Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Paintings of James Tissot

Thanks to the Financial Times I discovered the works of James Tissot (1836-1902).  This Franco-British artist came from a background of textiles and ships, both of which feature in his works.  His painting verges on the impressionistic, but remains a tad too literalist to bear that label.

Tissot was born into a devout Catholic family, drifted away from the faith and into a liaison with an Irish divorcee, and eventually underwent a re-conversion to the religion of his youth.  His paintings display a vitality one might easily associate with either romantic liaison or sacramental reality, depending upon the circumstances.

Like so many of his contemporaries - from the Belgian Jan August Hendrik, Baron Leys (1815-1869) to the Anglo-Dutch Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1836-1912) and the Turkish Osman Hamdi Bey (1842-1910) - Tissot tends to paint small groups of people in scenes which tell a story and take place in a setting which is itself a kind of secondary subject.  But unlike Leys or Alma-Tadema, who painted extensively from history, Tissot focused on contemporary scenes, except late in his life when Biblical themes predominated.

I'll not go so far as to claim that Tissot is a genius, an artist for the ages.  His works are charming, though probably not sublime.  Still, I am glad for having stumbled upon them.

Today's images come from the ever-ready Wikipedia.
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