James Tissot – French 1858-1925

James Joseph Jacques Tissot
Self Portrait, 1865
James Joseph Jacques Tissot was born at Nantes. He studied at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris under Ingres, Flandrin and Lamothe, and exhibited in the Paris Salon for the first time at the age of twenty-three. In 1861 he showed The Meeting of Faust and Marguerite, which was purchased by the state for the Luxembourg Gallery. His first characteristic period made him a painter of the charms of women. Demi-mondaine would be more accurate as a description of the series of studies which he called La Femme a Paris.

He fought in the Franco-German War, and, falling under suspicion as a Communist, left Paris for London. Here he studied etching with Sir Seymour Haden, drew caricatures for Vanity Fair, and painted portraits as well as genre subjects.

Sometime in the 1870s Tissot met a divorcee, Mrs. Kathleen Newton, who became his companion and the model for many of his paintings. Mrs. Newton moved into Tissot's household in 1876 and lived with him until her suicide in the late stages of consumption in 1882 at the age of 28.

It was many years before he turned to the chief labor of his career—the production of a series of 700 water-color drawings to illustrate the life of Christ and the Old Testament. He disappeared from Paris, whither he had returned after the death of Kathleen Newton, and went to Palestine. In 1896 the series of 350 drawings of incidents in the life of Christ was exhibited in Paris, and the following year found them on show in London. They were then published by the firm of Lemercier in Paris, who had paid him 1,100,000 francs for them. (Over 500 related drawings, watercolors and oils are now in the collection of the Brooklyn Museum.)

After this he turned to the scenes of the Old Testament, upon which he was still engaged at the abbey of Buillon, in the department of Doubs, France, when he died.

The merits of Tissot's Bible illustrations lay rather in the care with which he studied the details of scenery than in any quality of religious emotion. He seemed to aim, above all, at accuracy, and, in his figures, at a vivid realism, which was far removed from the conventional treatment of sacred types.


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James Tissot by Krystyna Matyjaskiewicz (Editor) – Paperback: 144 pages; Publisher: Phaidon Press Ltd; 1st edition (November 8, 1984)

The author of Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema surveys the life and work of James Tissot (1836-1902) and, for the first time in a large format, presents a superb selection of Tissot's finest paintings. Includes a list of his paintings in public collections. 60 illustrations, including 40 in full color.

Tissot by Christopher Wood – Paperback: 160 pages; Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson (October 13, 1988)

Tissot occupies a unique and ambivalent position in 19th-century painting. Born a Frenchman, he sought fame in England, and after a brilliant career as a society painter he turned late in life to religion. He set his glittering and minutely detailed scenes in elegant London ballrooms and conservatories and peopled them with chic young women in ravishing costumes, while at the same time investing them with a note of brooding melancholy. This became overwhelming in his many portraits of his mistress Kathleen Newton, and intensely romantic figure whom Tissot loved and painted obsessively until her tragically early death. Then, after returning to France, he experienced a dramatic religious conversion and devoted the rest of his life to spiritualism and illustrating the Bible, which brought him even greater fame.

Seductive Surfaces: The Art of Tissot by Katharine Lochnan (Editor) – Hardcover, 224 pages (September 1999) Yale Univ Press

Known for his sumptuous and elegant portrayals of well-turned-out Victorian society, Tissot has not had a scholarly museum exhibition in over 30 years--until now. James Tissot is the catalog accompanying a recent traveling exhibition of this artist's work, curated by Marshall and Warner (of the Yale Center for British Art). Their book portrays Tissot as "the painter of modern life"--in the Baudelairian sense.

Although formally conservative in painting technique, they argue, Tissot was one of the best observers of life in the 19th century, focusing on the complex manners and morals of Victorian society. This argument is presented in the introductory essay as well as in the thorough catalog entries of the artist's paintings and prints. The other recent general monograph on the subject of Tissot, Russell Ash's James Tissot (Abrams, 1992), has beautiful plates but is not as strong a book, with very short entries on the paintings and a cursory bibliography.


James Tissot: Catalogue Raisonne of His Prints 8 by Michael J. Wentworth – Paperback; Publisher: Minneapolis Inst of Arts (June 1978)


James Tissot by Krystyna Matyjaszkiewicz (Editor) – Hardcover: 144 pages; Publisher: Abbeville Press; 1st edition (January 1985)


James Tissot: Victorian Life/Modern Love by Nancy Marshall, Malcolm Warner, Yale Center for British ArtCor – Paperback, 216 pages (September 1999) Yale Univ Press

James Tissot (1836-1902), the wry and urbane observer of manners and fashions, painted scenes of Paris and London "society" that simmered with undercurrents of sexual drama. This beautifully illustrated book presents one hundred of Tissot`s paintings, prints, and watercolors representing each stage of his career. The authors consider Tissot`s themes, interests, and the influences on his work.

James Tissot (Pre-Raphaelite Painters Series) by Russell Ash – Paperback: 96 pages Publisher: Pavilion Books; New edition (April 20, 1995)

Reader review: This is an attractive and interesting book, containing many of James Tissot's best paintings with detailed accounts of the year each was painted, the current location of the work, how it was recieved when first exhibited and the story behind it. It also has a very good introduction about his life and work. Highly recommended to any Tissot, costume or Victorian enthusiast.

James Tissot by Russell Ash – Hardcover, (September 1992) Harry N Abrams

The author of Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema surveys the life and work of James Tissot (1836-1902) and, for the first time in a large format, presents a superb selection of Tissot's finest paintings. Includes a list of his paintings in public collections. 60 illustrations, including 40 in full color.


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