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Embarkation at Calais

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James Joseph Jacques Tissot
Nantes 1836 - Nantes 1902
oil on canvas
146.5 x 102 x 1.7 cm
Inventory number 1406

French artist James Tissot produced this Embarkation at Calais as part of L'étrangère, an unfinished series of paintings which is in turn part of a cycle he called La femme à Paris. It was a kind of 'graphic narrative' about the spirit and the charm of Parisian women from a variety of milieus and represented in diverse situations and poses. Tissot painted not only women from the high society, but also shop assistants and circus acrobats. All had one thing in common: they were caught in the maelstrom of life in the city of light.
In this particular painting, an elegant woman crosses the gangway of a ship. Her clothes reflect the fashion of the day. The sailors and labourers cannot keep their eyes off her, while she stares expressionlessly ahead.

Immortal muse

In 1871, Tissot participated actively in the Paris Commune, a revolutionary government that briefly ruled the French capital. After the fall of the Commune, he emigrated to London, where he became acquainted with Kathleen Newton. She became his muse and would stand model for most of his paintings. After her death in 1882, Tissot returned to Paris a broken man. He continued to paint his muse from photographs. The attractive female figure in this painting is also recognisable as Newton.

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