Saturday, 13 April 2013

The other Tissot

Every Lent our local Council of Churches - Churches Together in Llanishen and District - organizes discussion groups. This year they were particularly popular, drawing over 60 people. The sharing each week was inspired by several works of art depicting scriptural themes. Then after Easter a get-together/reflection/thanksgiving is held, and this year it was the turn of Christ the King to host this, so I went along on Tuesday.
As well as several works that I knew, there were plenty that were unknown to me, and among them was one called "Crucifixion : the View from the Cross" by a painter new to me, James Tissot. As its name suggests, this painting attempts to depict what Jesus may have seen on Good Friday afternoon. In a way it connects with Dali's famous Crucifixion, itself based on that dawn by St John of the Cross (left), both showing the Cross from above.
Tissot (nothing to do with watches!) turns out to be an interesting chap. Born in Nantes in 1836 he mixed with Delaunay, Whistler, Degas and Manet. Later he moved to London for over 10 years, returning to Paris in 1882. In 1885 he seems to have experienced some kind of re-conversion to Catholicism, and devoted the rest of his painting career to religious, and in particular scriptural scenes, completing about 350 works before his death in 1902. Most are in the Museum in Brooklyn, and many are online at While some critics are sceptical about this re-conversion, as it was fashionable at the time, the works seem very sincere, and this "Crucifixion" has become the best known.

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