James (Jacques) Joseph Tissot (1836-1902)
James (Jacques) Joseph Tissot (1836-1902)

By Water (Waiting at a Dockside), London

James (Jacques) Joseph Tissot (1836-1902)
By Water (Waiting at a Dockside), London
signed with initials 'J.J. Tissot' (lower left, on a barrel) and signed twice with monogram (upper right, on crates)
pencil and watercolour heightened with touches of bodycolour on paper
19 ¾ x 10 ¼ in. (50 x 26 cm.)
with Leicester Galleries, London.
N. Ronald.
Anonymous sale; Sotheby’s, London, 16 November 1976, lot 251.
with Christopher Wood, London.
with Owen Edgar Gallery, London.
M. Wentworth, James Tissot, Oxford, 1984, pp. 132, 159, 204, pl. 149.
K. Matyjaszkiewicz (ed.), James Tissot, Oxford, 1984, p. 128, no. 138, illustrated.
Musée du Petit Palais, Paris, James Tissot 1836-1902, Paris, 1985, no. 128, illustrated.
Paris, Palais de l’Industrie, Exposition des oeuvres de M. J. –J. Tissot organisée par L’Union centrale des arts décoratifs, March 1883, no. 23, as Un Quai d’embarquement à Londres (aquarelle) [An Embarkation Quay in London (watercolour)].
London, Barbican Art Gallery, and Manchester, Whitworth Art Gallery, James Tissot, November 1984–March 1985, no. 138, lent by Owen Edgar Gallery.
Paris, Musée du Petit Palais, James Tissot 1836-1902, April-June 1985, no. 128, lent by Owen Edgar Gallery.

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Lot Essay

Departures, arrivals, waiting for ferries or sitting on board ship were favourite subjects of James Tissot. He was born in the busy Atlantic-port city of Nantes, at the mouth of the river Loire in north-west France, and developed a love of maritime travel, as well as a deep understanding of ships based on close observation. Tissot travelled frequently between France and England from his student years onwards, becoming sufficiently expert on routes and sights for fellow artists, such as Edgar Degas and Berthe Morisot, to seek his advice. His preferred cross-Channel route was by ferry direct to or from London via the Thames and Kent coast. While living in London from 1871 to 1882, Tissot travelled also by sea when visiting cities in northern England and Scotland, such as Liverpool and Glasgow. Travel by regularly-scheduled coastal steamers could be easier than by rail and was more convenient when taking large pieces of luggage like the trunk in this watercolour. Titled (in French) ‘An Embarkation Quay in London’ when it was shown at Tissot’s 1883 Paris one-man exhibition, the watercolour depicts a crowded Thames scene, with freight being loaded onto two quayside steamers, each belching black smoke, while two passengers and their baggage await boarding.

In the distance we can see the grey mass of the opposite Thames bank, with shipping on the pale greenish river waters. Sailors are busy loading freight onto the quayside steamers. A white-bearded mariner and colleague look towards the two travellers, whose stillness contrasts with the activity around them. To their left a young porter puts down a large black Gladstone bag while saluting with his free left hand someone outside the picture to our right, towards whom the lady passenger looks. She is warmly dressed in a caped greatcoat and black hat, scarf and gloves, with a red plaid shawl on her lap. Her male companion wears a thick overcoat, buttoned up over a muffler, and is gloved and hatted. He carries a fur rug over his arm, ready to cover their laps on board ship, and an umbrella to shield them from sea-spray. A brown portmanteau and lighter suitcase await loading with the trunk that provides a useful seat while they wait.

Tissot titled the untraced oil version of this watercolour By Water when it was shown in his 1882 one-man exhibition at the Dudley Gallery in London. Its companion piece, By Land (oil untraced, watercolour version sold in these Rooms, 10 June 1999, lot 3), is set in Victoria Station and depicts travel by rail. Both feature the lady in caped greatcoat, modelled by Tissot’s great love, Mrs Kathleen Newton. A grisaille oil study of her for By Water is in the National Trust collection at Wimpole Hall, Cambridgeshire. Watercolour versions of oil paintings were often made by Tissot to meet demand from exhibition organisers and buyers.

We are grateful to Krystyna Matyjaszkiewicz for her assistance in preparing this catalogue entry.

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