The Captain and the Mate 1873 The Gallery at the H.M.S. Calcutta 1877
James Tissot 1836-1902 Jacques-Joseph (a.k.a James) Tissot was born in 1836, in Nantes, France - a seaport on the French coast. Throughout his life Tissot retained an affinity and fascination with all things nautical, and his marked ability to accurately paint rigging and shipboard scene paintings must have come from his boyhood. Tissot was the son of a very prosperous, successful shopkeeper, who was a devout Roman Catholic. Unsurprisingly the young Tissot was sent away to a boarding school run by Jesuits. Tissot senior seems to have been unenthusiastic about the prospect of his son becoming an artist, but eventually accepted the inevitability of his son's artistic pretensions forming the basis of his career. Tissot studied art at Beaux-Arts in Paris and following the French defeat in the Franco-Prussian War, he decided to move to London. This move must have caused problems in his life, and the painter needed to earn some money quickly. Tissot started to paint accomplished highly finished paintings of London society and social events. These paintings were an instant success with the art viewing and buying public, but not with the critics. His main criticisms of the time were that the paintings were really only painted photographs. There is some truth in this, though the paintings show dazzling technique, and a dash of Gallic wit and sophistication, the home grown English artists were quite unable to match. An attraction for Tissot was also the Port of London, and the river Thames. His paintings with the river as the background have an evocative atmosphere. One can almost smell the smoke, and hear the shouts of the dockers and watermen. In 1882 Tissot moved back to Paris. Initially he carried on painting society and genre pictures in Paris, but soon gave this up, devoting the rest of his life to painting religious scenes. He visited the Middle- East twice to find genuine backgrounds for his religious paintings.