James Tissot

Summer (‘Portrait’)

1876

In Tate Britain

Artist
James Tissot 1836–1902
Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 914 × 508 mm
frame: 1330 × 935 × 140 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Purchased 1927
Reference
N04271

Display caption

Tissot played on ambiguity in this painting. He invites the viewer to interpret it, like a problem picture. This genre of painting, with open-ended narratives, widely appealed to Victorians at the time. His model, Miss Lloyd, stands at the entrance of a billiards’ room, a space traditionally associated with men. She is either leaving or inviting someone in and her large engagement ring adds mystery as to who she is looking at. Tissot also made a print on the same subject called Portrait of Miss L… or ‘Il faut qu’une porte soit ouverte ou fermée (A Door Must Be Open or Closed). He moved to London from Paris in 1871 during the Franco-Prussian war and stayed until 1882.

Gallery label, November 2019

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Catalogue entry

James Tissot 1836-1902

N04271 A Portrait 1876

Inscribed 'J.J. Tissot | 1876' b.r.
Oil on canvas, 36 x 20 (91.5 x 51)
Purchased from Mrs Isa van Wisselingh (Clarke Fund) 1927
Prov: John Polson, Thornley and Tranent; sold by his executors at Christie's, London, 21 July 1911, lot 43 as 'An Afternoon Call'; bt. van Wisselingh, London, £44.2.0
Exh: Grosvenor Gallery, London, May-June 1877 (18) as 'A Portrait', lent by the artist; James Tissot (1836-1902), Graves Art Gallery, Sheffield, May-June 1955 (29); James Tissot, 1836-1902, Arts Council touring exhibition, July-November 1955 (21); England, her Friends and Visitors, National Book League, London, July 1956 (243); Victorian Paintings from the Tate Gallery, Public Library, Tunbridge Wells, July-August 1959 (47)
Repr: James Laver, Vulgar Society (London 1936), pl.13

This picture was formerly catalogued as 'The Visit' and was sold at Christie's in 1911 as 'An Afternoon Call', but seems to be the work exhibited at the Grosvenor Gallery in 1877 as 'A Portrait'. The Pall Mall Gazette, 15 May 1877, p.12, cites as representative of Tissot's strongly realistic pictures in this exhibition 'the figure of a young lady in front of a window (18)', while Tom Taylor in The Graphic, 12 May 1877, p.454, refers to what must by elimination be the same picture as 'a full-length of a lady in white coming in at a door'. (Actually she is not completely full-length but is cut off at the feet).

Tissot made a drypoint after it in 1876 which not only reverses the composition but shows the figure with a different face and hat. The print is reproduced and listed in J.J. Tissot: Eaux-fortes, Manière Noire, Pointes Sèches (Paris 1886), No.17, as 'Portrait of Miss L...' or 'Il faut qu'une porte soit ouverte ou fermée'. The latter title may have been suggested by Alfred de Musset's short play of the same name, written in 1845, though there is no direct connection between the play and the incident depicted in the picture and the print. The model for the print, who was not necessarily the same, was identified in the catalogue of the Tissot sale at the Hôtel Drouot, Paris, on 9-10 July 1903, lot 35 as Miss Lloyd.

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, p.720, reproduced p.720

Film and audio

  • Conserving Tissot's Portrait 1876

    Watch curator Caroline Corbeau-Parsons and painting conservator Rebecca Hellen discuss and conserve Tissot's Portrait 1876 in this Facebook Live recording

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