde (1862), by Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux. Philadelphia Museum of Art. Photo by Lucy Paquette

In August, 1869, the twenty-three year liaison between the suave, pompous Comte de Nieuwerkerke and Napoléon III’s influential cousin, Princess Mathilde Bonaparte, ended.  She had been as devoted to him as a wife, and she had secured numerous advantages for him.  It was due to Mathilde that Nieuwerkerke had been appointed by Napoléon III as director-general of museums in charge of the Louvre and the Luxembourg as well as the annual Salon.  Nieuwerkerke had been the most powerful figure in the French art world since 1849, and he dominated the Princess in her own home.  But while Mathilde always believed Nieuwerkerke would marry her someday (perhaps when his wife – and her husband –both died), it was well-known in Paris that he had never been faithful to her.  When he abruptly announced to her that he had proposed to a young girl, she turned him out of her house, later telling a friend, “And he had to go on foot across the fields, because I didn’t order a carriage for him.”

Emilien de Nieuwerkerke.

Emilien de Nieuwerkerke (Photo: Wikipedia)

Napoléon III and the Empress Eugénie, who always had disapproved of Princess Mathilde’s infatuation with Nieuwerkerke, had their own problems.  Napoléon’s health declined and, at the age of 61, he had to manage both painful rheumatism and a bladder stone.  By early September 1869, he was well enough to ride in a carriage in the Bois de Boulogne and to attend the theater.  But while the Empress Eugénie, now 43, attended what would turn out to be the Imperial court’s last masked ball dressed as Marie Antoinette, the Legislative Assembly elections in May brought twenty-five Republicans, and nearly half of the voters selected candidates who opposed the Emperor’s regime.  There were socialist and working-class uprisings in Paris, repeated riots at night in June, and workers’ strikes.  During one, government troops fired on striking coal miners and killed fourteen people, including a baby girl.  Foreigners fled the country.  “The Second Empire,” wrote a British diplomat, “is hurling itself […] towards the abyss.”

Gustave Courbet would contribute mightily to that end.  From October 1868 to May or June 1869, Courbet was in Ornans, his home town in the east of France.  He was not painting; he was tinkering with his invention of a light carriage with only one wheel (his father had invented a cart with five wheels).  One friend observed to another, “His volcanic imagination is stimulated by the new invention to such a degree that he will forget to get drunk until the work is completed.”

In 1869, Courbet exhibited three paintings at the Salon which he had already shown at his pavilion near the 1867 Paris Exposition:  Siesta, the Hallali and Mountains of the Doubs.  The young painter Frédéric Bazille (1841 – 1870) wrote that Courbet’s paintings were like masterpieces among universal dullness.  But financial misfortunes seemed to dog Courbet; an art dealer who owed Courbet 30,000 francs went bankrupt.  “I really have no luck,” Courbet wrote.

The Cliffs at Etretat (1869), by Gustave Courbet. (Photo: Wikiart.org)

In mid-August, Courbet was at Etretat, in northern France, sea-bathing and painting.

Guy de Maupassant (1850 – 1893), a young scholar who was to become a prominent writer of short fiction, recalls seeing Courbet on a visit to Etretat in September, 1869:

In a vast, empty room, a fat, dirty, greasy man was slapping dollops of white paint on a blank canvas with a kitchen knife.  From time to time he would press his face against the window and look out at the storm.  The breakers came so close that they seemed to batter the house and completely envelop it in foam and the roar of the sea.  The salty water hammered the panes like hail and ran down the walls.  This work became ‘The Wave’ and caused a public sensation.

Courbet completed nine seascapes at this time (including Cliffs at Etretat and Stormy Sea) and sold five of them for a total of 4,500 francs.  As he began a large new one to exhibit at the Salon in 1870, he learned that his work had been awarded a gold medal at the International Exhibition in Brussels (by a unanimous vote) and that he had received another official decoration at an exhibition in Munich.  He traveled there in September to accept, and in addition to the fêtes in his honor, there was a beer-drinking contest.  Courbet won.  He was asked to give a technical demonstration to the edification and delight of the members of the Bavarian Academy, and before he left Munich, he dashed off a souvenir painting for his admirers, which he signed, “COURBET, without ideals and without religion.”

He would live up to that slogan within the next two years.

© 2013 Lucy Paquette.  All rights reserved.

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

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.

Paris c. 1865: The Giddy Life of Second Empire France

To cite this article: Paquette, Lucy. “Paris c. 1865: The Giddy Life of Second Empire France.” The Hammock. https://thehammocknovel.wordpress.com/2012/10/19/paris-c-1865-the-giddy-life-of-second-empire-france/. <Date viewed.>

 

NapoleonIIIHaussmann

Napoleon III and Haussmann (Photo: Wikipedia)

By 1865, Napoléon III’s majestic and “revolution-proof” vision to modernize Paris had been methodically implemented for twelve years by his préfet, Baron Haussmann.  James Tissot had lived and painted in the city during nine years of this transformation.  The economy was booming as overcrowded medieval buildings were demolished, hills were leveled, bridges were constructed, and narrow, tangled streets were replaced with straight, broad tree-lined avenues extending to the western suburbs where fields of cabbages once grew.  When the Arc de Triomphe was completed in 1836, five streets radiated from it; Haussmann added seven more and a traffic round-about, and it became known as Place de l’Etoile (Place of the Star).  In an effort to create a large, clean and progressive metropolis, rows of neo-classical apartment buildings were constructed with shops at street level, as well as a breathtakingly beautiful new opera house.

Paris Opéra Garnier Grand escalier

Paris Opéra Garnier, Grand escalier (Photo: Wikipedia)

To serve a population that had almost doubled in the past fifteen years and was nearing two million, aqueducts transported fresh spring water to city reservoirs, and an extensive sewer system was installed.  Telegraph lines allowed modern and efficient communication.  Railways now branched out from the city, reaching into the outlying regions and making it an industrial center.  Trains also encircled the city, so that the main railroad stations were conveniently connected within the old fortified wall around the capital.  The once-squalid city had become an international model of urban planning, with new public squares and parks.  The densely wooded Bois de Boulogne was designed on the western edge of the city as an imperial playground, with two lakes, a zoo, an aviary, and an aquarium plus a thoroughbred race course, Longchamp.

The splendid new streets now were a cacophony of horses, carriages, and omnibuses.  Parisians flaunted their wealth, and conspicuous consumption was the order of the day.  Grand department stores and hotels sprang up, and cafés spilled thousands of tables and chairs into the wide sidewalks, packed with people of all classes taking in the spectacle between two and six in the afternoon.  Shops stayed open into the night, drawing crowds from nine o’clock to midnight and beyond, and to the east, there were theaters, music halls and cabarets.  With 15,000 gaslights glittering on the streets, Paris became “The City of Light.”

Valentine Haussmann and her father, Georges Haussmann (fr.wikipedia.org)

While the Emperor carried on affairs with women including Valentine Haussmann, the 21-year-old daughter of the man renovating Paris, the Empress Eugénie and her friends would drive themselves down the elegant avenue de l’Impératrice – Empress Avenue (now the avenue Foch) – heading for the Bois de Boulogne in an open carriage to boat on the lakes, sip wine at the Swiss Chalet there, and enjoy picnics and galas.  Like London’s Hyde Park, it was the place to see and be seen, and to show off fine horses.  In the winter, there was ice skating (introduced in 1862 by the Empress Eugénie), and there were always balls at the Tuileries; in 1865, it was the fashion to drive to masked balls at 3 a.m.  The Empress patronized Charles Worth, the first dressmaker to offer his own designs at luxury fashion shows and to label his creations.  Eugénie’s tastes set style; her extravagant white tulle ballgown strewn with diamonds led to imitations sewn with beetles, butterflies and bells.

The Empress Eugenie Surrounded by her Ladies in Waiting, by Franz Winterhalter (Photo:  Wikimedia.org)

Princess Mathilde Bonaparte

Princess Mathilde Bonaparte (Photo: Wikipedia)

The power behind the throne – in cultural matters, at least — was not Eugénie or even a mistress, but Princess Mathilde.  A first cousin of Napoléon III, she was engaged to him briefly at age 16, though they were mismatched intellectually.  When the man she did marry turned out to be cruel and abusive, she fled him with her Parisian lover, the Comte de Nieuwerkerke.  She took her family’s jewels, using them as collateral for a bank loan of 500,000 francs that funded her cousin’s rise to power.  Even after Napoléon III’s marriage to Eugénie, a Spanish countess educated in Paris, Mathilde wielded enormous power.  At the Paris townhouse Napoléon III put at her disposal, she regularly received scientists, writers, painters, and musicians, and she obtained advantages for them.  She herself was an artist, winning a medal for her painting at the Salon in 1865, and it was at her request that the Comte de Nieuwerkerke (a failed sculptor) was promoted to Superintendent of Fine Arts in 1863, at an annual salary of 60,000 francs.  It is said that Princess Mathilde decided who was elected to the Académie des Beaux-Arts, or which painter won a medal.

Portrait of Count Alfred Émilien de Nieuwerkerke (1811 – 1892), c. 1856-57, by Princess Mathilde Bonaparte.  (Photo:  Wikimedia.org)

2-james_tissot_self_portrait_1865-the-legion-of-honor-fine-arts-museums-of-san-francisco-ca-public-domain-image

Self portrait (1865), by James Tissot, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, CA, USA. Courtesy of The Bridgeman Art Library for use in The Hammock: A novel based on the true story of French painter James Tissot, by Lucy Paquette © 2012

What would Tissot, a man who had depicted himself in a self-portrait a few years earlier as a hooded monk, have been doing amid the heady delights of life in the imperial capital?

In an 1865 photograph, he’s a dapper dresser.  Though still living in the dilapidated Latin Quarter at 29, he was enjoying increasing professional success and was described as a boulevardier – a man-about-town.

In addition to painters, his friends included poets (Camille-André Lemoyne, 1822 – 1907, who dedicated a published poem to Tissot in 1860), writers (Alphonse Daudet, 1840 – 1897, who lived in the rented room below his), and composers (Emmanuel Chabrier, 1841 – 1894, whose portrait Tissot drew in 1861).

He was associated, loosely, with a band of artistic rebels led by Manet – men who met at the Café de Bade to debate the purpose of art and express their frustration with the rigidity of the Paris art Establishment.  But, perhaps, Tissot – a traditionalist at heart — had more closely allied himself with some of the most prominent figures of the Second Empire.

© Copyright Lucy Paquette 2012.  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.

Reality Check: Tissot and the Salon des Réfuses, 1863

To cite this article: Paquette, Lucy. Reality Check: Tissot and the Salon des Réfuses, 1863. The Hammock. https://thehammocknovel.wordpress.com/2012/10/08/reality-check-tissot-and-the-salon-des-refuses-1863/. <Date viewed.>

 

The next Salon was in 1863.  Charles Gounod’s grand opera, Faust, was revived in Paris in 1862, and on the heels of Tissot’s success at the 1861 Salon, he exhibited two Faust-themed paintings, The Departure and Departure of the Bridegroom (Depart du fiancé) as well as The Return of the Prodigal Son.  But the critics had had enough of Tissot’s medieval paintings and began to satirize him.  One prominent critic advised Tissot to “look at the calendar” and wrote, “When he has done enough archaeology, we will do as the father of the prodigal child he showed this year:  we will kill the fatted calf, and we will forgive him.”

The Return of the Prodigal Son, by James Tissot.
Courtesy http://www.jamestissot.org

That is not to say the critics were ready for contemporary subject matter.  Nor was the all-powerful Director-General of Museums, the Comte de Nieuwerkerke, who decreed that artists could submit no more than three paintings to the Salons from now on.  He despised the Realism movement that was gaining ground, preached by the subversive Gustave Courbet.  Nieuwerkerke supposedly said of paintings in the Realist style, “This is the painting of democrats, of men who don’t change their underwear.”  He preferred that artists concentrate their efforts on a masterpiece, preferably one that was morally uplifting.  There was an outcry from painters who felt that the limit on submissions further reduced their chance of earning a living by having their work displayed at the Salon.

Courbet exhibited regularly at the Salon from the time he was 29, when he had ten paintings accepted.  The following year, the State bought his life-sized After Dinner at Ornans, and he was awarded the second-class gold medal; he won additional medals at the Salons in 1857 and 1860.  Courbet’s reputation extended to Berlin and Vienna, and his career was profitable.  He enjoyed defying convention and offending prevailing taste, as he did at the Salon of 1850-1851 with Burial at Ornans, his realistic depiction of his great-uncle’s ordinary, small-town funeral on a 10-foot by 22-foot canvas as if it were a historical painting of a heroic subject.

Burial at Ornans, by Gustave Courbet (1849-1850). Oil on canvas 10′ 3 1/2″ by 21′ 9″ (314 by 663 cm).  Musée d’Orsay, Paris. (Photo: Wikimedia.org)

Courbet said this painting was really “the burial of Romanticism.”  In 1863, amid rising fury over the number of paintings rejected from previous Salons and his own lost respect for the jury, he submitted Return from the Conference, a picture showing a merry little band of drunken priests stumbling down a country road.  It was refused by the Salon jury in 1863 “as an outrage on religious morality” – and Courbet boasted, “I made the work to get it refused.  I’ve succeeded.  That’s the way it’ll bring me in money.”

In 1863, painters vociferously protested the rejection of 2,783 of the 5,000 canvases submitted to the Salon jury.  The Emperor, Napoleon III, authorized the display of the rejects in an adjacent gallery; at the Salon des Refusés, visitors could judge these paintings for themselves.  Many artists did not want to subject their work to public derision and reclaimed their paintings; in the end, fewer than 500 artists participated.  But Whistler wrote to friend, “It’s delightful, it’s delightful for us, this business of the rejects’ exhibition!”  While he gleefully showed The White Girl, Manet merely resigned himself to showing his three paintings, including Luncheon on the Grass (Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe) in this embarrassing and risky venue.  Whistler’s painting provoked hilarity from the 7,000 visitors who streamed through, but Manet’s was condemned.  Though his painting seemed calculated to offend, Manet craved approval from Paris’ art Establishment.  Whistler, on the other hand, relished the public recognition of his picture that had been rejected by both the Royal Academy in London and the Paris Salon, and now had become a major attraction for whatever reason.  Yet he and Manet each earned the respect of many educated, influential critics, some of whose eyes were opened to the injustice of the Salon jury.  Some even perceived that these “rejects” showed the future of art.

Le déjeuner sur l’herbe (Luncheon on the Grass), originally titled Le Bain (The Bath), by Edouard Manet. (Photo: Wikimedia.org)

As for Courbet, his painting of drunken priests was even rejected by the Salon des Réfuses – but he proudly displayed it to the enthusiastic admirers and defenders visiting his studio, and an American entrepreneur helped him capitalize on the scandal it created by showing the work in England that summer.  (The painting is said to have been bought in 1909 by a private citizen who, as a strict Catholic, destroyed it.)

Interior of the Office of Alfred Emilien, Count of Nieuwerkerke, Director General of the Imperial Museums at the Louvre, by Charles Giraud. (Photo: Wikigallery.org)

The Emperor, who didn’t care as much about art as politics, instituted some reforms.  He announced that the Salon now would be held annually instead of biennially,and that the Salon des Réfuses would be repeated the next year.  He granted the Académie des Beaux-Arts independence from the government, and it was renamed L’Ecole des Beaux-Arts.  And he promoted the Comte de Nieuwerkerke to the position of Superintendent of Fine Arts at the request of his cousin, Princess Mathilde Bonaparte, a powerful woman James Tissot would have reason to be grateful to within five years.

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Select Bibliography

Marshall, Nancy Rose and Malcolm Warner. James Tissot: Victorian Life/Modern Love. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1999.

Matyjaszkiewicz, Krystyna, ed. James Tissot. New York: Abbeville Press, 1985, c. 1984 Barbican Art Gallery.

Misfeldt, Willard. “James Jacques Joseph Tissot: A Bio-Critical Study,” Ph.D. diss., Washington University. Ann Arbor, Michigan: University Microfilms International, 1971.

Misfeldt, Willard E. J.J. Tissot: Prints from the Gotlieb Collection. Alexandria, Virginia: Art Services International, 1991.

Warner, Malcolm. Tissot. London: The Medici Society Ltd. 1982.

Wentworth, Michael. James Tissot. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1984.

Wood, Christopher. Tissot: The Life and Work of Jacques Joseph Tissot, 1836-1902. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson Ltd., 1986.