James Tissot. Part 2- A change of style and japonisme

Self Portrait of James Jacques Joseph Tissot (c.1898)

At the end of Part 1 of this blog about Tissot I told you that around 1863 he decided to change his artistic style. He decided to abandon his medieval style championed by the likes of the Belgian painter Henri Leys and enter the world of modern day portraiture.

Portrait of Mlle L.L… by James Tissot (1864)

This change of style can be seen in the two outstanding paintings he exhibited at the 1864 Salon, both of which are housed in the Musée d’Orsay. One was entitled Portrait of Mlle L.L… often referred to as Young Lady in a Red Jacket, and this is now looked upon as one of Tissot’s most esteemed portraits. It is an unusual depiction and the first two questions we may ask are what is the young woman sitting on and then who is this Maemoiselle L.L.? The answer to both these questions is still unknown! The young woman’s pose is one of effortlessness, with her right arm dangling loosely over her skirt, and a there is a sense of detachment about her, but her inscrutable gaze is as engaging as it is captivating. Tissot’s depiction of her clothes, the fashionable black satin skirt contrasted by the red bolero with the bobble-fringe was all the rage for all things Spanish in the 1860’s. As usual the addition of items surrounding the lady such as the books coupled with her bold stare leads us to believe that she was independent by nature.

Dominique Ingres 1856 portrait of Mme Moitessier

The lady was truly one of Tissot’s great images of the nineteenth century woman and, because of the way she is depicted, it is often compared to Dominique Ingres 1856 Portrait of Mme Moitessier. In Le Grand Journal of June 1864, the art critic Jules Castagnary wrote about Tissot’s change of style:

“…Mr Tissot, the crazy primitive of the most recent Salons has suddenly changed his manner and moved closer to Mr Courbet, a good mark for Mr. Tissot…”

The Two Sisters by James Tissot (1863)

The second portrait by Tissot exhibited at the 1864 Salon was entitled The Two Sisters.  We see the two females, dressed in white, standing by a stream. Once again there is a prevailing air of innate stylishness and sincerity about Tissot’s depiction.

Symphony in White, No. 1 – The White Girl (Portrait of Joanna Hiffernan) by Whistler

The two figures seem to blend in with their surroundings and the painting is often likened to Whistler’s Symphony in White No. 1: The White Girl, (Portrait of Joanna Hiffernan), which was exhibited at the Salon des Refusés in 1863 and known to be one of Tissot’s favourites. Once again, we see the Tissot’s depiction of the females as being stylish, sophisticated and well-bred.

Spring by James Tissot (1865)

Tissot’s friendship with James Whistler meant that he received the latest art news from his friend who had been living in London since 1859. One of Whistler’s near neighbours was the pre-Raphaelite painter Rossetti and soon Tissot became interested in the works of the pre-Raphaelites and how their works concentrated on the beauty of their subjects and less about narratives attached to the depiction. In 1865 Tissot’s painting Spring was shown at the Salon and this had an undoubted connection to Millais’ 1859 work with a similar title.

Apple Blossoms or Spring by John Everett Millais (1859)

The similarity of the two was remarked upon by the art critics.

In the Studio by Alfred Émile Léopold Stevens (1857)

Having been influenced by the Middle Age-style of the works of the Belgian artist, Henri Leys, in the late 1850’s Tissot became enamoured with the artistry of another Belgian painter, Alfred Émile Léopold Stevens, in the late 1860’s. Stevens’ works focused on pretty, fashionably-dressed young women. His stylish young women were always portrayed wearing beautiful clothes and soon Tissot followed suit.

Jacques Joseph Tissot. Portrait of the Marquise de Miramon, née, Thérèse Feuillant by James Tissot (1866)

A good example of this style was Tissot’s painting entitled Portrait of the Marquise de Miramon which he completed in 1867 and now hangs in the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. The subject of the painting was Thérèse-Stephanie-Sophie Feuillant, the Marquise de Miramon. She was from a wealthy bourgeois family and inherited a fortune from her father and in 1860 married René de Cassagnes de Beaufort, Marquis de Miramon. The setting is the Château de Paulhac, Auvergne, the residence of her husband’s family. She is wearing a rose-coloured, ruffled peignoir, or dressing gown. A black lace scarf and silver cross hang round her neck. What is also interesting are some of the accoutrements we see depicted, all of which have been shown for a specific reason. There became an obsession with Japanese art and design that swept France and the rest of Europe after trade with Japan resumed in the 1850s, the country having been closed to the West since about 1600. This trend was known as japonisme. It was the love of Japanese art and design and the collecting of all things Japanese was all the rage. Tissot decided to include a touch of japonisme in this portrait. Directly behind her, standing on the floor, is a Japanese screen depicting cranes on a gold ground. The lady rests her left elbow on the mantlepiece which draws our eyes to it and on it we see several pieces of Japanese ceramics. Also on the mantle is a terracotta bust which alludes to the noble heritage of her spouse. Alongside the Japanese screen we can see an expensive Louis XVI stool and on it is some needlework which we are to believe belongs to the lady and thus tells us that she is a wealthy lady of leisure. The work was completed in 1866 and the following year Tissot wrote to the Marquis and asked if he could borrow the work and have it exhibited at the 1867 Exposition Universelle in Paris. The Marquis agreed and later,  Tissot carried out a number of portrait commissions for the Marquis.

Tissot was not only and avid collector of Japanese art and artefacts. This is borne out in a letter Rossetti wrote to his mother in November 1864 about his time in Paris and his visit to Madame Desoye’s rue de Rivoli shop:

“…I have bought very little – only four Japanese books….. I went to the Japanese shop but found all the costumes there were being snapped up by a French artist, Tissot, who it seems is doing three Japanese pictures, which the mistress of the shop described to me as the three wonders of the world, evidently in her opinion quite throwing Whistler into the shade…”

Japonaise au Bain (Japanese Girl Bathing) by James Tissot (1864)

So we know that japonisme began to influence Tissot’s style of painting and one of the “three wonders of the world” paintings was thought to be his 1864 work Japonaise au Bain (Japanese Girl Bathing). The model Tissot used for this work was not a Japanese girl but a Parisian model dressed in a kimono. This was simply a transference of one of Tissot’s Parisian beauties whom he had used before and converted her into a Japanese beauty. This painting which some would declare as being slightly pornographic was his only depiction of a female nude.

Young Lady Holding Japanese Objects by James Tissot (1865)

Tissot however did use a Japanese lady in his 1865 painting entitled Young Lady Holding Japanese Objects.

Prince Akitake Tokugawa by James Tissot (1864)

In 1868 Tissot’s reputation of painting Japanese scenes had been acclaimed by critics and public alike and he was offered the post of gwa-gaku (drawing master) to Prince Akitake who was the young brother of the last Tokugawa Shogun, who had led the Japanese Imperial Commission to the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1867. At the end of his seven month tenure as tutor Tissot painted a watercolour portrait of his fourteen-year-old pupil which was mounted as a hanging scroll in green and gold silk.

The Circle of the Rue Royale by James Tissot (1868)

Now that Tissot was recognised for his modern portraiture he became inundated with commissions and one of the most important commission he received was for a group portrait of members of an exclusive Parisian all-male club, of which the Marquis de Miramon was a member. The painting, which was completed in 1868, was entitled The Circle of the Rue Royale. The setting for the painting was one of the balconies of the Hôtel de Coislin that still overlooks the Place de la Concorde. The terms of the commission were quite bizarre. Each one of the twelve members of the club depicted paid 1000 Francs for the painting to be made, and the final owner was to be determined via a special draw. In the painting, the Marquis de Miramon is sitting to the left of the sofa, wearing a top hat. Baron Hottinger, is seated to the right of the sofa, and it was he who won the draw and kept the painting. The painting remained in his family until it was acquired by the Musée d’Orsay in 2011. Once again we see the attention Tissot has paid to accurately depicting the men’s clothing and this probably goes back to the fact that both his mother and father were involved in the fashion industry. The clothing worn by wealthy men of the time along with the fashion accessories were a sign of their social status and one presumes they wanted Tissot to capture every minute detail. This type of portrait is often referred to as a conversation piece. Works of this kind usually depict informal groups, often family members or friends. The people depicted are sometimes, but not always, engrossed in conversation. James Tissot was now forging ahead as one of the most talented and respected portrait painters of his generation, was one of the most sought-after portraitists of chic Paris society, partly due to his skill for placing his proud, if somewhat arrogant, sitters in lavish settings evocative of wealth and sophistication.

Portrait of Eugène Coppens de Fontenay by James Tissot (1867)

Although Tissot may be best known for his depiction of fashionable young ladies he was equally accomplished when it came to male portraiture and an example of this is his 1867 Portrait of Eugène Coppens de Fontenay, the Belgian industrialist, Catholic politician and president of the exclusive Jockey Club in Paris. The painting is now housed in the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

In my next blog about James Tissot I will look at his hasty departure from France and his time in England.

..……………………………… to be continued.


Most of the information I am using comes from Christopher Wood’s 1986 biography of Tissot which is an excellent read, full of beautiful pictures.

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Madame Moitessier by Ingres

Madame Moitessier by Ingres (1856)

By now you will have realised that the paintings I like the most are ones that have a story behind them.  My Daily Art Display today has an intriguing tale attached to it which I will now share with you.  The painting is entitled Madame Moitessier and the artist who created this work of art was Jean-Auguste- Dominique Ingres.  This painting which was completed in 1856 is housed at the National Gallery in London.  It is the date which is interesting as Ingres initially started the painting in 1844!

Marie-Clothilde-Inès Moitessier, née de Foucauld, was the daughter of a civil servant.  Born in 1821 she married the wealthy banker, and one time importer of Cuban cigars,  Sigisbert Moitessier.  He was in his forties whilst she was just twenty-one years of age.  Two years later, her husband spoke to a friend of Ingres and asked him to speak to the artist about painting a portrait of  his new wife, Madame Montessiere.   Ingres refused the commission, as to him,  portraiture was a “low” form of art and he preferred to concentrate on “history paintings”.    However his friend Marcotte persevered with the Monsieur Moitessier’s request and finally Ingres agreed to meet the new wife.

Ingres was immediately struck and captivated by her beauty and agreed to paint her portrait.  Ingres then made his first mistake by suggesting that Moitessier should include her young daughter “la charmante Catherine” in the portrait.  If you look at preliminary sketches of this work, which can be seen at the Ingres Museum in Montauban, you can see the head of Catherine under her mother’s arm.  However by 1847 the young child had become so restless, couldn’t sit still for any lengthy period and finally rebelled against any artistic instructions and so, was  banished.

Ingres was a perfectionist.  Everything had to be just right with the work and over a period of time the clothes which Madame Montessier wore were changed to suit the artist and be of the latest fashion.  In the finished painting she wears the latest woven floral fabric with a crinoline, the stiffened petticoat, which had just come into fashion in 1855.  The lady also had little choice on what jewellery she should wear.  Ingres was the Master and told her what to wear and couched his suggestions in terms of flattery.  He was reported to have told her one day when discussing how she should adorn herself:

“……Since you are clearly beautiful all by yourself,  I am abandoning, after mature consideration, the projected grand headdress for a gala.  The portrait will be in even better taste and I fear that it would have distracted the eye too much at the expense of the head.  Same thing for the brooch at your breast;  the style is too old-fashioned and I beg you to replace it with a gold cameo.  However I am not against a long and simple chatelaine, which I could terminate with the pendant of the first one.  Please….bring on Monday your jewel chest, bracelets and the long pearl necklace……

More bad luck for the commission was to follow as in 1849 Ingres’s wife died suddenly and the artist was devastated and didn’t paint for the next seven months.  In 1851, seven years after he started the painting of the seated Madam Moitessier, little progress had been made and the husband became restless at this lack of progress.  So that year, after constant cajoling and support from his friends and the demand of the sitter and her husband,  he went back to the easel.   Ingres started another painting of Moitessier’s wife, dressed in black, this time in a standing position.  He completed this at the end of 1851 and this work can now be found in the National Gallery of Art in Washington.

After completing the standing portrait of Madame Moitessier he reverted back to the one he had begun in 1844.  The lady is sitting in a rather strange pose.  Art historians believe that the pose of the lady, hand touching cheek, captured in Ingres’s painting,  was reminiscent of the fresco Hercules and Telephus from Herculaneum  which Ingres probably saw when he was there in 1814.  It is believed that Ingres had the sitter take up this pose but had to convince her husband that it was in keeping with Classical art and it made his wife look more learned and cultured.  The husband liked this idea as he was of the nouveau riche and liked the idea that the painting may have people believe they were more akin to nobility.  It is also quite amusing to read that Madame Moitessier had gained weight during her pregnancies and had demanded of Ingres that he should re-paint her arms and make them look thinner and thus more flattering!  This painting took over twelve years to complete and there are many preliminary drawings of it in existence. 

Why did it take him so long?   I have told you of some problems he encountered during this epic and I suppose we should also remember that he was 76 years of age when he finally completed the work and age may have played a large part in the agonisingly slowness in his progress.   Still, now we look at the finished article we must admire Ingres’s work. 

By now you will have realised that the paintings I like the most are ones that have a story behind them.  My Daily Art Display today has an intriguing tale attached to it which I will now share with you.  The painting is entitled Madame Moitessier and the artist who created this work of art was Jean-Auguste- Dominique Ingres.  This painting which was completed in 1856 is housed at the National Gallery in London.  It is the date which is interesting as Ingres initially started the painting in 1844!

Marie-Clothilde-Inès Moitessier, née de Foucauld, was the daughter of a civil servant.  Born in 1821 she married the wealthy banker, and one time importer of Cuban cigars Sigisbert Moitessier.  He was in his forties whilst she was just twenty-one years of age.  Two years later, her husband spoke to a friend of Ingres and asked him to speak to the artist about painting a portrait of  his new wife, Madame Montessiere.   Ingres refused the commission as to him portraiture was a “low” form of art and he preferred to concentrate on “history paintings”.    However his friend Marcotte persevered with the Monsieur Moitessier’s request and finally Ingres agreed to meet the new wife.

Ingres was immediately struck by her beauty and agreed to paint her portrait.  Ingres then made his first mistake by suggesting that Moitessier should include her young daughter “la charmante Catherine” in the portrait.  If you look at preliminary sketches of this work, which can be seen at the Ingres Museum in Montauban, you can see the head of Catherine under her mother’s arm.  However by 1847 the young child had become so restless, couldn’t sit still for any lengthy period and finally rebelled against any artistic instructions and was  banished.

Ingres was a perfectionist.  Everything had to be just right with the work and over a period of time the clothes which Madame Montessier wore were changed to suit the artist and be of the latest fashion.  In the finished painting she wears the latest woven floral fabric with a crinoline, the stiffened petticoat, which had just come into fashion in 1855.  The lady also had little choice on what jewellery she should wear.  Ingres was the Master and told her what to wear and couched his suggestions in terms of flattery.  He was reported to have told her one day when discussing how she should adorn herself:

“……Since you are clearly beautiful all by yourself, I am abandoning, after mature consideration, the projected grand headdress for a gala.  The portrait will be in even better taste and I fear that it would have distracted the eye too much at the expense of the head.  Same thing for the brooch at your breast;  the style is too old-fashioned and I beg you to replace it with a gold cameo.  However I am not against a long and simple chatelaine, which I could terminate with the pendant of the first one.  Please….bring on Monday your jewel chest, bracelets and the long pearl necklace……

Madame Moitessier by Ingres (1851)

More bad luck for the commission was to follow as in 1849 Ingres’s wife died suddenly and the artist was devastated and didn’t paint for the next seven months.  In 1851, seven years after he started the painting of the seated Madam Moitessier little progress had been made and the husband became restless at this lack of progress.  So that year after constant cajoling and support from his friends and the demand of the sitter that he produced something, Ingres started another painting of Moitessier’s wife, dressed in black, this time in a standing position.  He completed this at the end of 1851 and this work can now be found in the National Gallery of Art in Washington.

After completing the standing portrait of Madame Moitessier he reverted back to the one he had begun in 1844.  The lady is sitting in a rather strange pose.  Art historians believe that the pose of the lady, hand touching cheek, captured in Ingres’s painting was reminiscent of the fresco Hercules and Telephus from Herculaneum and which Ingres probably saw when he was there in 1814.  It is believed that Ingres had the sitter in this pose, and he had tgo convince her husband that it was in keeping with Classical art and it made his wife look more learned and cultured.  The husband liked this idea as he was of the nouveau riche and liked the idea that the painting may have people believe they were more akin to nobility.  It is also quite amusing to read that Madame Moitessier had gained weight during her pregnancies and had demanded of Ingres that he should re-paint her arms and make them look thinner and thus more flattering!  This painting took over twelve years to complete and there are many preliminary drawings of it in existence. 

Why did it take him so long?   I have told you of some problems he encountered during this epic and I suppose we should also remember that he was 76 years of age when he finally completed the work and age may have played a large part in the agonisingly slowness in his work. Still, now we look at the finished article and must admire Ingres’s work.

Mademoiselle Rivière by Ingres

Mademoiselle Caroline Rivière by Ingres (1806)

My Daily Art Display today is a portrait of a fifteen year old French girl, Caroline Rivière, which was painted by French neo-classical artist Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres in 1806 and can be found hanging in the Louvre, Paris.  Regrettably the story attached to this painting of this youthful beauty has a sad ending, but more of that later.

Ingres was born in 1780, the son of a small time miniature-painter and sculptor, Josef Ingres, from whom he learnt the basics of art and music.  His formal academic life started at the Toulouse Academy of Art at the age of eleven and at the same time he kept up his musical training by taking violin lessons.   He went to Paris at the age of sixteen where he was a student of Antoine-Jean Gros at the studio of Jaques-Louis David.  In 1801 he won the Prix de Rome for his painting Ambassadors of Agamemnon.  The Prix de Rome was a scholarship, founded concurrently with the French Academy in Rome, that enabled prize-winning students at the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture in Paris to spend a period, usually 4 years, in Rome studying art, at the state’s expense.  Unfortunately for Ingres, because of the financial problems with the French economy, he was not awarded his trip to Rome until 1807.  It was during his stay in Paris from 1801 to 1807, before heading for Rome, that he completed his first portraits.  Some were of wealthy dignitaries such as the portrait,  Napoleon I on the Imperial Throne which hangs in the Musée de l’Armée, Paris  and some where of himself and his friends such as his  Self Portrait at the Age of 24, which is housed in the Musée Condé in Chantilly.                

Madame Rivière (1806)
Monsieur Rivière (1806)

It was around this time that he was commissioned by a court official, Philibert Rivière, to commemorate himself, his wife, Marie-Francois and their fifthteen year old daughter Caroline.  Ingres at the time, had a passion for classical paintings with subjects based on history or Greek legends, but as he had to eke out a living, he painted portraits for clients and so accepted the commission.

 Ingres was fascinated by the young girl and was quoted as describing her as “ravishing”.   The portrait entitled Mademoiselle Rivière is My Daily Art Display for today.  It is a three-quarter length portrait.  Her young age is not immediately obvious to the viewer.  Look closer though and one can detect a childlike femininity.  She looks out at us in her virginal-white muslin dress with a large white ermine boa over her arms.  The bodice which was all the fashion at the time struggles to give an illusion of cleavage.  She appears to be quite self-conscious or maybe that is the expression she wanted to give to retain an air of respectability.  There is an overwhelming element of purity in Ingres’s depiction of her or is there?  This portrait is not completely devoid of sensuality. Look at the way Ingres has painted her full red lips, her bared neck and porcelain-like white skin which gives her slight and childlike body a sensuality of which she may not even have understood.  Her gloved arms give Caroline a hint of sophistication and she is at an age when she is neither child nor woman.  You could almost say she was the unfinished article.  

 However, it has to be remembered that her portrait was to hang next to those of her parents and therefore Ingres had to be careful on how he portrayed her.  She must come over as being an intelligent young lady of good breeding and most of all a credit to her parents who have lavished so much upon her.   This painting may be as much about her parents as it is of herself.  It may be a statement of the family wealth and the quality of life the three of them can afford to enjoy.

It was, along with the portraits of her father and mother, exhibited at the Paris Salon, the greatest annual art event in the Western world, in 1806.  The art world greeted this painting with mixed reviews; many disliked it for its “Gothicness” because of its linear precision and enamel-like finish.  It was also disapproved of because of its similarity to Early Netherlandish paintings and the French art critics of the time looked upon these painters from the Nertherlands as Les Primitifs Flamands.     Ingres’s also had many detractors who were critical of the painting saying that the proportions were not right.  They said that her head was too large, her neck was too long and curiously broad, her eyes were too far apart, which made her nose look flat and excessively long as it flows uninterrupted into her brow.  Although “puffed” botoxed lips are all the rage now, critics said that Ingres had made Caroline’s lower lip too fat which drew people’s attention to the lower part of her face which is petite in comparison to the span of her forehead.    The critics also deemed that there was a noticeable lack of definition to her shoulders. 

The background is secondary to the portrait itself and is a mainly bluish-white in colour featuring an Ile de France landscape with a distant town across the wide river.  There is freshness about the landscape and it must be presumed that Ingres wanted it to echo the fresh adolescence of his subject.

And so I return to the beginning when I said there was sadness to today’s painting.  Here we see in front of us a young girl, the daughter of a wealthy family, with everything to live for.  The sadness is that within a year of this painting being exhibited she was dead.

Comtesse d’Haussonville by Ingres (1845)

Comtesse d'Haussonville by Ingres (1845)

Ingres, or to give him his full name, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, a French Neoclassical painter was born in Montauban in 1780.   Ingres after spending some time in Italy returned to Paris in 1834.  It was at this time that he began to earn the reputation of being  a great portrait artist.  His greatest paintings were his portraits, which were both painted and drawn.  He is looked upon now as one who embodied the Romantic spirit of his time.

Today’s painting is Louis de Broglie, Countesse d’Haussonville which Ingres painted in 1845 and I was fortunate to see it when I visited the Frick Collection in New York some years ago.  Ingres had the ability of expressing the beauty of his subject, none more so than this portrait of the Comtesse d’Haussonville who, despite her reserved and somewhat prim appearance, was an outspoken liberal, author and well regarded intellectual.  Note the luxurious opulent folds of her silk dress and the lustre of her red hair ribbon.