Tissot occupies a unique and ambivalent position in 19th-century painting. Born a Frenchman, he sought fame in England, and after a brilliant career as a society painter he turned late in life to religion. He set his glittering and minutely detailed scenes in elegant London ballrooms and conservatories and peopled them with chic young women in ravishing costumes, while at the same time investing them with a note of brooding melancholy. This became overwhelming in his many portraits of his mistress Kathleen Newton, and intensely romantic figure whom Tissot loved and painted obsessively until her tragically early death. Then, after returning to France, he experienced a dramatic religious conversion and devoted the rest of his life to spiritualism and illustrating the Bible, which brought him even greater fame.
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James Tissot's paintings of pretty, elegant women may seem the epitome of Victorian aristocratic life. But as this lavish monograph points out, he mostly portrayed the newly rich middle classes, not the aristocracy, and his pictures reflected their insecurities as well as their need to be flattered. Dismissed today by most critics as superficial and trite, his paintings nevertheless enjoy considerable popularity both for their period charm and their detailed mirroring of a society. London art dealer Wood, author of three books on Victorian painting, offers a wide-angled view: the painter's youthful medieval craze and his late religious canvases triggered by the death of his mistress get their full due, even though the latter look hopelessly stagey. Tissot's love scenes are mysterious dramas pregnant with emotion, and his pictures of shopgirls and circus performers have the offhand quality of works by his friends Degas and Manet.
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Book Description Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1988. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P110297794752