James Tissot.


Artists We Admire.

James Tissot was born Jacques Joseph Tissot in Nantes western France, Nantes is a small port town and this was an early experience that reflected in Tissot’s later paintings many set on board ships and boats. Tissot was born into a middle class reasonably comfortable family, he adopted the name James as an anglicized form when living in England from 1871.

Tissot’s early paintings are mainly historical and heavily influenced by the Dutch School, later he came into contact with the Impressionists and he moved to Paris in 1856 and became a pupil of Louis Lamothe and Hippolyte Flandrin. He made his Salon debut in 1859 and continued to exhibit there successfully until he was forced to leave Paris in 1871.

Tissot fought gallantly defending Paris in the Franco-German War (1870–71), later associating himself with the Paris Commune; in its aftermath he fled to London (May 1871). Following his alleged involvement in the turbulent events of the Paris Commune (1871) he took refuge in London, where he lived from 1871 to 1882.

That’s one version of the story, however a more plausible explanation for the move may have been his desire for better professional opportunities than existed in a war-ravaged city like Paris at the time. Tissot’s friendship with Thomas Gibson Bowles the owner of the magazine Vanity Fair, for which Tissot had been drawing caricatures for some time, gave him important connections to London’s social and artistic circles and he took full advantage of this opportunity.

His paintings from this period are distinguished by his obviously love of women’s costumes and his works have reproduced in works on the history of costume than any other artist in art history. Tissot also had a gift for wittily observing the nuances of Victorian and Edwardian social behavior, this also helped to make his paintings popular and very salable in his own time, a rare thing for an artist of the period.Tea-Tissot

In 1876 Tissot met a young and attractive Irish divorcee called Kathleen Newton. Kathleen had been married to an English army officer in India. She had formed an adulterous relationship with another man, borne his child, and returned home in disgrace. Kathleen Newton became Tissot’s mistress, and moved into his London home and their relationship represented Tissot’s only period of real family life as an adult. . As a result of his association with Kathleen Tissot withdrew from his social background, living quietly at his Grove End home. Kathleen Newton became Tissot’s muse, and appeared in many of his pictures particularly those concerned with domestic life and travel. Kathleen was in every sense the love of his life, Tissot was also attracted to the Port of London, and the river Thames, as one of his other subjects for his work and painted Kathleen many times in this setting. His paintings with the river as the background have an evocative atmosphere missing from his earlier work, One can almost smell the smoke, and hear the shouts of the Dockers and Watermen as they go about their business.

In 1882, Kathleen died of consumption (Tuberculosis) Tissot moved back to Paris within a week of her death but he never recovered from this tragedy and marked an important transition in his artistic development. Back in Paris he held a large one-man exhibition at the Palais de l’Industrie in 1882. In 1885 his exhibition entitled Femme a Paris, held at the Galerie Sedelmeyer, it included a series of 15 large paintings presenting modern woman and their occupations.

James-Tissot-SeasideWhile working on one of the Femme Paris paintings in 1884 Tissot claimed to have had a religious revelation, he also became interested in spiritualism and in 1885 was convinced that Kathleen Newton had materialized at a séance. His religious experience led him to devote his remaining years primarily to illustrating the Life of Christ and the Old Testament, he is noted and remembered for his illustrations from the Bible and his allegory paintings and drawings such as” The Prodigal Son”.

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