Phillip Medhurst presents 392/392 the James Tissot Jesus c 1896 Self Portrait of the Pilgrim

By (James) Jacques-Joseph Tissot, French, 1836-1902. Opaque watercolour over graphite on grey wove paper. 23 x 14.3 cms. Brooklyn Museum New York.

In 1900, the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences decided to purchase Tissot’s “Life of Christ” series for $60,000, which was raised by public subscription. Since the 1930s, in part because of conservation concerns, they have been shown only rarely and in small exhibitions, most recently from late 1989 to early 1990.

By (James) Jacques-Joseph Tissot, French, 1836-1902. Lithograph from “La Vie de Notre Seigneur Jésus Christ” after a painting now in the Brooklyn Museum, New York.

The prints are from “La Vie de Notre Seigneur Jésus Christ: trois cent soixante-cinq compositions, tirées des Quatre Evangiles avec des notes et des dessins explicatifs par J. James Tissot” 4 vols. Illustrations by James Tissot. Publisher: Tours: Alfred Mame et Fils, 1896-97. Folio. 279 pages (text) with 36 plates and an additional suite of 333 in-text plates. 5 sections (The Holy Childhood, The Ministry, Holy Week, The Passion, The Resurrection) containing 365 compositions from the four gospels. The numerous in-text illustrations are in full color, sepia, and monochrome. The text volumes are printed on grand velin paper with 36 tissue-guarded full-page hors-text plates in duplicate (color and green or sepia-tone lithographs). Paper size 15 3/4 x 12 3/4 inches; image size varies (ca 9 1/2 x 6 1/2 inches). 

In America the publisher was Doubleday & McClure Co. who produced 100 “Grand Luxe” copies and 600 “Autograph Edition” copies containing extra features and marketed in conjunction with exhibitions of Tissot’s Bible illustrations in America. “The Life of Our Saviour Jesus Christ. Three Hundred and Sixty-Five Compositions From the Four Gospels with Notes and Explanatory Drawings by J James Tissot.” Notes Translated by Mrs. Arthur Bell. New York: The McClure-Tissot Company, 1899.

The work was printed in France by Lemercier, who employed some 100 workmen to prepare 4000 plates for various colours and processes – lithograph, photogravure, typographer,  wood engraving etc. Tissot himself supervised the preparation of the plates and later the printing of the volumes; they may therefore be said to embody the artist’s intention in the medium of print as well as paint.


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