Tag Archives: Princess Mathilde Bonaparte

James Tissot and Alfred Stevens

James Tissot’s work often is compared to that of Belgian painter Alfred Stevens (1823 –1906).

Alfred Stevens, 1865. (Photo: Wikimedia.org)

Stevens was born in Brussels, where he received his first artistic training.  His father was an art collector, and his maternal grandparents ran a café that was a gathering spot for politicians, writers, and artists.  Stevens’ elder brother, Joseph, was a painter, and his younger brother, Arthur, became an art critic and a dealer based in Paris and Brussels who advised the King of the Belgians.

Stevens’ father died in 1837, when he was fourteen, and in 1844, he went to Paris.  He stayed with a friend, the painter Florent Joseph Marie Willems (1823–1905) and attended the prestigious Ecole des Beaux-Arts.  He studied under Camille Roqueplan (1802/03 – 1855), a friend of his father.

Stevens first exhibited his work in 1851, with four historical paintings at the Salon in Brussels.  The next year, he settled in Paris.  In 1853, at 30, he made his debut at the Salon there with three paintings; he won a third-class medal for Ash-Wednesday Morning, which was purchased by the Ministry of Fine Arts for the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Marseilles.  A year later, he also exhibited his first painting of modern life, The Painter and his Model [see below], at the Salon in Antwerp.  In 1855, Stevens exhibited six paintings at the Exposition Universelle in Paris and won a second-class medal.  Within a few years, he and his elder brother, Joseph, had become widely known and accepted in the Paris art world.

Lady at a Window, Feeding Birds (c. 1859), by Alfred Stevens. (Photo: Wikimedia.org)

James Tissot, c. 1855-62. (Photo: Wikimedia.org)

Jacques Joseph Tissot’s parents were self-made, prosperous merchants and traders in the textile and fashion industry in Nantes, a bustling seaport on the banks of the Loire River, 35 miles from the Atlantic Ocean.  Tissot left Nantes at 19, in 1856 (i.e. before he turned 20 that October).

In the spring of 1857, he enrolled at the Académie des Beaux-Arts, though there is little documentation on the regularity of his attendance at classes, which included mathematics, anatomy and drawing, but not painting.  Tissot studied painting independently under Jean-Hippolyte Flandrin (1809 – 1864) and Louis Lamothe (1822 – 1869); both men had been students of the great Neoclassical painter Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780 – 1867), and taught his principles.

In 1858, Stevens married Marie Blanc, who came from a wealthy Belgian family who were old friends of the Stevens family.  Eugène Delacroix, whose paintings were among those that Stevens’ father collected, was one of the witnesses at the ceremony.

Promenade dans la Neige

Promenade dans la neige, by Tissot

Within three years of his arrival in Paris, Tissot was ready to exhibit his work at the Salon.  Competing with established artists, the 23-year-old Jacques Joseph Tissot – likely borrowing the name from a new friend, the American artist James McNeill Whistler – submitted his paintings to the jury under the name James Tissot.  Two of Whistler’s prints were accepted by the jury for exhibition in the Salon of 1859, but his strikingly original oil painting, At the Piano, was rejected, while five of Tissot’s entries were accepted, one called Portrait de Mme T…, a small painting of his mother.  There was another small portrait (Mlle H. de S…), and two designs for stained glass windows.  The fifth painting was Promenade dans la Neige, which depicted a young medieval couple taking a winter’s walk and caused one critic to wonder if Tissot was amusing himself by placing student work in a frame.  Of the medieval subject matter, the critic sniped at the young artist, “What are you, blind to the life around you?”

Faust and Marguerite (a study for The Meeting of Faust and Marguerite), by James Tissot. Oil on panel, 6.10 by 8.66 in. (15.50 by 22.00 cm). Private Collection. (Photo: Wikimedia.org)

However, Tissot and his painting, Le Recontre de Faust et de Marguerite (The Meeting of Faust and Marguerite) attracted the attention of the Comte de Nieuwerkerke, Director-General of Museums, who purchased the painting by an order of July 17, 1860 on behalf of the government for the Luxembourg Museum for 5,000 francs.  This was a huge honor for the very young artist, who exhibited the painting at the Salon in 1861.

In the 1860s, Stevens became immensely wealthy due his paintings of stylish and refined contemporary parisiennes, characteristically in luxurious private residences, but occasionally in religious settings.

Le bouquet (c. 1861), by Alfred Stevens. (Photo: Wikiart.org)

In Memoriam (c. 1861), by Alfred Stevens. (Photo: http://www.the-athenaeum.org)

Les rameaux (Palm Sunday, c. 1862), by Alfred Stevens. (Photo: Wikimedia)

Stevens exhibited Les rameaux (Palm Sunday, c. 1862), at the Paris Salon in 1863 (and again at the Exposition Universelle, the world’s fair, in Paris in 1867).

In 1863, when he was forty, Stevens received the Legion of Honor (Chevalier) from the Belgian government.

Princess Mathilde Bonaparte’s salon at 24 rue de Courcelles, Paris (1859), by Giraud Sébastien Charles (1819-1892). Musée national du château de Compiègne. (Photo: Wikimedia.org)

Among the places where Alfred Stevens and his brother, Joseph, socialized were the crowded literary and artistic receptions held weekly by Napoleon III’s cousin, Princess Mathilde.  There, he may have met the young James Tissot; another of Tissot’s new friends, the writer Alphonse Daudet, (1840 – 1897), attended these soirées as well.

Tissot made a name for himself at the Salon in 1864, exhibiting portraits from modern life that were highly praised:  The Two Sisters may have been a double portrait; the elder model reappears in Portrait of Mademoiselle L.L.   

The Two Sisters (1863), by James Tissot. (Photo: Wikiart.org)

Portrait of Mademoiselle L.L. (1864), by James Tissot. (Photo: Wikiart.org)

Tissot’s work first showed the influence of Alfred Stevens at the Salon of 1866, with Le Confessional, which was described by a critic as “perhaps a little too much in the style of Alfred Stevens.”

Leaving the Confessional (1865), by James Tissot. (Photo: http://www.the-athenaeum.org)

Considering that Stevens began his career with a painting very much in the style of his friend, Florent Willems (compare the two paintings below), he must have enjoyed Tissot’s homage and certainly did not discourage it.

Painter at his easel shows his work to a girl (1852), by Florent Joseph Marie Willems (Photo: Wikimedia.org)

The Painter and his Model (1855), by Alfred Stevens. (Photo: Wikimedia.org)

Tissot received a medal at the Salon of 1866 which made him hors concours, entitled to exhibit from now on without the jury’s scrutiny, and with this official recognition came financial success.  Tissot now was 29 and Stevens was 43.

At the Salon in 1867, Tissot exhibited Jeune femme chantante à la orgue (Young Woman Singing to the Organ), depicting a fashionable woman singing a duet with a nun in a church’s organ loft and The Confidence.  Both owe a debt to Alfred Stevens – although perhaps Stevens’ In the Country (c. 1867) [see below] owes something to Tissot’s The Two Sisters (1863).

The Confidence (1867), by James Tissot. (Photo: Wikiart.org)

In the Country (c. 1867), by Alfred Stevens. (Photo: Wikiart.org)

At the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1867, Stevens exhibited eighteen paintings, including La dame en rose (Woman in Pink, 1866), and he won a first-class medal; he was promoted to Officer of the Legion of Honor and invited to an Imperial ball at the Tuileries Palace.  Tissot exhibited Portrait of the Marquise de Miramon, née Thérèse Feuillant, a stunning portrait of the wife of one of his new, aristocratic patrons.  The 30-year-old Marquise wears a pink velvet peignoir while leaning on the mantel in her sitting room at her husband’s château in Auvergne with a stylish Japanese screen behind her.

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

La dame en rose (Woman in Pink, 1866), by Alfred Stevens. (Photo: Wikimedia.org)

Stevens’ La dame en rose, which depicts an elegantly gowned woman near a Japanese carved and painted table, admiring a doll from “her” collection, is often said to have inspired Tissot’s japonisme phase, along with Whistler’s paintings such as The Golden Screen (1864), The Lange Leizen of the Six Marks (completed 1864; exhibited at the Royal Academy that same year), The Princess from the Land of Porcelain  (completed 1863-64; exhibited at the 1865 Salon), and The Little White Girl (completed 1864; exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1865).  But Tissot’s The Bather (c. 1864) pre-dates Stevens’ La dame en rose.  [See “The three wonders of the world”: Tissot’s japonisme,1864-67.]

Tissot and Stevens moved in the same social circle, which included Edouard Manet, Edgar Degas, Frédéric Bazille, Berthe Morisot and James Whistler as well as Dutch painter Lawrence Alma-Tadema.  But while Tissot is said to have preferred quiet evenings with his friends in his splendid new home on the chic avenue de l’Impératrice (now avenue Foch), Stevens often gathered with friends at the Café Guerbois.  In addition, he and his wife held regular receptions at their home on Wednesdays; weekly soirées were held by Madame Manet (Edouard’s formidable mother) on Tuesdays, Madame Morisot (Berthe’s formidable mother) on Thursdays, and Princesse Mathilde on Fridays.

Tissot attended Stevens’ receptions, as he noted in early 1868 in a hurried message to Degas scribbled on the back of a used envelope when he found Degas away from his studio:  “I shall be at Stevens’ house tonight.”

Both James Tissot and Alfred Stevens had grown wealthy depicting the elegance of Parisian life during France’s Second Empire.  But their comfortable lives were about to change.

Related posts:

Was James Tissot a Plagiarist?

More “Plagiarists”: Tissot’s friends Manet, Degas, Whistler & Others

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

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

In a class by himself: Tissot beyond the competition, 1866

Degas’ portrait: Tissot, the man-about-town, 1867

On top of the world: Tissot, Millais & Alma-Tadema in 1867

What became of James Tissot and Alfred Stevens?

© Copyright Lucy Paquette 2015.  All rights reserved.

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.


From Princess to Plutocrat: Tissot’s Patrons

The story of James Tissot’s 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 new class of wealthy industrialists

The Marquis and the Marquise de Miramon and their Children (1865), by James Tissot. Oil on canvas, 69 11/16 x 85 7/16 in. (177 x 217 cm.) Musée d’Orsay, Paris (Photo credit: Wikimedia.org)

Tissot moved to Paris from the seaport of Nantes in 1856 (before he turned 20 on October 15 of that year), to study art.  He lived in rented rooms in the crowded Latin Quarter and made his début at the Salon in 1859.  By 1865, Tissot 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 [René de Cassagne de Beaufort, marquis de Miramon (1835 – 1882) and his wife, née Thérèse Feuillant (1836 – 1912), with their first two children, Geneviève (1863 – 1924) and Léon (1861 – 1884) on the terrace of the château de Paulhac in Auvergne].  The portrait of the Marquis and Marchioness of Miramon and their children remained in the family until 2006, when it was acquired by the Musée d’Orsay.  When exhibited in Paris in 1866, this painting served as Tissot’s calling card to the lucrative market for Society portraiture.

Portrait of the Marquise de Miramon, née, Thérèse Feuillant (1866), by James Tissot. Oil on canvas, unframed: 50 1/2 x 30 3/8 in. (128.3 x 77.2 cm.). The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles. Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program.

By 1866, Tissot’s oil portraits included dapper, upper-class gentlemen, attractive and well-dressed ladies of leisure, and a wealthy-looking boy of 12 or so wearing knee breeches and red and white diced Scottish hose.  Most stunning was his Portrait of the Marquise de Miramon, née Thérèse Feuillant, in her sitting room at the château de Paulhac in Auvergne.  Tissot wrote to her husband, who had commissioned the portrait, asking permission to display her portrait at the 1867 Paris International Exhibition.  The J. Paul Getty Museum, in Los Angeles, California, acquired the picture from the family in 2007.

Portrait of Eugène Coppens de Fontenay (1867), by James Tissot. 27 x 15 in. (68.58 x 38.10 cm.) Philadelphia Museum of Art. Photo by Lucy Paquette

Portrait of Eugène Coppens de Fontenay (1867), by James Tissot. 27 x 15 in. (68.58 x 38.10 cm.) Philadelphia Museum of Art. Photo by Lucy Paquette

In 1866 – at age 30 – Tissot won the right to exhibit anything he wished at the Salons.

Busy with commissions from his aristocratic patrons, he bought property to build a mansion in the avenue de l’Impératrice (Empress Avenue, now avenue Foch), Baron Haussmann’s magnificent new boulevard linking the Place de l’Etoile and the park grounds at the Bois de Boulogne.

While his house was under construction, Tissot painted Portrait of Eugène Coppens de Fontenay (1824 –1896), the president of the exclusive Jockey Club in Paris.  Married in 1853, Eugène Aimé Nicolas Coppens de Fontenay had three children. 

Portrait of Eugène Coppens de Fontenay remained in the family until 1971, when it was sold by Christie’s, London for $ 4,352 USD/£1,800 GBP.  It was purchased by the City of Philadelphia in 1972 and is on display at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

The Circle of the Rue Royale (1868), by James Tissot. Oil on canvas, 68 7/8 x 110 5/8 in. (175 x 281 cm.) Musée d’Orsay, Paris. (Photo credit: Wikimedia.org)

Tissot moved into his elegant new villa by 1868, and he furnished it in lavish Second Empire taste, forming a collection of Chinese and Japanese art for which he became renowned, and which he featured in many of his paintings.  That year, he painted a hearty slice of the French aristocracy in a group portrait, The Circle of the Rue Royale (1868).  Members of this exclusive club, founded in 1852, each paid Tissot a sitting fee of 1,000 francs.  He portrayed them on a balcony of the Hôtel de Coislin overlooking the Place de la Concorde (if you look closely at the original painting, you can see the horse traffic through the balustrade).  From left to right: Count Alfred de La Tour Maubourg (1834-1891), Marquis Alfred du Lau d’Allemans (1833-1919), Count Étienne de Ganay (1833-1903), Captain Coleraine Vansittart (1833-1886), Marquis René de Miramon (1835-1882), Count Julien de Rochechouart (1828-1897), Baron Rodolphe Hottinguer (1835-1920; he kept the painting according to the agreed-upon drawing of lots), Marquis Charles-Alexandre de Ganay (1803-1881), Baron Gaston de Saint-Maurice (1831-1905), Prince Edmond de Polignac (1834-1901), Marquis Gaston de Galliffet (1830-1909) and Charles Haas (1833-1902).  The Musée d’Orsay acquired The Circle of the Rue Royale in 2011 from Baron Hottinguer’s descendants.

Beating the Retreat in the Tuileries Gardens (1867), by James Tissot. (Photo: Wikipaintings.org)

Princess Mathilde Bonaparte. Photo: Wikimedia.org

At the 1868 Salon, Tissot exhibited two oil paintings, one of which, Beating the Retreat in the Tuileries Gardens, was purchased by Napoleon III’s influential cousin, Princess Mathilde.  Mathilde was an artist herself and had won a medal at the 1865 Paris Salon.

Meanwhile, the rising industrial class was beginning to invest in art.

Tissot exhibited Le confessional (Leaving the Confessional, 1865), an oil painting, at the 1866 Salon when he was 30, still living in student lodgings in the Latin Quarter while gaining recognition and success in Paris.  A watercolor version, which is smaller but otherwise virtually identical to the original oil, was commissioned in 1867 by American grain merchant and liquor wholesaler William Thompson Walters (1819 – 1894).  Upon his death, his son and fellow art collector Henry Walters (1848 – 1931), inherited his father’s collection and bequeathed it to the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland at his death.  Tissot’s watercolor, The Confessional, is not on view.

The Confessional (c. 1867), by James Tissot. Watercolor, 10 3/8 by 5 11/16 in. (26.4 by 14.4 cm). Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo: Wikimedia.org)

Other collectors of James Tissot’s paintings in the United States included:  Massachusetts shipper and banker Alvin Adams (1804 – 1877); New York lawyer Robert Livingston Cutting (1836 – 1894); Pennsylvania dry goods merchant, woolens manufacturer and financier Thomas Dolan (1834 – 1914); Pennsylvania banker, real estate developer and distiller Henry C. Gibson (1830 – 1891); and New York lawyer and judge Henry Hilton (1824 – 1899).

After the Franco-Prussian War in 1870–71, and the bloody Commune uprising in Paris in the spring of 1871, Tissot moved to London.  Within two years, he had established himself in a large house with a studio, a conservatory and a luxurious garden in St. John’s Wood.  While British aristocrats did not purchase his paintings, plenty of newly-wealthy businessmen 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.

On the Thames, A Heron (c. 1871-1872) is 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, a member of a prominent Spanish family.  Murrieta tried to sell the painting on May 24, 1873 as On the Thames:  the frightened heron; priced at 570 guineas, it did not find a buyer.  His brother, Antonio de Murrieta, attempted and failed to sell it on June 15, 1873 for 260 guineas.  As The Heron, the painting was sold by Sotheby’s, New York in 1973 for $ 32,000 USD/£ 12,886 GBP.  On the Thames, A Heron was the gift of collector Mrs. Patrick Butler, by exchange, to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and is on display.

In 1883, At the Rifle Range (1869) was offered for sale by one of the de Murrieta brothers at Christie’s, London as The Crack Shot, for £220.10s but failed to find a buyer at that price.  It was purchased by Captain Bambridge in 1937 at the Leicester Galleries in London.  Captain George Bambridge (1892 – 1943), a British diplomat, was married to Rudyard Kipling’s daughter, Elsie (1896 – 1976).  From 1938, the childless couple resided at Wimpole Hall, about 8½ miles (14 kilometres) southwest of Cambridge.  Since Elsie Bambridge’s death in 1976, the estate has been owned by the National Trust and is open to the public.

Les Adieux 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).  After his death, it was sold for 220 guineas at Christie’s, London to the father of Lt. Col. P.L.E. Walker, from whom it was purchased by the Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery in 1955.

Tissot’s The Last Evening was purchased from Agnew’s, a London art dealership that specialized in “high-class modern paintings,” 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.  He and his wife Georgiana, a childless couple, donated a number of his paintings, including The Last Evening, to the Guildhall Art Gallery from 1895 to 1902.  This picture is currently on view.  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 bequeathed it to the Guildhall Art Gallery, where it is on view for visitors.

Tissot sold La Visite au Navire 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.”  Incidentally, this picture, purchased from the Leicester Galleries, London by William Hulme Lever, 2nd Lord Leverhulme, in 1933, was sold as A Visit to the Yacht following a sale at Sotheby’s, London on December 4, 2013.  A buyer in the United States purchased the picture for a price within the estimated £2 to 3 million GBP it was expected to bring at the auction.  [See For sale: A Visit to the Yacht, c. 1873, by James Tissot]

The Ball on Shipboard (c. 1874) was purchased from Tissot by London art dealer William Agnew (1825 – 1910), 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).  The Ball on Shipboard, which has been in the collection of the Tate since 1937, is not on display.

In 1874, James Tissot sold paintings to two aristocrats: the exiled Empress of France, widow of Napoleon III, Eugénie de Montijo (1826 –1920), and Irish peer Mervyn Wingfield, 7th Viscount Powerscourt (1836 – 1904).  Lord Powerscourt, whose forebears had lived since 1300 on a magnificent estate outside Enniskerry, County Wicklow, Ireland, paid £1,000 for Avant le Départ (Private Collection), and by autumn, Tissot was commissioned to paint a double portrait, The Empress Eugénie and the Prince Impérial in the Grounds at Camden Place, Chislehurst (c. 1874, Musée Nationale du Château de Compiègne, France).  After this, Tissot’s paintings continued to be purchased primarily by industrialists [though in the late 1880s, he executed pastel portraits of some aristocratic women].

Chrysanthemums (c. 1874-76) 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.  Chrysanthemums was purchased by the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute at Williamstown, Massachusetts, in 1994.

Portrait of Mrs Catherine Smith Gill and Two of her Children (1877), by James Tissot. Oil on canvas; 60.04 x 39.96 in. (152.5 x 101.5 cm.). Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool. (Photo: wikimedia.org)

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 shows her – heiress at age 30 – sitting in the drawing-room window of her mother’s home at Lower Lee, at Woolton near Liverpool, which was built by Catherine’s father.  The portrait was purchased from Berkeley Chapple Gill, grandson of Mrs. Gill – the son of the little boy in the painting – in 1979, and it remains on view at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool.  Click here for an interactive view of it, and compare this 1877 Victorian family portrait to Portrait of the Marquis and Marchioness of Miramon and their children, which was considered a very modern, informal family portrait in Paris in 1865.

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 Art Gallery, Wakefield, West Yorkshire); and In the Conservatory (also known as Rivals, c. 1875-1876, 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 (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 recently was deaccessioned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.  [See For sale: In the Conservatory (Rivals), c. 1875, by James Tissot]

Andrew Knowles also owned Tissot’s The Convalescent (1875/1876), which was exhibited at the 1876 Royal Academy exhibition.  In the collection of Museums Sheffield since 1949, it is not currently on view.

Portsmouth Dockyard (c. 1877) originally was owned by Henry Jump (1820 – 1893), a wealthy Justice of the Peace and corn merchant living at Gateacre, Lancashire.  It has been in the collection of the Tate since 1941 and is not currently on display.

Bad News (The Parting, 1872), by James Tissot. Oil on canvas, 68.6 x 91.4 cm. National Museum Cardiff. (Photo: Wikimedia.org)

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, which included James Tissot’s Bad News (The Parting), painted in 1872, is now in the collection of the National Museum Cardiff. Bad News (The Parting) is displayed in Gallery 6, Level 4.

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.

Related blog posts:

The high life, 1868: Tissot, his villa & The Circle of the Rue Royale

James Tissot’s brilliant marketing tool, 1869

James Tissot’s house at St. John’s Wood, London

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

©  2014 by Lucy Paquette.  All rights reserved.

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.

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.

“Napoleon is an idiot”: Courbet & the Fall of the Second Empire, 1870

Napoleon III (wikimedia.org)

On July 15, 1870, Napoleon III, Emperor of the French, heeding his advisors in a diplomatic quarrel regarding the succession to the Spanish throne, declared war on Prussia – and its well-equipped and impeccably-trained army of more than 500,000 men with 160,000 reserves.  France’s troops, disorganized and short of everything from maps to ammunition, numbered less than 300,000.  “We do not have sufficient troops.  I regard us already as lost,” the Emperor wrote to the Empress Eugénie, who was Regent in his absence.  Princess Mathilde Bonaparte, unlike the Empress Eugénie, did not want France to go to war, and she had told Napoleon III – her cousin – that he was unfit to take personal command of the French army.

English: Gustave Courbet Français : Gustave Co...

Gustave Courbet (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Gustave Courbet, at 51 was fresh from the glory of having refused the Legion of Honor, the highest decoration in France, from the minister of Beaux-Arts in the cabinet of Napoleon III’s reform-minded premier, Émile Ollivier, in late June.  On July 15, 1870, Courbet wrote his loving and loyal mother, father and sisters in Flagey, a village in eastern France:  “War is declared.  Everybody is leaving Paris.”  By the end of his letter, he added, “In everyone’s opinion I am the greatest man in France.  My sensation lasted three weeks in Paris, in the provinces, and abroad.  Now it is over.  The war has taken my place.”  On August 9, he wrote them, “We are passing through an indescribable crisis.  I do not know how we shall come out of it.  Monsieur Napoleon has declared a dynastic war for his own benefit and has made himself generalissimo of the armies, and he is an idiot who is proceeding without a plan of campaign in his ridiculous and criminal pride.”  He ended, “I cannot return home now.  My presence is needed here, and besides I have a good deal of property to protect in Paris.  Don’t worry about me.  I have nothing to fear from anyone.”

Napoleon, 62, surrendered himself — and the French troops accompanying him — to the Prussians on September 2, and the Second Empire collapsed.

Napoleon III Surrenders his Sword, 1870 (wikimedia.org)

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

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

On the night of September 3, 1870, the fifty-year-old Princess Mathilde Bonaparte fled Paris at the insistence of her friends, first heading for Puys, near Dieppe on the English Channel, where her friend, the forty-six-year-old novelist and playwright Alexandre Dumas the younger,  offered his home to her.  France was proclaimed a Republic on September 4; a provisional French government, the Third Republic, was created, and it deposed Napoleon III on September 4.  In the French press, it was rumored that Princess Mathilde had stolen up to 51 million francs in her luggage, and that she had been arrested; it was further alleged that she had stolen diamonds and important paintings from the Louvre.  Meanwhile, Mathilde (with two servants) secretly made her way across the French border, to Belgium.  By September 12, she had stopped in the first town to she came to — Mons, an hour from Brussels.  By October, she wrote, “I am horribly sad and my heart is broken.  I remain here, not knowing where to go and not wishing to leave; besides, I really do not care.”  She added, “I am sadder than ever; there is nothing left but our complete ruin, and I have not even the hope of better days.”  [Mathilde did return to Paris, in mid-June of 1871, and she lived there until her death in 1904 at the age of 83.]

Her former lover, the faithless Comte de Nieuwerkerke, ordered the most valuable paintings removed from Paris on August 30.  Convoys from the Louvre left for Brest each day from September 1 to 4.  Nieuwerkerke was dismissed by the new government from his post as Superintendent of the Imperial Museums on September 5.  It was rumored that he was in prison until he could account for important paintings “which he may have lent to friends.”  In reality, Nieuwerkerke – who had been warned of his imminent arrest – fled Paris in September dressed as a valet.  He went into exile in England, at Eastbourne.  [In April, 1871, Nieuwerkerke sold his home to an American, William Henry Riggs (1837 – 1924) for 188,500 francs and his collection of armor and weapons for 400,000 francs to Sir Richard Wallace (1818 – 1890); it now is part of the Wallace Collection in London.  Nieuwerkerke then went to Northern Italy and retired beside a picturesque lake in a luxurious villa at Gattajola, near Lucca, which he bought in May, 1872.  He died there in 1892.]

Empress Eugénie, c. 1869-70 (wikimedia.org)

The forty-four-year-old Empress Eugénie had, with the help of her American dentist, Dr. Thomas Wiltberger Evans*, escaped incognito to London with a forged passport (and her lady-in-waiting) on September 5.  She settled at Camden Place, a secluded estate at Chislehurst, just southeast of London, and was reunited with her only child, the fourteen-year-old Louis Napoleon, Prince Impérial of France.  [After six months as a prisoner in Germany, Napoleon III spent the last few years of his life in exile in England with Eugénie and the Prince Imperial Napoleon, who was killed in the Zulu War in South Africa in 1879.  Napoleon III died of kidney disease in 1873; Eugénie, a Spanish countess when she married,  lived to the age of 94 and died among her relatives in Spain in 1920.]

In the meantime, while ordinary people were shocked and alarmed, mobs chanting “Vive la République!” and belting out the “Marseillaise” scrawled “Property of the People” across the entrance to the vacated Tuileries Palace and tossed statues of the emperor into the River Seine.  They changed street and shop names to obliterate all signs of the despised, now-fallen empire.  The avenue de l’Empereur became, with some paint, the avenue Victor Noir.  French journalist Victor Noir (1848 – 1870)  became a republican hero after being shot by Prince Pierre Bonaparte, a cousin of Napoleon III, in a duel in January.  At some point after the Siege of Strasbourg on September 28, 1870 – when General Jean Jacques Alexis Uhrich (1802 – 1886) tried in vain to defend the fortress considered one of the strongest in France — Tissot’s elegant avenue de l’Impératrice (Empress Avenue), the boulevard leading to the recreational grounds at the Bois de Boulogne, was renamed avenue Uhrich.

Although Tissot was too patriotic – or optimistic – to realize it for another eight months, his charmed life in Paris was over forever.

The Empress Eugénie’s rescuer, the influential American dentist, Thomas Wiltberger Evans (1823 –1897) was a neighbor of Tissot’s.  Dr. Evans’ elegant villa, “Bella Rosa,” stood at no. 43, at the intersection of avenue Malakoff; Dr. Evans also owned lot no. 41, across the street.

© 2013 Lucy Paquette.  All rights reserved.

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

CH377762The Hammock:  A novel based on the true story of French painter James Tissot, brings Tissot’s world from 1870 to 1879 alive in a story of war, art, Society glamour, love, scandal, and tragedy.

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

Courtesy of The Bridgeman Art Library  

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

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

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

CH377762NOTE:  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.



At the 1870 Salon, 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 Napoleon 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, Napoleon 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 1870 Salon.  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 credit: 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.

© 2013 Lucy Paquette.  All rights reserved.

Related posts:

Tissot’s Last Salon: Paris, 1870

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

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


                                                  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


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.

Watch my new videos:

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


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

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

CH377762NOTE:  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.

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 Napoleon III as a means of recovering huge debts and of interfering with the United States during its Civil War. Three years later, Napoleon 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 Napoleon 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 1869 Salon.

Execution of Emperor Maximilian of Mexico

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

Napoleon III and the Empress Eugénie, who always had disapproved of Princess Mathilde’s infatuation with Nieuwerkerke, had their own problems.  Napoleon’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, a British diplomat wrote, “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 1870 Salon, 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 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.

On top of the world: Tissot, Millais & Alma-Tadema in 1867

Sleeping, by J.E. Millais (www.wikipaintings.org)

In London, the renowned John Everett Millais exhibited four paintings at the 1867 Royal Academy: Sleeping, Waking, and The Minuet (modeled respectively by his daughters, Carrie, Mary and Effie), as well as Jephthah and Master Cayley (a portrait of young Hugh Cayley of Wydale).

Master Cayley, by J.E. Millais (flickr.com)

Waking and Sleeping each fetched 1,000 guineas, but while these commissioned paintings of adorable children were lucrative, they were risky in their own way: his daughter Mary, left alone for a few minutes while modeling for Waking, grabbed a paint brush and slathered brown strokes across the bottom of her father’s canvas, telling him that she was helping him paint the floor. (Millais repaired the damage without chastising her.)  Tom Taylor, the British art critic and a good friend of Millais’, called Sleeping*  “the most beautiful picture the artist has ever painted,” and one of the chief works of art of British painting.

Millais, now 38, had seven children, and fortunately, Effie’s parents were willing to watch them while they entertained friends and international celebrities. He was not much for foreign travel, but he made the trip to Paris for the World’s Fair, where his The Eve of St. Agnes (1863), illustrating the popular Keats poem, was on exhibit. When this painting first was exhibited in London in 1863, one prominent gentleman sniffed, “I cannot bear that woman with the gridiron,” and even Millais’ friend Tom Taylor, cried, “Where on earth did you get that scraggy model, Millais?” (It was Effie, who had posed in an unheated Jacobean mansion in Kent for three December nights in a row.)  But at the 1867 Paris Exposition and after, The Eve of St. Agnes was revered.  [This painting is now in The Royal Collection, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.]

Madeleine undressing, painting by John Everett...

The Eve of St. Agnes (1863), by John Everett Millais (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Still living in Brussels, Tissot’s Dutch friend Lourens Tadema (later Lawrence Alma-Tadema) exhibited two oils at Ernest Gambart’s 14th Annual Exhibition of French and Flemish Schools which opened in London in April. One of the paintings, Tibullus at Delia’s (No. 77) fared well; the other, The honeymoon (reign of Augustus)(No. 83) did not. Gambart entered thirteen of Tadema’s pictures in the Paris International Exposition – from those that had been hanging, unsold, in Gambart’s London mansion. Tadema’s Pastimes in Ancient Egypt 3,000 years ago (No. 56, 1863), which had been awarded the gold medal in the 1864 Salon, won a second class medal at the Exposition.  Tadema had completed the 34 paintings that Gambart had commissioned from him in 1864; Gambart now commissioned another 48 at higher prices.

Lawrence Alma-Tadema, Tibullus at Delia's

Tibullus at Delia’s, by Lawrence Alma-Tadema (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At the Paris Exposition, James Tissot made the most of the opportunity for his work to be seen internationally and wrote to the Marquis de Miramon with the request – which was granted – of the loan of his wife’s elegant portrait for the occasion.  He also showed a slightly larger version of The Confidence on exhibit at the Salon.

Portrait of Eugène Coppens de Fontenay (1867), by James Tissot.  27 x 15 in. (68.58 x 38.10 cm.)  Philadelphia Museum of Art.  Photo by Lucy Paquette

Portrait of Eugène Coppens de Fontenay (1867), by James Tissot. 27 x 15 in. (68.58 x 38.10 cm.) Philadelphia Museum of Art. Photo by Lucy Paquette

Tissot was busy with commissions for portraits of aristocrats, including the president of Paris’ exclusive Jockey Club, Eugène Coppens de Fontenay.  Tissot continued to paint elegant, uncontroversial images of contemporary life: The Wardrobe, The Races at Longchamp, The Terrace of the Jeu de Paume, and Beating the Retreat in the Tuileries Gardens.

Beating the Retreat in the Tuileries Gardens (1867), by James Tissot. (Photo: Wikipaintings.org)

In addition to Millais, another role model of artistic success strongly influenced Tissot’s work after this year. At the International Exposition, the Belgian artist Alfred Stevens (1823 – 1906) exhibited 18 paintings and won a gold medal. Stevens, who attended Princess Mathilde’s receptions and often received loans of her gowns for his pictures, was long established as an award-winning painter in the Paris art world and hosted frequent parties of his own. He was friends with Tissot as well as Whistler, Degas, Manet, and others who now met at the Café Guerbois.  His polished paintings of beautiful women wearing modern fashions in elegant interiors, like The Lady in Pink (1867), would provide a new source of inspiration for Tissot.

English: The Lady in Pink Français : La Dame e...

La Dame en rose/The Lady in Pink, by Alfred Stevens (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sleeping eventually was owned by the model, Millais’ third daughter, Carrie – later Lady Stuart of Wortley (1862-1936), who became an accomplished pianist and second wife of the conservative MP for Sheffield.  The painting was sold by her descendents in 1969. Thirty years later, on June 10, 1999, an American collector bought it for a record £2,091,500 ($3,477,746) at Christie’s, but it was sold to meet debts and in 2003 brought only £1.2 million from a British art agent at Christie’s auction of “Important British and Irish Art.”

© 2012 Lucy Paquette.  All rights reserved.

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.

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