James (Jacques Joseph) Tissot was a 19th century French painter and illustrator. Born in Nantes, France, Tissot’s parents both worked in the fashion industry. Around 1856, he moved to Paris to formally pursue art, enrolling at the École des Beaux-Arts and entering the studios of Hippolyte Flandrin and Louis Lamothe. It was here that Tissot became friends with fellow artists such as Degas, Manet and Whistler. In 1859, Tissot exhibited at the Paris Salon for the first time. He fought for France in the Franco-Prussian War, but left Paris in 1871. Tissot moved to London, where he became a highly successful genre painter. He also began to produce etchings at this time.
Though Degas invited Tissot to participate in the first exhibition of the Impressionists, he turned down the offer. He returned to Paris in the early 1880s, following the death of his companion, Kathleen Newton. In 1885, he showed 15 large paintings, all from the series La Femme à Paris. This major exhibition revealed the profound influence of Japanese art and aesthetics on Tissot. Following this exhibition, he turned to biblical subject matter. He traveled to the Middle East three times, moving towards realism in his watercolor studies of foreign people and places. In 1894, Tissot received the prestigious Légion d’honneur. He died in Doubs, France in 1902.
“What a strange thing! to be alive beneath cherry blossoms.” - Kobayashi Issa