EN PLEIN SOLEIL

James Tissot
EN PLEIN SOLEIL
Etching & Drypoint
1881

An original James Tissot Etching & Drypoint print.

(In the Sunlight)

1881

Original etching and drypoint printed in black ink on laid paper bearing the “D & C Blauw” watermark.

Signed in the plate lower left J.J. Tissot.

A brilliant, richly inked and printed impression of the definitive state (in which the small black cat appears on the step in the background upper center) showing velvety burr throughout, from the edition of approximately 100. A plate from the album A Portfolio of Autograph Etchings, published by James R. Osgood and Company, Boston, 1881; printed by Goulding, London, 1881.

Catalog: Wentworth 54; Tissot 54; Beraldi 45.

7 13/16 x 11 5/8 inches

Sheet Size: 12 x 19 inches

Not without precedent in the artist’s graphic work, this etching was based on photography. Here Tissot created a composite from a number of separate photographs. Kathleen Newton, in fact, appears twice in the composition; in the foreground she is sitting by the closed parasol, together with her eldest child Violet (whose father had been Captain Palliser with whom she had her first affair precipitating the divorce from her husband, Dr. Issac Newton). She is seen again in the left background sitting on the low wall with her child Cecil (whose father may well have been Tissot). In the middle-ground under the open Japanese parasol lies Lilian Hervey, Kathleen’s sister’s daughter.

The title of this work underscores the importance of sunlight to Victorian city dwellers. The text accompanying Tissot’s etching when it was published explained that urban children in particular required this type of nourishment: “The sunshine is doubly prized, where cloud and smoke and fog have their own forbidding way for the best part of the year; especially do children love to bask in its warmth and light.” These children engage the viewer with their happy, candid glances, demonstrating carefree enjoyment of the secure, attractive garden space. Tissot may well have intended this work as an homage to James McNeill Whistler, a pioneer of the etching revival, who had portrayed a woman with a parasol in an etching also titled “En plein soleil” (Kennedy 15, 1858).

Nineteenth-century painters frequently used the garden as a space in which to explore their family relationships, using their spouses and children as models. Tissot’s intense interest in images of mothers and children in gardens (they dominated his output for four years) may have to do with the nostalgic association of gardens with childhood. As an expatriate, he was doubly removed from his own youth, by time and geography. His own mother had died when he was twenty-five, yet he apparently maintained a sentimental connection to her; one contemporary recorded that the first picture he exhibited was a portrait of his mother, which still hung in his studio in 1881. Thinking of his homeland and his mother, perhaps he made paintings of his own garden in compensation, portraying both the land of his adopted country and his new family, including a mother figure.

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