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Monday, January 9, 2012

Tissot’s frank concentration on her fashionable hour-glass figure, inevitably led to the picture being criticized.

James Tissot  1836-1902 

James Tissot The Gallery of HMS Calcutta (Portsmouth) circa 1876
The Gallery of HMS Calcutta (Portsmouth) circa 1876

Oil on canvas
support: 686 x 918 mm frame: 866 x 1095 x 108 mm
painting

Presented by Samuel Courtauld 1936

N04847
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'.
 (From the display caption August 2004)

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