James Tissot



In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
James Tissot 1836–1902
Ink on paper
Support: 251 × 352 mm
Bequeathed by J.R. Holliday 1927

Display caption

This pen-and-ink drawing shows a room overlooking the seaside town of Ramsgate. The beach and harbour were popular subjects for 19th-century artists, but Tissot’s unusual interior view shows only a glimpse of boats. He uses the linear medium to weave a pattern of masts, architecture and furniture.

Resorts like Ramsgate were often settings for modern-life novels and plays such as those of Wilkie Collins. The empty room suggests absence and events past or yet to come. Tissot added figures to the scene in three other versions of this composition.

Gallery label, October 2013

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Catalogue entry

James Tissot 1836-1902

N04295 Ramsgate c.1876

Not inscribed
Pen and ink on blue-grey paper, 9 3/4 x 13 7/8 (24.7 x 35) Bequeathed by J.R. Holliday 1927
Prov: [? Charles Fairfax Murray, London]; J.R. Holliday, Birmingham
Lit: Michael Justin Wentworth, James Tissot: Catalogue Raisonné of his Prints (exh. catalogue Minneapolis Institute of Arts, May-July 1978), p.106, repr. pl.22a

This appears to be a study for a drypoint called 'Ramsgate' (J.J. Tissot: Eaux-fortes, Manière Noire, Pointes Sèches, Paris 1886, No.16 repr.), which is dated on the plate 1876 and which shows the same composition in reverse, but with the addition of three figures: a woman seated in the chair in the foreground; a man behind her on the left (right in the drawing), seated between the table and the curtain; and a girl on the right (the drawing's left), standing behind the chair, with her hands resting on the window and turning to look towards the older woman. (Tissot's early drypoints, such as this one and the one made from N04271 , were copied directly from the drawings or paintings on which they were based and were then reversed in the printing, whereas the later drypoints, such as the one made from N05302, were drawn in reverse and therefore came out the same way round). Apart from including the figures and having several very minor differences, such as a slightly more substantial chair of the same type in the foreground and one of the books rather differently placed on the table, the drypoint follows the drawing very closely. They are also the same size.

Although there seems to be no painting which corresponds exactly with this drypoint, there are two which show the same room from more or less the same viewpoint (and the same way round as the drawing), but with different figures and various other changes. The earlier of these, probably done soon after the drawing and the drypoint, is 'A Passing Storm', 76 x 101.5cm, now in the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, Fredericton, Canada. This includes a girl reclining in the chair on the right and a young man standing outside the room on the balcony (with the implication that a quarrel has just taken place between them), and also has a number of minor differences, such as a silver tray with coffee things on the circular table, a different type of chair on the left, books differently arranged on the table on the right, and so on. The other painting, 'Room overlooking the Harbour', is much smaller, 25.5 x 33cm that is to say more or less the same size as this drawing and the drypoint. Instead of the circular table, it has a long rectangular table laid for a meal, with an elderly man seated at the left reading a newspaper and a young woman seated in an upright chair at the right. It is dated by James Laver c.1881, presumably on the basis of the woman's dress and hair style.

The site is apparently a house in Goldsmid Place (now Harbour Parade) in Ramsgate.

Published in:
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, pp.720-1, reproduced p.720

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