James Tissot The Gallery of HMS Calcutta (Portsmouth) c.1876

Artwork details

James Tissot 1836–1902
The Gallery of HMS Calcutta (Portsmouth)
Date c.1876
Medium Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions Support: 686 x 918 mm
frame: 866 x 1095 x 108 mm
Acquisition Presented by Samuel Courtauld 1936

Display caption

Tissot often painted a man with two women in order to explore the subtle nuances of flirtation and attraction through body language and facial expression. Here a chaperone separates the young naval officer from the object of his attentions, the woman hiding her enjoyment of his flirtation behind her fan. Tissot focuses here on the boundaries of Victorian propriety and social convention, and their transgression. The languid pose of the nearest woman, and Tissot’s frank concentration on her fashionable hour-glass figure, inevitably led to the picture being criticised when it was first exhibited. The author Henry James dismissed it as ‘hard, vulgar and banal’.

August 2004

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