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James Jacques Joseph Tissot
Jacques Joseph Tissot was born in 1836 in Nantes, France into the family of a merchant. In 1856-57 he came to Paris with the desire to become a painter. He entered the Academy of Fine Arts (Ecole des Beaux-Arts) and studied in the studios of Ingres and Flandrin. Much of his education, though, Tissot received informally, through friends and acquaintances among avant-garde artists and writers. Among his influential contacts were Edouard Manet, Edgar Degas, and James McNeill Whistler. The latter evidently had a strong impression on the young artist. Shortly after meeting Whistler Tissot anglicized his first name to "James". He was a close friend of Degas; Degas painted an interesting portrait of Tissot. But they later quarreled, and Tissot refused to participate in the Impressionists exhibitions. Tissot achieved official recognition for his work rather quickly. First he painted historical costume pieces, but in 1864 he turned to scenes of contemporary life, usually with attractive, stylish women. Both the subject and Tissot’s manner of painting found success with collectors. In 1870, the Franco-Prussian war started, followed by the civil war. The government severely suppressed the rising, killing nearly twenty thousand Commune members in the streets of Paris. James Tissot, a Commune sympathizer, had to leave the country to escape imprisonment. He took refuge in London, where he lived from 1871 to 1882. In England he painted portraits and proceeded with his favorite subject – scenes from the life of society. He quickly adapted to English tastes, and soon gained a high reputation among the social elite. “It's ironical that the greatest painter of social life in Victorian times was not English, but French – Jacques Joseph Tissot, or James Tissot, as he liked to be known. …During the brief eleven years that he worked in England, he achieved both artistic and financial success, painting what are now recognized as his best pictures. No English artist could equal Tissot’s brilliant technique, or his combination of style, elegance and wit, and all his pictures were instantly successful.” Despite the success, Tissot was attacked by many critics, including Oscar Wilde, Henry James and Ruskin, who saw in his paintings color photographs of the vulgar nouveaux riches. This contemptuous appraisal did not stop his paintings from selling. About 1876, Tissot met Mrs. Kathleen Newton, a beautiful Irish divorcée, who became his model and mistress. He immortalized her in his paintings Quiet, Chrysanthemums and many others. After her death of tuberculosis, in 1882, he returned to France. He was no longer interested in painting ‘society.’ He visited the Holy Land in 1886-1887 and made hundreds of watercolor paintings illustrating the Bible. His watercolors on the New Testament were called “a revolution in religious art”. His works are included in such museums as the Metrolpolitan Museum of Art, New York, and the Louvre, Paris. Tissot died on August 3, 1902.