An image of The Widower

James Tissot

(France, England 15 Oct 1836 – 08 Aug 1902)

The Widower

19th c European art
Further information

Though not without a mawkish quality, this atypical work by the French painter James Tissot bespeaks an essential sincerity. The identity of the father clinging so morosely to his child is not known. They may simply have been models. The setting, however, can be identified as the garden of Tissot's London residence in St John's Wood, a property that later passed to his colleague, the 'olympian' painter Alma-Tadema. 'The widower' has the moralising overtones of a Victorian problem picture, and it may be to the English taste for such images that Tissot was deliberately appealing. His liaison with a divorcee - a woman he frequently painted and clearly adored - placed him beyond the pale of conventional society, and beyond its patronage. It is almost tempting to see Tissot himself as the widower of the title, a man unhappily denied his mate. Technically, the work is an exercise in painterly probity: Tissot's rendering of vegetation, fabric and flesh is impressive.

AGNSW Handbook, 1999.

oil on canvas
116.3 x 75.5 cm sight; 154.5 x 104.0 x 10.0 cm frame
Signature & date

Signed and dated l.l., brown oil "JJ Tissot 1876".

Gift of Sir Colin and Lady Anderson 1939
Accession number
J.P. Davis, 1877
John H Downes, circa 1888, by 1888, lent by Downes to the 'International exhibition' Glasgow 1888
Sir Colin and Lady Morna Anderson, pre 1939, Gift of Sir Colin and Lady Anderson 1939