Lot 108
  • 108

James-Jacques-Joseph Tissot

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  • James Jacques Joseph Tissot
  • Visiteurs étrangers au Louvre

  • signed J. J. Tissot (lower left); old label with artist's name and address on panel reverse
  • oil on panel
  • 14 1/4 by 10 3/8 in.
  • 36.3 by 26.4cm


Collection H. Stewart Black, England
Richard Green Gallery, London
H. Shickman Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above by the family of the present owner (circa 1975)


Michael Wentworth, James Tissot, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1984, no. 195, listed p. xxii, discussed p. 163, illustrated pl. 195
James Tissot, exh. cat., London, Barbican Art Gallery and Paris, Musée du Petit Palais, 1985, p. 207
Christopher Wood, Tissot: The Life and Work of Jacques Joseph Tissot, Boston: Little, Brown & Company, 1986, illustrated p. 141
Katharine Lochman, ed., Seductive Surfaces: The Art of Tissot, New Haven, Yale University Press, 1999, illustrated p. 27

Catalogue Note

Foreign Visitors to the Louvre is based on a trip that Tissot made to Paris with Kathleen Newton in 1879.  Most likely painted during the following year in London,  Tissot portrays six visitors marveling at the splendor of their surroundings in the Salle d’August at the Louvre.   It forms part of a series of Tissot’s paintings and watercolors from the early to mid-1880s, which all depict interior scenes – both empty and populated – in the Louvre (see James Tissot, exhibition catalogue,  Musée du Petit Palais, Paris, 1985, nos. 107-108).  This theme reached its culmination in L’Esthétique, the most ambitious painting in the series, where a man and woman are seated (almost hidden) behind a large antique vessel (Ponce Art Museum, Wentworth, no. 193).   This subject also appealed to other contemporary artists, most notably Edgar Degas, who depicted Mary Cassatt at the Louvre, as well as to the lesser known French artist, Louis Béroud, whose trademark subject was almost always the interior of the Louvre (see lot 106).

Tissot’s preliminary idea for the 1880s Louvre series and the present painting may be traced to his 1874 London Visitors (Toledo Museum of Art, Wentworth, no. 106), where the setting was the portico of London’s National Gallery.  Here, Tissot depicted a group of five visitors contemplating the next stop on their tour.  As in Foreign Visitors, the central female figure stares at the viewer, while the gentleman studies his guidebook.  In addition, both works are characterized by a monochromatic palette with a strategic use of white.  The overall brown tonality of  Foreign Visitors to the Louvre is highlighted by dabs of white paint for the pages of the guidebook, shoes, collars, cuffs and surface reflections.  Here, Tissot turns anecdote into artistic innovation.  Human form and inanimate marble stand side by side in an almost Pygmalion juxtaposition.  The figures gaze upward, almost exaggerated in their poses, while the central figure, Kathleen Newton, stares directly at the viewer, beckoning us to join this inquisitive group of tourists.  As Malcolm Warner has commented, “With Tissot…there is always an element of ambiguity, a tease.  He delights in giving us hints towards some story line that might be unfolding in his pictures, but prefers to leave the possibilities open and tantalizing” (M. Warner, James Tissot: Victorian Life/Modern Love,  New Haven, 1999, p. 16).  In this respect, Tissot may be compared to the American writer, Henry James and Foreign Visitors to the Louvre to one of James’s enigmatic stories of displaced individuals.