There are several different genres to be found in Tissot's paintings - besides the scenes of Victorian life, he also spent time on religious topics. The latter have helped to keep his reputation prominently in the art world as Christians continue to discover some of the highlights of his career. Initial inspection of his career will inevitably draw comparisons with the likes of Degas and Monet and he knew both very well. Tissot also took on Japanese themes over an extended period which again added an extra dimension to his style and variety of oeuvre. At this period in European art, there was considerable influence from the Far East, which originally came from imported wood block prints, with many of its finest exponents now having become household names within Western society.
Tissot held a wide variety of artistic skills, going way beyond just the oil paintings that he is most famous for. His time in the UK would bring about new influences and from here he would start to work with watercolours as well as etching. His talents as a draughtsman were there from the very start and integral to all his work in other mediums. The artist arrived in London in 1871 and quickly set himself up with a house in St John's Wood, in the north of the city. He built up a strong series of connections that helped him to promote his work in his newly adopted country, just as he had done earlier in Paris. Even the finest artists require the right avenue to promote their work, be it through a high profile dealer or even from the high profile individuals that they portray.
Whilst rejecting the opportunity to exhibit work with the Impressionists, Tissot was closely connected with several members of the group. Even his move to London did not end these friendships, with regular meetings between himself and several members of the group occuring over an extended period. For example, Berthe Morisot visited him in 1874 and he also met up with Edouard Manet and James Whistler at other times. His style was ideally suited to joining them more officially but his fierce independance stopped that from happening. Tissot's paintings continue to be much admired today but perhaps his reputation would have been even more prominent had he made the decision to join forces with the likes of Monet, Cassatt, Degas and Caillebotte. Many of the finest artists have been stoic in their desire to work and exhibit entirely by themselves, unwilling to allow any form of compromise or influence upon the very personal artworks that they unveil under their own signature.
The latter period of his career offered up a sudden movement into the genre of religious painting. This was a surprise as his Catholic faith had not been seen prominently within his career before. Some suggested that the strengthening of his own faith was timed to coincide with the fashion within France and that he was seeking to take advantage of this. Others viewed it as a personal development that he wanted to reflect in his work. Tissot was moving in different directions at this time to most prominent French artists, seeking a greater level of realism, whilst others were starting to experiment with pointilism for the first time as well as further developing the idea of just what Impressionism meant. Tissot was also making use of watercolour in many of his paintings at this time, having previously worked in oils much more. He was now about as far from his Impressionist friends, stylistically, as he ever would be.
Paintings of Victorian Life by James Tissot
Religious Paintings by James Tissot