|Biography from South Coast Fine Art:|
|Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data
compared to the extensive information about American artists.|
James Tissot is famous for his exquisite paintings of beautiful English
women and most people think he was English. In fact
Jacques-Joseph Tissot was born in Nantes, then a thriving port on the
Loire estuary in western France. He adopted the name James as an
Anglicised form when living in England.
His friends were Manet
and Degas, with whom he shared a teacher in the painting school in
Paris. Not a lot is known of his personal life except that around
1876 a mysterious attractive lady begins to appear in his
pictures. Her identity remained a mystery until well into this
century. Her name was Kathleen Newton, née Kelly. Her
father, an Irish army officer, arranged the marriage of his
convent-educated daughter when she was only 17, sending her off to
India to marry a certain Isaac Newton, a surgeon in the Indian Civil
Service. On the ship, however, she fell in love with a Captain
Palliser, but only confessed this to Newton after their wedding on 3rd
of January 1871. Newton's response was to divorce her immediately.
was granted on the 20th December the same year. Kathleen had
returned to England by then and on the same day gave birth to her
daughter by Captain Palliser. We do not know exactly when or
where Tissot met and fell in love with her, but we do know that in
March 1871 she gave birth to another child, believed to be Tissot's
son. This of course was regarded as scandalous behavior in those
days and was kept secret by Kathleen's family until quite recently.
1876 Kathleen Newton and her two children moved into Tissot's house and
remained there until her death from consumption in 1882. She was
only 28. For Tissot, the time spent with Kathleen was the
happiest period in his life, and one which he was to look back on
longingly for the rest of his days.
Finding the thought of life
in London intolerable without her, he decided to leave at once.
Within only five days of her death, he abandoned the house, leaving his
paints, brushes and some unfinished canvases behind him, and returned
to Paris. Later he sold the house to his friend Alma-Tadema.
carried on painting the fashionable society for three years after
arriving in Paris, but from 1885 until his death in 1902, he became
very religious and spent the last 17 years living as a recluse painting
During his eleven years in London, Tissot
enjoyed great artistic and financial success and produced most of his
finest work. Unlike some of the artists whose talents are only
appreciated after their death, Tissot's pictures were loved and bought
by his contemporaries and sold for very high prices.
success in England, however, the French persisted in regarding him as a
minor artist and dismissed his work as being "too English"! And
curiously, he is one of the few painters who has not "gone out of
fashion". He appeals to us today as much as he did to the people
who saw his pictures at his first exhibitions.
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