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Western art

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The Widower



James Tissot

France, England

15 Oct 1836 - 08 Aug 1902


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.




Media category


Materials used

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


Artist information

James Tissot

Works in the collection


Shown in 8 exhibitions

Exhibition history


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

Referenced in 19 publications


Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery of New South Wales picturebook, Sydney, 1972, 31 (colour illus.).

Sarah Couper, Look, ‘Studio visit – Inside the Blue Mountains studio of Gallery framer David Butler’, Sydney, Sep 2017-Oct 2017, pp 64–68: p 68.

Alfred de Lostalot, Society of French Aquarellists, Paris, 1883, 372 (illus.).

Renée Free, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'European', pg. 36-56, Sydney, 1988, 44, 48, 49 (colour illus.).

Renée Free, AGNSW Collections, 'The Western Heritage, Renaissance to Twentieth Century', pg. 108-172, Sydney, 1994, 137 (colour illus.).

Renée Free and Rose Peel, Dreams and realities: Victorian works on paper, Sydney, 1993, 4.

Renée Free, Art Gallery of New South Wales catalogue of British paintings, Sydney, 1987, 198 (illus.).

Bruce James, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Western Collection: Paintings and Sculpture', pg. 17-77, Sydney, 1999, 40 (colour illus.).

Anne Kirker and Peter Tomory, British painting 1800–1990 in Australian and New Zealand public collections, Sydney, 1997, 169. 2160

James Laver, Vulgar Society. The Romantic Career of James Tissot 1836-1902, London, 1936, 38.

Nancy Rose Marshall, James Tissot: Victorian Life / Modern Love, 'In the garden', pg. 105-119, New Haven, 1999, 112, 113 (colour illus.). 46

Angus Trumble (Curator), Love and Death: art in the age of Queen Victoria, Adelaide, 2001-2002, 132, 133 (colour illus.).

Michael Justin Wentworth, James Tissot, Oxford, 1984, 138-9. plate no. 122

Michael Justin Wentworth, James Tissot, Japan, 1988, 69. plate no. 29

Oscar Wilde., The University Magazine, Article written, Unknown, 1877, 126.

Christopher Wood, Tissot: the life and work of Jacques Joseph Tissot 1836-1902, London, 1986, 98, 100, 111.

Editor Unknown (Editor), The Times, 01 May 1877.

Victorian social conscience, Sydney, 1976. 62

Author Unknown, International Exhibition Glasgow, Glasgow, 1888, 130. 2247, as lent by John H. Downes