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: Tissot’s On the Thames, a Heron


Michael J. Wentworth



Institution Minneapolis Institute of Arts
In the early months of 1870, the French painter James Jacques Joseph Tissot (1836-1902)1 must have faced the future with complacency. The son of provincial haute bourgeoisie, and assez bon garçon, he had come to Paris in 1856 to study painting in the studio of Louis Lamothe, a pupil of Ingres, and at the Ecole Impériale des Beaux-Arts. His artistic progress had been rapid, and almost from the first his pictures met with critical and popular success. After a promising debut at the Salon of 1859, official endorsement came in 1861 when the government bought his Le Rencontre de Faust et de Marguerite from the Salon for the state collections, a signal honor for a twenty-five-year-old artist, and again in 1866 when a gold medal made him hors concours, free to exhibit without submitting his works for the approval of the jury. Fashionable success followed close upon official recognition, and he soon found himself sought as a painter of mondaine genre pictures and flattering society portraits. Financial reward was not least among the benefits of fame, and by 1870, Tissot was the owner of a luxurious house in the avenue de l'Impératrice and was said to enjoy an income of 70,000 francs a year.2 Surrounded by such tangible proof of his artistic powers and esteemed by friends that included Whistler, Manet, and Degas, as well as conservative academic artists, Tissot had every reason to face the future with confidence.Then, in July, 1870, this brightly promising world disappeared with an almost biblical starkness in the catastrophe of the Franco-Prussian war and the Commune which followed the siege of Paris. For Tissot, as for the Emperor Napoleon III, the martial tinsel of La Grande-Duchesse de Gérolstein was to be swallowed up in the agony of a Prussian Götterdammerung. Demonstratively brave during the siege of Paris, Tissot then seems to have lost his head and formed an unaccountable association with the Commune, which put him in real danger when government forces retook the city. He fled Paris in late May or early June, 1871, before the furious reprisals of the notorious "Bloody Week" in which the defeated Communards burned public buildings as imposing as the Tuileries and shot hostages as venerable as the Archbishop of Paris, while government troops massacred 20,000 suspected Communards in the streets.3 Set adrift and faced with the necessity of beginning again in exile, Tissot went to England. Ruined, he is said to have arrived with only a hundred francs in his pocket.4London was the obvious place of refuge. Second only to Paris in its active cultural life, it offered as many aesthetic, social, and financial possibilities. The seventies and eighties in England were truly a golden age for the living artist. Even practitioners of small talent and limited appeal were able to live on a scale which would have boggled the imaginations of most old masters, and for a really popular artist there was virtually no limit to what might be achieved. For a deity of the Royal Academy, legitimated by official praise and supported by millionaire patronage, it was possible to become famous, socially acceptable, and immensely rich.5Tissot was not unknown as a painter when he arrived in London, having sent a number of pictures to English exhibitions during the sixties.6 More immediately, however, he must have been familiar to a wide audience as a caricaturist for Vanity Fair, having provided sixteen drawings for the magazine the previous year. Tissot had met the editor, Thomas Gibson Bowles, in Paris in 1869, and the two men had become friends when they were thrown together by chance during the siege. It was to Bowles that Tissot turned when he arrived in London, going directly to his house in Hyde Park Gate and remaining there for several months. Besides emotional comfort, bed, and board, Bowles provided an immediate source of income, making Tissot a staff artist for Vanity Fair and publishing no less than twenty-two of his drawings during the last six months of 1871.Tissot had long shown a marked affinity for English painting. As early as 1865, critics had noticed his reliance on the work of John Everett Millais,7 and when he arrived in London his anecdotal realism was not far removed from the brand practiced at the Royal Academy in the wake of the Pre-Raphaelites. The enthusiasm which had made him anglicize his name a decade before his flight to London and the strangely laconic temperament which made it possible for him to continue painting without visible trace of the traumatic experience of the war itself seem to have made it easy for him to adapt to his new environment.By the spring of 1872, Tissot was able to take a house of his own in St. John's Wood,8 and during the summer he sent two paintings to the Royal Academy and four to the London International Exhibition.9 His fortunes continued rapidly to improve, and by 1875, Berthe Morisot was able to report to her sister that he was "installé comme un prince" and painting "trés jolies choses qu'il vend fort bien."10 Until he left England in 1882, Tissot was a popular and highly paid painter, but he was never to win complete acceptance from a public that found the French bias of his work too powerful a dissolvent of English propriety, too smacking of "French satire" and the "gallic sneer,"11 no matter how carefully disguised. "More French," sniffed the critic for The Graphic, with the yawning tolerance of insular superiority, "shall we say, than English?"; while the Times found "It is art brought to the doors and laid at the feet of the monde, if not sometimes the demi-monde, with an almost cynical sincerity. Thus far it is French rather than English, alike in the ideas it suggests and the skill it shows."12Today, however, it is the decade of this "second" career for which Tissot is generally remembered, for the curiously hybrid pictures he painted in England combine meretricious technique and felicitous subject in a way we find particularly evocative. For us, his intimate genre pictures have become visual equivalents of the domestic grace we find in the novels of Anthony Trollope, his glittering social conversation pieces equivalents of the gentillesse of Ouida's society romances, and like them, the magical evocations of an age.On the Thames, a Heron (figure 1)13 must be one of the first pictures Tissot painted in England.14 Not only an extremely interesting picture in itself, with its unusual subject and hushed autumnal mood, it is also a remarkable summary of Tissot's Parisian style of the sixties at the moment he began to adapt it to the exigencies of British taste. Part of a small group of transitional pictures, it is a fascinating blend of Second Empire and Victorian taste.Tissot's willingness to reorient his work must have been in large part financial. Always fully alive to the monetary possibilities of his pictures, his attitude can only have been heightened by the urgent need to establish himself as an artist in London. His proclivity, and his success, were well known. Edmond de Goncourt, for example, remarked with some sharpness on the talents of "cet ingénieux explorateur de la bêtise anglaise"; Degas once reminded him, without success, that financial considerations need not always come first, and John Singer Sargent is said to have disparagingly called him "a dealer of genius."15Whatever his motivation, it was at this time that Tissot painted some of the most ambitious and pleasing pictures of his career, and the aesthetic rewards of On the Thames, a Heron are both obvious and durable. An understanding of its transitional position can lead to a greater appreciation of its particular qualities, for if its subject is English, its style is still French, formed in the Paris of Whistler and Degas. However vivid its response to a new environment, it is formulated in the vocabulary of the old.During his last years in Paris, Tissot had painted a group of historical genre pictures which depicted the manners and costumes of the Directoire. The pioneer in a subject which was to be extremely popular with artists later in the century,16 Tissot took his tone from the knowing innocence of the estampe gallante and created a mood of opportunistic sexuality which is uncommon in his otherwise rather narrowly circumspect work. The cold and gritty humor of one of his first pictures in Directoire costume, Un Déjeuner, representing the casual assignation between a leering merveilleuse and a nacreous incroyable in an outdoor restaurant, was described by the critic Thoré as "a drama in its first act,"17 and that description sets the tone of Tissot's Directoire pictures with admirable precision.Une Jeune femme en bateau (figure 2) is like another scene from the same play. If we are in any doubt as to the meaning of the picture, the title under which it was published as a Salon photograph,18 A la dérive, or Adrift, leaves little question as to nautical or moral implication. In both subject and mood it is still possible to discover a faint echo of the interest Tissot had taken in the work of Gustave Courbet in the middle sixties. The influence of Courbet's Les Demoiselles au bord de la Seine of 1855 on Tissot's La Confidence of 1867 has been noted,19 and something of its frankly sensual theme and naturalistic handling still lingers. In Tissot, however, Courbet's influence is filtered through the fashionable mannerisms of a society genre painter like Alfred Stevens, if not sometimes through those of the fashion plate itself, constraining Courbet's sensuality within its own well-bred and well-dressed parameters.20Like the majority of Tissot's works of the sixties, Une Jeune femme en bateau is carefully and competently designed. Immediately apparent, and of greatest interest, is the influence of Japanese art. In the decade after 1855 many French painters had become enthusiastic japonistes, and as Japanese art was studied and collected, its principles were assimilated, becoming part of the vocabulary of advanced painting. By the time of the Exposition Universelle of 1867, Japanese art had become an adjunct of fashionable taste and had begun to exercise a far-reaching influence on the arts and crafts.21 Although Tissot is known to have collected Japanese objects which were incorporated in his paintings as early as 1864,22 his interest at this time was clearly in the exotic and decorative aspects japonisme rather than in its aesthetic basis. Like many conservative academic artists, Tissot stocked his pictures with screens and fans, kimonos and porcelains to give them fashionable appeal. Alfred Stevens, who used Japanese objects in the same way, summed up the approach succinctly: "Japanese art is a powerful element of modernism."23 Tissot's Jeunes femmes regardant des objets japonais (figure 3), a picture in which two chic Parisiennes admire a room stuffed with Japanese objects, is perhaps more than proof of the approach.24By 1870, however, Tissot had begun to show a new understanding of the underlying principles of Japanese art, which is apparent in Une jeune femme en bateau. The sharp cutting of the boat, its diagonal placement, the bold off-center unit of boat and figure brought up close to the frontal plane, the lush decorative treatment of the background, and the obvious motif of the reeds: all are devices to be found in Japanese art, and Tissot's skillful manipulation of them points to a new level of interest and understanding. Despite an innate conservatism, Tissot knew the value of giving his pictures a contemporary flavor, and by 1870 such japoniste devices were doubtless pleasing and modern rather than shocking and revolutionary. Indeed, if we ignore Tissot's heavy insistence on narrative and costume, Une Jeune femme en bateau is more formally advanced in a textbook way than a picture like Pierre-Auguste Renoir's La Barque (figure 4) of 1867, and even shares something of its casual spirit, although Renoir's approach, corresponding not only to the tenets of Japanese design, but also to effects photography was then making familiar, still remains alien to Tissot's academic concept of design.25 Comparable in their superficial likeness, the two pictures are an accurate gauge of the real distance Tissot stands from the advanced painting of his time, joined more by the strangely sour, brooding mood typical of the late sixties than by a common aesthetic.When Tissot began to paint in England, he continued his narrative costume pieces, altering them subtly to conform to British taste,26 but at the same time he took up once again the pictures of modern life which had done so much to secure his Parisian fame, giving them the settings of his new life, and after a year or two he abandoned costume drama in favor of modern genre.Turning his attention to the river life of the Thames, perhaps at the suggestion of Whistler, who had already begun his own poetical evocations of the subject, Tissot began the series of pictures by which he is still best known. The majority record the busy activity of the London Pool and the lower Thames, sentimental encounters and pleasure excursions against a shipping background, but a few focus attention on the quiet upper reaches of the river (figure 5). On the Thames, a Heron is certainly the most interesting of those known today.27Without the innuendo and double entendre of Une Jeune femme en bateau, if not a mannered sensuality and high Parisian chic which hints at more, perhaps, than a British matron might have thought suitable in her adolescent daughters, the suggestive gesture and level stare of the earlier picture are diffused in the narrative requirement of a wonderfully spontaneous subject. The literary epigrammatism of Une Jeune femme en bateau, "a drama in its first act," gives way to the purely visual narrative of moment rather than idea. In that, On the Thames, a Heron might seem to share the Impressionist approach of Renoir's La Barque, but this moment—and surely this heron's flight is something Tissot saw along the Thames—is still purely a creation of the studio, an experience studied, elaborated, and surrounded with an artifice that heightens its impact. Every detail is the calculated promoter of narrative intent. The autumnal setting, the physical types of the models, the flight of the bird itself: each is carefully fitted into the composition to give greater resonance to the image.Tissot habitually used season to give drama and depth to his narratives. Autumn especially appealed to his melancholy nature, and he used it to give a haunting finality to images which might otherwise be rather ordinary éditions de luxes of fashionable genre subjects. The rich and somber color of On the Thames, a Heron is unexpected and remarkably effective in its creation of a still mood and as a foil for the fresh beauty of the two girls. Indeed, the choice of season perhaps does as much as the audacious composition to keep the picture above the iconographical superficialities of the fashion plate. Any banality of subject, one familiar enough to the readers of contemporary fashion magazines (figure 6), is avoided by such subtleties of treatment.Like choice of season, choice of physical type also seems intentional. Tissot, with the Victorians, delighted in the contrast of types of beauty, dark against fair, and often used such easy appeal to give vaguely symbolic or poetical overtones to his pictures. The two young heads in On the Thames, a Heron have the sentimental attraction of the keepsake about them, but it is an attraction given agreeable bite by a marked individuality and by the intensity with which they follow the flight of the heron with their eyes. Dressed in the stock costumes of the studio, favored dresses which often appear in his work, and doubtless carefully studied in the manner known from several gouache drawings (figure 7), the physical and, to a degree, the psychological contrasts of the two girls are elaborated and savored, and, like the subject itself, raised above the commonplaces of convention by the force and truthfulness of the observation.Tissot had often used similar contrasts in the sixties, as the titles of Salon pictures like Les Deux soeurs and La Confidence suggest, and his fondness for the convention is particularly obvious in a little picture of 1865, now also called Les Deux soeurs (figure 8). After he came to England, the possibilities of women in pairs were expanded to become one of the central images of his narrative, ending only in 1876 when he met Kathleen Newton, an Irish divorcée who became his mistress, and devoted himself to the obsessive recording of her beauty. In his early London years, however, such pairs, often with the implication of choice, are common. The familiar double entendre of the Directoire pictures, apparent innocence and salacious possibility, which creates a sharp tension between superficial humor and what has been wonderfully called "subliminal lickerishness,"28 is the narrative basis of many pictures at this time. Such duality is essential to the effect of a picture like Portsmouth Dockyard (figure 9),29 now known by the title under which Tissot etched it, Entre les deux mon coeur balance, and it is perhaps not unreasonable to discover a hint of precocity in the chic adolescents of On the Thames, a Heron and the worldly tribute Tissot pays their youthful good looks.Even at this date, it is possible to discover the continuing influence of Courbet in the insistence on physical presence and sensuality which go far beyond the minute and dry realism of Tissot's academic contemporaries. The peculiar combination of elements in On the Thames, a Heron brings a work like Courbet's Jeune fille aux mouettes (figure 10) of 1866 to mind, and although there is no direct link between the two pictures, their juxtaposition of avian and human elements serves to point up Tissot's deep debt to Courbet in much of the underlying spirit of his work. It is the naturalism of Courbet that gives Tissot's pictures the sense of physical presence that makes them so effective.In composition, On the Thames, a Heron owes most to Japan. Far more daring in its application of the principles of Japanese design than Une Jeune femme en bateau, it is probably the high-water mark of Tissot's japonisme. Its truly radical juxtaposition of two separate pictorial elements on a shallow field and its high vantage point show a new comprehension of the principles of Japanese design. From Tissot's earliest years in Paris, the woodcuts of Hokusai's Manga, books of studies of animals, flowers, landscapes, and people, had been available to him as a source,30 but it was not until the seventies that its lesson was fully learned. In design, compressed space, and "bird's eye" view, On the Thames, a Heron is remarkably similar to one of the plates from the first volume of the Manga, "Samurai in the Rain" (figure 71), and shows a true comprehension of its aesthetic principles.If Tissot's radical design is somewhat obscured by the realism of its treatment, its adventurousness is made clear if we consider it in relation to the work with which it is contemporary. Ferdinand Heilbuth, a German expatriate artist working in London, and a friend of Tissot, was often seen in exhibition with him, and their work was frequently compared. Heilbuth's Fair Weather (figure 12) is composed of the same pictorial elements as On the Thames, a Heron, but its composition, like its narrative intent, is far more conservative. Although the engraving after the picture, which is reproduced, gives no hint of the vaporous charm and fluid technique which made Heilbuth a successful rival of Tissot, it does preserve its reactionary composition and throws Tissot's inventiveness into sharp relief.It is likely that Tissot's heightened awareness of the principles of Japanese design can be traced to the general influence of Whistler, whose japonisme, although more perceptive and inventive than Tissot's, had followed the same line of development, from superficial exoticism to a deep understanding of principles. By the seventies, Whistler's japonisme had reached a level at which it was possible for him to make completely creative use of it, and the influence of his subtle style is to be found in the refinement of many of Tissot's compositions at this time.The elements and design of On the Thames, a Heron, however, are hardly typical of Whistler's japonisme. The flight of the heron, caught split-second in motion, is far more reminiscent of the prints of Felix Bracquemond, who had in fact discovered the Hokusai Manga in 185631 and had made use of numerous Japanese motifs in his work. Tissot was unquestionably familiar with such widely known works as Bracquemond's etching Vanneaux et sarcelles (figure 13) of 1862, which offers an obvious prototype for the treatment of the heron in Tissot's picture.As has been suggested, interest in the photograph as an aid to the artist was concurrent with interest in the arts of Japan, and it seems certain that the instantaneous aspects of both Bracquemond's and Tissot's pictures can be traced to the camera. Japonisme and the photograph served to validate one another in the creation of a new way of seeing. Certain photographic effects struck artists when they encountered them in their own environment, and when similar effects were found in Japanese art, each served to corroborate the visual truthfulness of the other.32 Tissot is known to have made extensive use of photographs in the composition of his paintings in the later seventies,33 and although no documented example of a photographic source remains from this date, his use of them, nonetheless, seems not only possible, but probable. The instantaneous naturalism of On the Thames, a Heron almost necessitates such reliance.Tissot has never been completely forgotten nor entirely ignored. Dismissed by simplistic histories of art which saw nineteenth-century painting as an evolution towards formalism and revolution, his safely academic canvases continued to attract collectors because of their nostalgic period charm, and social historians because of their documentary interest. Today, however, there is new interest in the pictures themselves, for it is, happily, no longer suspect to consider nineteenth-century painting for its subject matter as well as its formal construction, or to admire an artist who remained contentedly within the courts of established power.Tissot painted first and last to please. For him, subtle narrative was as important a part of visual pleasure as finished composition. Avoiding explicit situations, and even choosing titles of purposeful neutrality, the subjects of his pictures have a reticence only heightened by careful formal design and high academic finish: in the end, the image speaks for itself. In that, he comes closer to the advanced art of his time than might be expected. On the Thames, a Heron has affinities with a picture like Claude Monet's Canoeing on the Epte (Blanche Monet and Mme Butler) (figure 14) deeper than their obvious superficial resemblance. Clearly products of the same formal sources, japonisme and the casual framing effects of photography, both also employ the same subtle sense of genre narrative to give formal motif an added resonance. If On the Thames a Heron hovers halfway between the academy and the avant-garde, in suspension it creates its own delicate balance, disturbing even as it charms, and, like Tissot's career itself, occupies position unique in the art of the nineteenth century.Michael Wentworth was co-author of the catalogue for the 1968 Tissot retrospective exhibition in Providence and Toronto which helped bring about the scholarly reappraisal of this long-neglected painter. Mr. Wentworth, who received his Ph.D. from Harvard University and teaches at Wellesley College, is currently preparing an exhibition of Tissot's complete prints for The Minneapolis Institute of Arts.Endnotes
  1. For Tissot, see principally the catalogue of the exhibition James Jacques Joseph Tissot, held in 1968 at the Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, and the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, by David S. Brooke, Michael Wentworth, and Henri Zerner; also James Laver, Vulgar Society: The Romantic Career of James Tissot (London: Constable, 1936); and Georges Bastard, "James Tissot," Revue de Bretagne, series 2, 36 (November, 1906), pp. 253-278.
  2. Bastard, op. cit., p. 260. As a point of comparison, Ernest meissonier, probably the highest paid painter of the period, was said to earn 150,000 francs a year at this time.
  3. Robert Baldick, The Siege of Paris (New York: Macmillan Co., 1964), p. 233. For an account of Tissot's part in the siege, see Alfred Darcel, "Les Musées, les parts, et les artistes pendant le siége de Paris," Gazette des Beaux-Arts, 4 (1870), pt. 1, pp. 285-306, pt. 2, pp. 414-429.
  4. Bastard, op. cit., p. 262.
  5. For an account of the artist in England at this time, see Gerald Reitlinger, The Economics of Taste, 3 vols. (New York: Holt, Reinhart, and Winston, 1961), vol. 1, pp. 143-174.
  6. In 1862, Tissot sent a picture to the London International Exhibition: Algernon Graves, A Century of Loan Exhibitions (London: Algernon Graves, 1914), vol. 3, p. 1315, gives the title as A Walk in the Snow, presumably the picture Tissot sent to the Salon of 1859 (Promenade dans la neige, no. 2872), but the Handbook of the Picture Galleries of the International Exhibition (London: Grant and Co., 1862), France, no. 197, gives the title as Sleighing; it seems impossible to tell what picture was actually shown. In 1864, At the Break of Day was exhibited at the Royal Academy, no. 408, and The Elopement and The Return of the Prodigal Son at the Society of British Artists, nos. 11 and 259, the latter presumably the picture Tissot sent to the Salon of 1863 (Le Rétour de l'enfant prodigue, no. 1803). Of the pictures mentioned, only A Walk in the Snow has been located (see Rhode Island School of Design, op. cit., no. 1, repr.).
  7. See, for example, Paul Mantz, "Salon de 1865," Gazette des Beaux-Arts, 19 (1865), p. 12, for a discussion of the reliance of Tissot's Le Printemps on Millais' Spring.
  8. Tissot moved first to a semi-detached villa at 73 Springfield Road; by the time of the Royal Academy exhibition of 1873 he had moved again, to the Anglo-Dutch house at 17 Grove End Road which appears in many of his paintings and was his home until he left England in 1882.
  9. To the Royal Academy, An Interesting Story, no 389 (National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne), and Les Adieux, no. 644 (Bristol City Art Gallery); to the International Exhibition, La Tamise, no. 326 (possibly the picture now called The Parting, National Museum of Wales), Le Colonel, no. 329 (Colonel Frederick Burnaby, National Portrait Gallery, London), M. le Capitaine (unidentified and unlocated), and another unidentified work.
  10. Denis Rouart, ed., Correspondance de Berthe Morisot (Paris: Quatre Chemins-Editart, 1950), p. 88.
  11. "Royal Academy Exhibition," Illustrated London News, 68, no. 1920 (May 13, 1876), p. 475, and "Royal Academy Exhibition," Illustrated London News, 66, no. 1867 (May 22, 1875), p. 486.
  12. "The Royal Academy," Graphic, 13 (May 13, 1876), p. 113, and "The Grosvenor Gallery," Times (London), May 2, 1878, p. 7.
  13. James Jacques Joseph Tissot
    On the Thames, a Heron, ca. 1871
    Oil on canvas, 35-1/2 x 23 in.
    Signed, lower left: J. Tissot
    Gift of Mrs. Patrick Butler by exchange, 75.7Provenance: Tissot to (?) Murietta (sold Christie's 1873, bt. In.); Murietta to (?) Higgs (sold Christie's, 1883, by Murietta); Wildenstein Arte, S. A. Buenos Aires, 1948; Sotheby Parke-Bernet, Los Angeles, April 8-9, 1973, lot 208; to the H. Shickman Gallery, New York; to The Minneapolis Institute of Arts.References: Gazette des Beaux-Arts, 89 (March, 1977), p. 59, no. 245.
  14. Although the picture does not appear to have been exhibited, its appearance at auction in 1873 (see above, note 13) predicates a date ca. 1871-72.
  15. Edmond and Jules de Goncourt, Journal: Memories de la vie litteraire, 4 vols. (Paris: Flammarion, 1956), vol. 2, 1001; Marcel Guerin, ed., Degas Letters (Oxford: Bruno Casseier, 1948), p. 39; and quoted in Laver, op. cit., p. 33.
  16. Tissot's interest in the Directoire may have grown out of a reading of Edmond and Jules de Goncourt's Histoire de la Société française pendant le Directoire which was published in 1855. The de Goncourts' role as pioneers of interest in the Directoire was recently noted by Denys Sutton in "L'Europe sous les Aigles," Apollo, 103, no. 172 (June, 1976), pp. 485-463.
  17. Théophile Thoré (W. Bürger), "Salon de 1868," Salons de W. Burger, 1861 à 1868 (Paris: Renouard, 1870), p. 488. Tissot's Un Déjeuner, exhibited at the Salon of 1868, no. 2389, is unlocated.
  18. It was not uncommon for the titles of Salon paintings to be changed when they were published as photographs. If Tissot did not invent the title himself, it is certain he knew of it, and doubtless approved, since it captures the spirit of the picture perfectly. Une Jeune femme en bateau was exhibited at the Salon of 1870, no. 2747, and was on the London art market in 1959 (Connoisseur, 142 [January, 1959], p. 258). A compositional study for the painting is in the collection of Mr. and Mrs. Julius Held, New York (repr. Rhode Island School of Design, op. cit., no. 44).
  19. Henri Zerner points out the dependence of La Confidence, under the title of the Salon photograph after it, L'Aveu, on Courbet's Demoiselles in the introduction to James Jacques Joseph Tissot (1968). La Confidence, exhibited at the Salon of 1867, no. 1469, is unlocated.
  20. Stevens' influence on Tissot is noticed, for example, by Thoré ("Salon de 1866," Salons, p. 312). For the influence of the fashion plate on French painting in the sixties, see Mark Roskill, "Early Impressionism and the Fashion Print," Burlington Magazine, 112, no. 807 (June, 1970), pp. 391-395.
  21. For the best study of japonisme, see the catalogue of the exhibition Japonisme: Japanese Influence on French Art 1854-1910 by Gabriel P. Weisberg, Phillip Cate, Gerald Needham, Martin Eidelberg, and William R. Johnston, held in 1975 at the Cleveland Museum of Art, Rutgers University Art Gallery, and Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore.
  22. In a letter to his mother, dated 12 November 1864, Dante Gabriel Rossetti wrote from Paris: "I went to his (William Rossetti's) Japanese shop, but found all the costumes 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" (William Michael Rossetti, ed., Dante Gabriel Rossetti: His Family Letters [Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1895], p. 180). It seems likely that two of the three pictures mentioned are the Japonaise au bain in the Musée de Dijon and the Lady in Japanese Costume, repr. Rhode Island School of Design, op. cit., no. 12.
  23. Alfred Stevens, Impressions on Painting, trans. Charlotte Adams (New York: George J. Coombes, 1886), p. 21.
  24. There were, in fact, so many meticulously painted Japanese objects in the picture that one critic wondered: Jeunes femmes regardant des objets japonais, ou des objets japonais regardant des jeunes femmes, c'est tout un: matière de chinoiserie!" (Louis Auvray, "Salon de 1869: promenade à travers l'exposition," Revue Artistique et Littéraire, 17 [1869], p. 11). The picture, exhibited at the Salon of 1869, no. 2270, has not been located.
  25. More truly representative of Renoir's japonisme at its most subtle and advanced is a picture like La Grenouillére of the same date (Stockholm, National Museum).
  26. For studies of two of the most important transitional costume pictures, see David S. Brooke, "Tissot's 'The Parting,' " Amgueddfa: Bulletin of the National Museum of Wales, 2 (Summer-Autumn, 1969), pp. 22-26, and " 'An Interesting Story' by James Tissot," Art Bulletin of Victoria (1969-1970), pp. 22-29.
  27. Besides, On the Thames, a Heron, two other pictures are known: Autumn on the Thames (figure 5), which includes the blonde girl from the present painting, and Waiting, exhibited at the Royal Academy of 1874, no. 387, described as "Autumn leaves overhanging the figure of a young lady waiting in a boat" ("The Royal Academy," Art Journal, no. 151 [July, 1875], p. 200).
  28. George MacBeth, "Subliminal Dreams," Art News Annual, 36 (1970), pp. 29-39, in discussing Tissot's Boarding the Yacht.
  29. Exhibited at the Grosvenor Gallery, 1877, no. 19; now in the Tate Gallery, London. The etching, Beraldi 23, Tissot 26.
  30. For the availability of Japanese prints in Paris, see Weisberg, op. cit., pp. 3-5.
  31. Weisberg, op. cit., pp. 30-35.
  32. For a discussion of the relationship of japonisme and photography, see Gerald Needham, "Japanese Influence on French Painting 1854-1910," in Japonisme; Japanese Influence on French Art 1854-1910 (Cleveland, 1975), p. 116.
  33. For Tissot's photographic sources in the later seventies, see Rhode Island School of Design, op. cit., figs. 1-5, nos. 31 and 74.
Referenced Works of Art
  1. James Jacques Joseph Tissot
    French, 1836-1902
    On the Thames, a Heron, 1871-72
    Oil on canvas
    36-1/2 x 23-3/4 in.
    Gift of Mrs. Patrick Butler by exchange, 75.7
  2. James Jacques Joseph Tissot
    Une Jeune femme en bateau, 1869-70
    Location unknown
    Reproduced from a photograph by Ferrier and Lecadre in the Bibliothèque-Nationale, Paris.
    Photo: courtesy of the Bibliothèque-Nationale.
  3. James Jacques Joseph Tissot
    Jeunes femmes regardant des objets japonais, 1869
    Location unknown. Reproduced from a photograph by Goupil et Cie in the Bibliothèque-Nationale, Paris.
    Photo: courtesy of the Bibliothèque-Nationale.
  4. Pierre-Auguste Renoir
    La Barque, ca. 1867
    Private collection, France
  5. James Jacques Joseph Tissot
    Autumn on the Thames
    Photo reproduced from James Laver, Vulgar Society; the Romantic Career of James Tissot.
  6. Isabelle Toudouze
    Fashionplate for Le Follet, 1876
    Photo reproduced from Doris Langley Moore, Fashion through the Ages (New York, 1971).
  7. James Jacques Joseph Tissot
    Two Studies of a Seated Woman, ca. 1872
    Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney
    Photo: courtesy of Agnews
  8. James Jacques Joseph Tissot
    Les Deux Soeurs, ca. 1865
    Location unknown
  9. James Jacques Joseph Tissot
    Portsmouth Dockyard, 1877
    Tate Gallery, London
  10. Gustave Courbet
    Jeune fille aux mouettes, 1866
    Mr. and Mrs. James Deely, New York
  11. Hokusai
    "Samurai in the Rain," Manga (vol. 1)
    Newark Public Library
  12. Ferdinand Heilbuth
    Fair Weather, reproduced from a wood engraving after the picture in Richard Muther, History of Modern Painting (London: J. M. Dent, 1907), vol. 3, 277.
  13. Felix Bracquemond
    Vanneaux et sarcelles (Pewits and Teal), 1862
    The Cleveland Museum of Art, Gift of Frederick Keppel and Company for the Frederick Keppel Memorial
  14. Claude Monet
    Canoeing on the Epte, 1885-87
    Sao Paulo Museum of Art, Sao Paulo, Brazil
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Source: Michael J. Wentworth, "Tissot's On the Thames, a Heron," <i>The Minneapolis Institute of Arts Bulletin</i> 62 (1975): 35-49.
Rights: ©MIA
Added to Site: March 10, 2009