James Jacques Joseph Tissot (1836-1902)

Jacques Joseph Tissot was born in Nantes, to a middle class family. He initially studied art at Beaux-Arts in Paris. Tissot’s early paintings are mainly historical, & heavily influenced by the Dutch School. He came into contact with the Impressionists as a young man, and was leading a fairly unadventurous life. This was changed totally by the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. Following the crushing French defeat in this war, and the subsequent fall of the Paris Commune, Tissot decided to move to London, which he did in 1871. This move must have caused considerable problems in his life, and the painter needed to earn some money quickly. Tissot started, therefore, to paint accomplished highly finished pictures of London society ,and social events, including the famous ‘Too Early’ These pictures were virtually an instant success with the art viewing and buying public, but not with the critics.

Tissot’s succcess in London aroused considerable jealousy amongst his Impressionist colleagues in France, where he was regarded as a very minor figure. The critical hostility Tissot’s pictures met with, is not easy for us to understand today. The main criticisms were that the pictures were really only painted photographs, and they were vulgar. There is some truth in the first case, though the paintings show dazzling technique, and a dash of Gallic wit and sophistication, home grown English artists were quite unable to match. In the second case the basis of the adverse comment, was the class-consciousness of British society at that time. The pictures were held to show shallow nouveau-riche society at it’s worst.

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