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James Jacques Joseph
Tissot
French artist
born 1836- died 1902

Nationality:
French

Student of:


Biographical Information

James Jacques Joseph Tissot
by Paul Ripley

Tissot was born Jacques Joseph Tissot in Nantes, to a middle class family. He initially studied art at Beaux-Arts in Paris. Tissot’s early paintings are mainly historical, & heavily influenced by the Dutch School. He came into contact with the Impressionists as a young man, and was leading a fairly unadventurous life. This was changed totally by the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. Following the crushing French defeat in this war, and the subsequent fall of the Paris Commune, Tissot decided to move to London, which he did in 1871. This move must have caused considerable problems in his life, and the painter needed to earn some money quickly. Tissot started, therefore, to paint accomplished highly finished pictures of London society ,and social events, including the famous ‘Too Early’ These pictures were virtually an instant success with the art viewing and buying public, but not with the critics.

Tissot’s succcess in London aroused considerable jealousy amongst his Impressionist colleagues in France, where he was regarded as a very minor figure. The critical hostility Tissot’s pictures met with, is not easy for us to understand today. The main criticisms were that the pictures were really only painted photographs, and they were vulgar. There is some truth in the first case, though the paintings show dazzling technique, and a dash of Gallic wit and sophistication, home grown English artists were quite unable to match. In the second case the basis of the adverse comment, was the class-consciousness of British society at that time. The pictures were held to show shallow nouveau-riche society at it’s worst.

In 1876 an event occurred which changed Tissot’s life. He met a young and attractive Irish divorcee called Kathleen Newton. Kathleen had married an English army officer in India. She had formed an adulterous relationship with another man, borne his child, and returned home in disgrace, beyond the pale of polite society. Kathleen Newton became Tissot’s mistress, and moved into his London home. This necessitated a radical change in his lifestyle, as the sophisticated, well-dressed, and good-looking painter had become a popular figure socially. Tissot withdrew from the social round, living quietly at his Grove End home with Kathleen. They did, however, entertain less conventional friends from the artistic community. Kathleen Newton became Tissot’s muse, and appeared in many of his pictures. She was in every sense the love of his life.

Another attraction for Tissot was the Port of London, and the river Thames. His paintings with the river as the background have an evocative atmosphere missing in his other work. One can almost smell the smoke, and hear the shouts of the dockers and watermen.

In 1882, Kathleen Newton died of consumption at the age of twenty eight. Tissot never recovered from this tragedy, and moved back to Paris within a week of her death .He was never again romantically involved with woman. His house in London, was sold to Alma-Tadema. Initially Tissot carried on painting society and genre pictures in Paris, but soon gave this up, devoting the rest of his life to painting religious scenes. He visited the Middle- East twice to find genuine backgrounds for his religious paintings. In late life Tissot became increasingly interested in Spiritualism, a vogue of the time, and of course his motivation for this interest is not a mystery.

Tissot died at Buillon on Friday the 8th August 1902.

A great artist, his beautiful fallen woman, and a tragic love story. It has everything!

In recent years Japanese and American collectors have fuelled a vast increase in the value of Tissot paintings. The critics remain hostile. Does it matter?

Source: Victorian Art in Britain.

   Books and Related Products About This Artist

A Passing Storm

c1876
Oil on canvas
Lord Beaverbrook Art Gallery (New Brunswick, Canada)

Added: 2001-10-01

Tissot utilized windows as a backdrop in several of his pictures. It was an effective signature device which demonstrated a remarkable control of light and shadow. Looking at a selection of these pictures, the viewer can see the same windows, and sometimes, the same costumes on the models used to differing effects. A Passing Storm was painted around 1876.

The title is a clever joke on Tissot's part. In the background storm clouds have gathered, while in the foreground, the young lovers have obviously just quarreled. The brooding man stands on the terrace separated from his lover. One might say that his face has clouded over. His female counterpart lies inside on the divan and though her body language and facial expression, the viewer can assume she has recently been upset. However, as the title suggests, the upset is passing and perhaps the young lady has noticed the power she has taken by allowing him to stew.

Of particular interest is the special brown-gray quality of light he has captured that occurs just before or after a storm. There are patches of bright, cool light, cutting through darker, muddier illumination. Tissot manages to capture the quality of "glare" from the water as a result of moisture in the air and one can almost feel the cool rain that has just passed. Think of the onset of storms one has witnessed for themselves, has not Tissot managed to capture it with his brush? Tissot managed to create a picture that not only dazzles with his control of light and color, but matches the exterior atmosphere with the emotions of his subjects.

- By James Abbot
Adapted from an article first published August 4, 2011 on the Jade Sphinx

The Bunch of Lilacs

c1875
Oil on canvas
Private collection

Added: 2001-09-30
The Captain's Daughter

1873
Oil on canvas
Southampton City Art Gallery (Southampton, United Kingdom)

Added: 2001-09-30
The Ball on Shipboard

c1874
Oil on canvas
Private collection

Added: 2001-10-01
Holyday

c1876
Oil on canvas
Private collection

Added: 2001-10-01
October

1877
Oil on canvas
216 x 108.7 cm
(85.04" x 42.8")
Montreal Museum of Arts (Montreal, Quebec, Canada)

Added: 2001-10-01
Mavourneen

1877
Oil on canvas
Private collection

Added: 2001-10-01
Hide and Seek

c1880-c1882
Oil on wood
734 x 539 cm
(288.98" x 212.2")
National Gallery of Art (Washington, District of Columbia, United States)

Added: 2001-10-01
The Garden Bench

c1882
Oil on canvas
Private collection

Added: 2001-10-01
The Artist's Ladies

1883-1885
Oil on canvas
Chrysler Museum of Art (Norfolk, Virginia, United States)

Added: 2001-10-01