Saturday, January 9, 2010

The 'Vision' of James Tissot

In this post I will concentrate on those aspects of Tissot's life and work which are of spiritual interest, not to mention sympathy and compassion. Here are links to some sites that give biographies of various detail and/or reproduce many of his paintings.
New York Times article
Mezzo-Mondo - Biograpy
artmagic image gallery
Brooklyn Museum Exhibition and Life of Christ Exhibition
New York Times Art Criticism

Born in Nantes France, Tissot met Kathleen Newton during his eleven year period as a highly successful society painter in London. He fell in love with her and it seems that he remained in that state for the rest of his life. They were both from Catholic backgrounds but she was a divorcee and so they never married. They lived together in blissful domesticity at his house in St. Johns Wood and she is believed to have borne him a child. This was her second child, the first having been the result of a shipboard liaison during her voyage to India where she was to be married. This marriage had been 'arranged' by her father. After the wedding Kathleen confessed to her husband about her affair at sea and he immediately divorced her. Tissot's brief period of earthly happiness ended when Kathleen, having contracted tuberculosis, ended her own life at the age of 28. Her suicide at that time meant that she could not be buried in consecrated ground.

After his bereavement a distraught Tissot returned to his native France. Some time later he had what some sites call a 'vision' in which he saw Our Lord comforting people in a large temple-like building. (His painting of the vision is called 'Christ the Comforter'. I have not yet been able to find it on the Net but continue my search.) At this point Tissot seems to have re-embraced his childhood faith and from then on his art was to be dominated by paintings of people and events in both the Old and New Testaments. There are 350 watercolours in his 'Life of Christ' series and the present exhibition in Brooklyn is showing about a third of them.

At one point Tissot became interested in Spiritualism and claimed to have 'contacted' Kathleen. I pray that he found solace in the orthodox faith before he died. I have so far been unable to find out where or how he died, or where he is buried. My researches continue, as does my hope that the Lord in his mercy grants heavenly peace and joy to Kathleen Newton and James Tissot.

In tribute to Tissot's work, watercolours from his Bible series will appear on my blogs throughout the coming year.



pelerin said...

Tissot died at Chenecey Buillon in le Doubs where there appears to be a chateau in which he lived. Cannot yet find mention of where buried but could not one presume that it would most likely be there?

Jane said...

Thanks Pelerin. Yes it would seem likely. I'll follow that trail!

Patricius said...

Thank you for this very interesting post and links. I feel Tissot has been largely under-appreciated. I had the good fortune to grow up with a bible - The Holy Family Bible published by The Catholic Press of Chicago Illinois (1950) which included illustrations of both Old and New Testaments using reproductions of Tissot's watercolours. Like many 19th Century biblical illustrations they have a strongly archaeological character. In contrast to much Victorian work,however, they are psychologically plausible and lacking in the heavy sentimentalism that generally spoils such art. I look forward to your further posts!

pelerin said...

Have just found a 9 minute film on Youtube devoted to Tissot's work with music by Brahms. Beautiful. As Patricius says he has been under-appreciated and in my case completely unknown until reading Jane's post - and I was once an art student! His work was obviously not 'in' at that time.

Jane said...

Thanks to Paticius and yet again to Pelerin! (What is the title of the video you found?) I wanted to post again about Tissot tonight, but have just watched the video clips (on NLM, courtesy of Orbis Catholicus)of Cardinal Llovera's Mass in the Lateran and have been completely 'blown away' by them. May recover sufficiently for a post on the SMPblog but no more here until tomorrow morning!

pelerin said...

Jane - just type in 'James Jacques Joseph Tissot Youtube 'et voila! I love his Victorian ladies especially when he paints a white dress against a dark background or a black dress against a pale background.

The only title to the video appears to be his full name.