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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Albert Joseph Moore. Part 3 – the conclusion.

Albert Joseph Moore (c.1870)
Albert Joseph Moore (c.1870)

The Aesthetic art movement thrived in Britain and America during the 1860s to the 1880s.   The movement started in a small way in the studios and houses of a radical group of artists and designers, including William Morris and Dante Gabriel Rossetti.  In works of art the leading British exponents of this aesthetic movement were J.M.Whistler, Frederic, Lord Leighton and Albert Joseph Moore.  This style of art was also known as Art for Art’s Sake.  The Oxford  Dictionary defines Aestheticism as:

“… the term applied to exaggerated expression of the doctrine that art is self-sufficient   and needs serve  no ulterior purpose, whether moral, political or religious…”

It was influenced by Japanese art and culture.  It was not universally loved and the art critic Walter Hamilton wrote a book in 1862, The Aesthetic Movement in England, in which he mounted a famous defence of the Aesthetic Movement and wrote about the key figures associated with the movement and provided descriptions of contemporary responses to it.

Albert Moore was one of the principal originators of the Aesthetic Art Movement, and was considered by Whistler as one of the most original artists of his generation.  His  decorative paintings, which were true to the Aesthetic movement, championed pure beauty in their depiction but  lacked messages whether overt or subtle, and this type of art became very popular with collectors.  His depiction of women, in what is termed a Hellenic style, draped in their diaphanous clothing, was one which will always be linked with Moore.  Following the success he had with his work entitled The Marble Seat, he followed it up with a series of purely decorative paintings.  In all of these, the allure of the works was Moore’s depiction of the female form and the harmonious use of colour.

A Musician by Albert Moore (1865-6)
A Musician by Albert Moore (1865-6)

One of Albert Moore’s patrons, around this time, was James Leathart, a Newcastle lead manufacturer.  He had visited Moore at his studio in 1865 and whilst there saw an unfinished work by the artist entitled A Musician.  The work combines aspects of ancient Roman wall paintings, Greek sculpture and Japanese prints.  The figures in the painting are separated.  On the left side we have an active male musician playing the lyre and on the right we see his audience of two passive females.  This separation by gender was also present in his painting, The Marble Seat (see previous blog).

Leathart bought this work from Moore and It can now be seen at the Yale Centre for British Art, New Haven.  In 1867 he purchased from Moore his work Elijah’s Sacrifice.

Battledore by Albert Moore (1870)
Battledore by Albert Moore (1870)

Leathart was so pleased with his acquisitions that he commissioned Moore to produce a pair of classically draped figures, each bearing a shuttlecock and racket.  The two commissioned paintings were to feature two ancient games played by both men and women.  It was the precursor to jeu de volant, which was itself the precursor to badminton.  The simple titles to his paintings were Battledore and Shuttlecock.

In a letter to Leathart in November 1868, Moore wrote:

“…now fairly at work on your two pictures and propose to go on with them continuously until they are finished…”

Leathart went to Moore’s studios to see what progress Moore had made and viewed the preparatory sketch.  However Moore had a change of heart with regards the colours and tones he would use and in February 1869 he again wrote to Leathart to tell him that he had:

“…hit upon combinations of colour darker in character than the little sketch you saw some time ago…”

Now, Moore had a dilemma.  He wanted to press ahead with the final paintings but had to be sure that Leathart agreed to his proposed changes to the colours and in his letter to Leathart, he gave his reasons for the change but to avoid problems with his patron hinted that Leathart had the final say.  Moore wrote:

“… I think it is best to learn your views on the subject.  That is to say, if you have any particular desire that the pictures should be kept light in character – as for instance, for the sake of their effect in your room – I shall of course be ready to recur to something like the original scheme: at the same time I have reason to believe that the latter combination would succeed – having tried them in small sketches and I may say I should not hesitate to carry them out, were I the only person concerned…”

Leathart agreed to the changes.

Principles of Harmony and Contrast of Colours by M.E.Chevreul
Principles of Harmony and Contrast of Colours
by M.E.Chevreul

Moore was fascinated by colour combinations and how some worked better than others.   Whilst studying at the School of Design in York he had studied this very issue and was inspired by Michel Eugène Chevreul who had published a book in 1855 entitled The Principles of Harmony and Contrast of Colour.  Chevreul based his ideas on the study of the coloured threads in the Gobelin tapestries.

Shuttlecock by Albert Joseph Moore (1870)
Shuttlecock by Albert Joseph Moore (1870)

In his work, Shuttlecock , Moore brought together the colours of orange and blue which Chevreul had written were “harmonies of contrasts”.  Although chromatically opposites, orange and blue combined to produce grey.  Look at the colour combinations on the mat which the female stands upon.   When the two paintings were exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1871 Moore was praised for his depiction of the figures but those who detected Moore’s scientific approach to colour combinations were less happy.  Other critics were unhappy with the fact that there was no message within the painting, no historical or biblical connotation to the depiction

Sea-gulls by Albert Moore (1871)
Sea-gulls by Albert Moore (1871)

Along with Battledore and Shuttlecock Moore had a third painting accepted for the 1871 Royal Academy Exhibition.  The title of this third work was Sea-gulls.  This painting eventually came to fruition but not without some controversy.  Moore’s friend James Whistler got to hear of, and later saw the preliminary sketches for this painting through their mutual friend and patron Frederic Leyland and Whistler was concerned that they were very similar to preliminary sketches he had made for his own painting.  After lots of discussions between the two artists and an intermediary, William Nesfield, an architect and amateur painter, and a  friend of both Whistler and Moore, it was amicably decided that Moore exhibiting his Sea-gulls painting would not have an adverse effect on Whistler’s works.  The painting was exhibited at the RA even though, according to Moore,  it was unfinished.  On receiving the work back from the exhibition, Moore completed the work and it was sold to his patron, Frederic Leyland.

A Summer Night by Albert Moore (1864-90)
A Summer Night by Albert Moore (1864-90)

There are so many beautiful paintings done by Albert Moore that it is difficult to select a only a few for the blog.  However, the next painting by Albert Moore which I am featuring took almost six years to complete and it is a veritable beauty.  Moore started this large work (132 x 229 cms) in 1884 but did not complete it until 1890.  It was entitled A Summer Night.

The backdrop for this work was not Moore’s usual wall but a fascinating and beautiful display of floral garlands, all intertwined together.  In the far background, across the sea, we see the twinkling of shore lights of an island which has been lit up by moonlight.  Pale clouds can be seen in the dark sky.  In the upper left foreground, we can see orange-coloured ranunculus blooms weaved into the upper part of the silver filigree which is part of the open trellis-work.  The painting received a rapturous reception from the public when it was exhibited at the 1890 Royal Academy exhibition, despite the RA’s Hanging team banishing the work, high up on a wall in the fifth room, close by a door.

The fact that Moore’s work was often looked down upon by the art institution for his constant scientific manipulation of colours and for producing paintings without any hidden meanings was not lost on the forward-thinking art critic of the time, Claude Phillips, who had, for a long time been a great supporter of Moore.   In an article in the Academy in May 1890, he wrote:

“…no artist of purely British origins has the same mastery over the keyboard of tints and tones as this master of decoration and that such a painter should persistently be excluded from the ranks of the Academicians while that august body contains so many crude, perfunctory and unspeakably tiresome practitioners, is a riddle the solution of which had, perhaps, better not be attempted…”

The art critic George Moore (no relation to Albert Moore) castigated the Royal Academy for not electing to the Academy, either Albert Moore or his friend James Whistler.  In 1893, he caustically wrote:

“… Many Academicians will freely acknowledge that his [Albert Moore] non-election is a very grave scandal;  they will tell you that they have done everything to get him elected and have given up the task in despair……………..the two greatest artists living in England, will never be elected Academicians; and artistic England is asked to acquiesce in this grave scandal…”

The Loves of the Winds and the Seasons by Albert Moore (1893)
The Loves of the Winds and the Seasons by Albert Moore (1893)

The last painting I am showing you was the last painting Albert Moore completed.  It was entitled The Loves of the Winds and the Seasons, which he completed in 1893.  Moore’s financial situation at the start of the 1890’s was dire and to make things worse is health was starting to decline.    In August 1892 Moore had been taken seriously ill and despite a number of operations he was made to suffer from a painful and incurable illness.  Moore would not let his pain or his advancing death stop him from painting and this last painting which he started in 1890, was completed nine days before his death.  The painting depicts the courtship of the four male winds with the four female seasons.  The female figure on the left is Summer and she watches the courtship of the South Wind and Autumn.  In the right background of the painting we see the North and East Winds quarrelling over Winter whilst they are all stood in a patch of snow.

Albert Joseph Moore died at 3am in his London studio in Spenser Street, Westminster on September 25th 1893, three weeks after his fifty-second birthday.   The cause of death was given as a sarcoma of the thigh and a recurrent sarcoma of the abdomen.  He made his brother Henry sole heir to his estate which amounted to just £1,184.  He was buried in the family grave in Highgate Cemetery, which was already occupied by his mother and his brother, John Collingwood Moore.

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Most of the information I have used in this and the next blog have come from  two books, biographies of Albert Joseoph Moore. They are:

Albert Moore, his life and works, by Alfred Lys Baldry (1894)

Albert Moore by Robin Asleson (published by Phaidon)