Several months ago, I wrote about an exhibit at the musée d’Orsay that married the paintings of the Impressionists with the fashions shown in them. It’s now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and I treated myself to a day in the Big Apple to see it during my Spring Break. Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity is on until May 27, 2013.
Of the over 80 canvases, the ones that made the biggest impression on me were those by James Tissot. Tissot was born in Nantes, France on October 15, 1836, but he spent much of his professional life in England. Both of his parents were involved in fashion; his father sold fabric and his mother designed hats. It’s easy to make the connection between his early exposure and his skill portraying the intricacies of 19th century clothing. While an art student in Paris, Tissot became friends with Whistler, Degas, and Manet. Tissot started off depicting medieval scenes, but he switched to portraits where he made his reputation.
After having fought in the Fraco-Prussian war and in the Paris Commune, Tissot abandoned Paris for France where he established himself as a painter of polite society. His friend Degas asked him to join the first Impressionist exhibit, but Tissot said non, merci, although he remained close to the artists from his student days. He returned to Paris in 1885 for a exhibit of 15 large canvases that showed women in a variety of contexts – shop girls as much as society ladies. The series was known as “La Femme à Paris” (lah fam ah paree), or “The Woman in Paris.”
In the last period of his professional career, Tissot changed styles yet again. A re-kindling of his faith led him to illustrate the Bible. His 365 illustrations of the life of Christ were published in one volume, bringing renown and great wealth to the artist. He died on August 8, 1902, prior to being able to complete a series of paintings from the Old Testament.
The Tissot paintings in this exhibit represent both the society paintings he did in England as well as some from La Femme à Paris. I loved the detail in these paintings. Even though the canvases typically featured several figures, the detail in each one, as well as the setting was just fascinating. I highly recommend that you see this exhibit if you can. After it’s done in New York, it will move to its final destination of Chicago.
Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity (Exhibition Catalogue)
- Fashion Meets Impressionism at the MET (luxlifebynyshoediva.com)
- “The Future of French Art”: Henri Regnault (1843-1871) (thehammocknovel.wordpress.com)
- How the Impressionists Dressed for Success (bigthink.com)
- Tissot’s last Salon: Paris, 1870 (thehammocknovel.wordpress.com)