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James Tissot: Artist

Posted in Art, Artist on Thursday, 30 June 2011

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James Tissot was a French painter and engraver who spent part of his career working in England.

picture, James Tissot, painter, artist, illustrator, Bible, David, Goliath

David slings the stone at Goliath, illustrated by James Tissot

Born Jacques Joseph Tissot in Nantes on 15 October 1836, the son of a successful draper and cloth merchant. His parents were Catholic and sent him to the Jesuit College at Vannes and only accepted his desire to study art with regret.

In 1856 he began studying at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris under Hippolyte Flandrin and Louis Lamothe, where he became friends with Degas and Whistler. Using the anglicized name James Tissot, he exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1859, the works (two portraits of women and three medieval scenes inspired by Faust) showing the influence of Henri Leys, whom he had met in 1859.

He travelled to Italy in 1860 and London in 1862, exhibiting some of his works at the Royal Academy in 1864; that same year he was again represented at the Paris Salon, his portraits of women now becoming more contemporary. Around this period he also became interested in japonisme and included Japanese costumes and objects in his pictures. In 1869 he was commissioned to draw a series of caricatures by Vanity Fair which he did under the name ‘Coid’.

In 1870, Tissot took part in the Franco-Prussian War in Tirailleurs de la Seine and in the defense of Paris during the Commune. In 1871 he moved to London where he earned a reputation as a painter of feminine elegance. An Irish divorcee named Kathleen Newton became his regular companion and a frequent model between 1875 and 1882, in which year she died from tuberculosis.

Tissot returned to Paris immediately following her death and remained there for the rest of his life, quickly reviving his reputation through exhibitions at the Palais de l’Industrie in 1883 and the Galerie Sedelmeyer in 1885.

picture, James Tissot, artist, painter, illustrator, Jesus, cross, Bible

Christ falls beneath his cross, illustrated by James Tissot

In the mid-1880s, Tissot experienced a religious conversion and devoted the rest of his life to illustrating the Bible, travelling to the Middle East, Palestine and Jerusalem in 1886, 1889 and 1896 to make studies of the landscape and people. He exhibited 365 gouache paintings in Paris in 1894-95 based on the life of Christ. These were published in France in 1896-97 and in England in 1897-98 to great acclaim.

A further series of 80 paintings based on the Old Testament were exhibited in part in Paris in 1901 and subsequently circulated as engravings, but Tissot was destined never to complete the series.

Tissot died in Chenecey-Buillon, Doubs, France, on 9 August 1902, aged 65.

Many more pictures by James Tissot can be found at the Look and Learn picture library.

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