In his day, James Tissot’s prints were dismissed as “fashion plates”, but today they are studied for their keen insights into modern life in the late 1800s. They have been praised for their technical brilliance and for the subtlety and ambiguity of their themes.
The four seasons, personified by a series of images of women in costume, is a recurring theme in the history of art. With a modern twist on the theme, Tissot portrays a young woman in fashionable dress representing autumn, winter, spring and summer. Each etching shows Kathleen Newton, who became Tissot’s mistress and the subject and inspiration for many of his paintings and prints. In October, she wears a stylish black and silver coat, and turns coyly into the brightly lit chestnut leaves. She is also carrying a book, showing that she is educated and independent, and indicating that the role of women in French society was slowly changing.
This focused selection is drawn from the generous donation of 150 Tissot etchings and mezzotints gifted by Allan and Sondra Gotlieb in 1994 and 1995.
Allan Gotlieb (1928-2020) was an author, a visionary and a distinguished Canadian public servant. Mr. Gotlieb was also an avid print collector who, over a thirty-five year period, amassed a large group of prints by James Tissot. It is the largest public collection of the French artist’s prints outside the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, covering the full range of Tissot’s work.