Joseph-Jacques Tissot's Famous Artworks
“Self Portrait,” 1865
“Still on Top,” 1873
“Portrait of Mrs. N,” 1876
“On the Thames,” 1882
“Adam and Eve,” 1896-1902
Joseph-Jacques Tissot, later known as James Tissot, was a French painter, printmaker, and illustrator. He was known particularly as a portrait painter of the late Victorian society, and for his paintings based on Biblical themes.
Joseph-Jacques Tissot's Early life
Jacques-Joseph Tissot was born on October 15, 1836, in Nantes, a port-town in western France. By 1854, he was known by the anglicized name of James Tissot. He was raised by his father, a merchant, and mother, who assisted her husband in his business and was also a hat designer. A devout Catholic, she raised her son with pious values.
By the time he was 17, Tissot was serious about pursuing a career in art, and while his mother supported the desire, his father was against it. Yet, Tissot moved to Paris
in 1856 or 1857, and enrolled at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, studying under Jean-Hippolyte Flandrin and Louis Lamothe. He also visited the Louvre, spending the time studying the Old Masters and learning by copying their works.
Joseph-Jacques Tissot's Early Career
Tissot first showed his work at in 1859 at the annual Paris Salon. In his early career, he was influenced by Dutch painting, as well as his interaction with the Impressionists. In fact, he and Edgar Degas developed a friendship in this period. Success started with the purchase of his painting “The meeting of Faust and Marguerite” by the French government in 1860, which was later displayed at the Salon the following year. In the early 1860s, his success grew rapidly, as his paintings were displayed in London at the gallery of Ernest Gambart, among other places. He began painting portraits, a genre for which he became well known.
Joseph-Jacques Tissot and London
Tissot moved to London in 1871 following the fall of the Paris Commune, with which he had been associated. In London, too, he was successful as a portrait painter of high society and worked for the magazine “Vanity Fair” as a cartoonist. With help from the caricaturist Thomas Gibson Bowles, he established his home in St. John’s Wood. During this time, he also learned to etch with the help of Seymour Haden. His portraits became particularly significant because of the detailed depiction of costumes and the fashions of the time. When Edgar Degas asked him to participate in the first Impressionist Exhibition in 1874, he declined, though he remained close to many of the Impressionist artists whom he had known well in Paris.
In 1875-76, Tissot met Kathleen Newton, an Irish divorcee. She became his muse. She had a son in 1876, and it was believed that he was the father. They lived together in St. John’s Wood until her death in 1882.
Joseph-Jacques Tissot's Return to Paris
After Kathleen’s death, Tissot returned to Paris and struggled for some time to regain his earlier success. He presented a large exhibition called “La femme à Paris” in 1885, which included paintings of women from different backgrounds and social contexts, thus differing from his earlier portrait work. The paintings reveal the influence of Japanese prints, which he was interested in from a much earlier time.
Joseph-Jacques Tissot's Later Years
A mystical experience while visiting a church for inspiration, resulted in Tissot’s reconversion to Catholicism in 1885 and for the rest of his life, he made paintings with religious themes. His illustrations of the Bible and the life of Christ became extremely popular. He traveled to the Holy Lands in 1886–1887 and again, in 1889 to find authentic backgrounds for his paintings. About 350 of his watercolors based on themes from the New Testament were published in two volumes.
Tissot was awarded the Légion d’honneur in 1894. In the last years of his life, he began painting a series based on themes from the Old Testament. Though he was unable to complete the series, some of the work was exhibited in Paris in 1901. He died in Buillon Abbey in Doubs, France
, on August 8, 1902.
Joseph-Jacques Tissot's Legacy
Tissot was often criticized during his lifetime and even after his death for being vulgar and superficial, as his work depicted the nouveau-riche English society. Over 100 years after his death, his work began to be noticed once more with significant interest from exhibitors and collectors. His images continue to be used in contemporary publishing and cinema. Art lovers can buy Joseph-Jacques Tissot's artworks online.
Joseph-Jacques Tissot's Major Exhibitions
1864 - Royal Academy of Arts, London
1984 - Barbican Art Gallery, London
1984 - Musee du Petit Palais, Paris
1984 - Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester
2003 - Brooklyn Museum of Art
Joseph-Jacques Tissot's Museums/Collections
Tate Gallery, London
Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Musee d’Orsay, Paris
National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Louvre Museum, Paris
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Indianapolis Museum of Art
Books / Publications
“James Tissot: The Life of Christ” by Judith F. Dolkart
“James Tissot” by Russell Ash
“James Tissot” by Daniel Ankele
“James Tissot: Victorian Life/Modern Love” by Nancy Rose Marshal and Malcolm Warner
“James Tissot” by Krystyna Matyjaszkiewicz
“Tissot” by Christopher Wood