James Tissot (1836–1902): Waiting ( In the Shallows), 1873

James Tissot (1836–1902): Waiting ( In the Shallows), 1873

4/24/2021, 3:19:24 PM
James Tissot (1836–1902): Waiting ( In the Shallows), 1873, oil on canvas, 55.9 x 78.8 cm., Private Collection The French artist James Tissot had found fame in Europe and America during the 1860s with medieval-dress pictures that echoed early Pre-Raphaelite concerns, and modern-dress images of contemporary women and fashionable daily life. Painted at the height of Tissot’s early London success, 'Waiting' combines a number of the artist’s favourite elements – a boat on shimmering water, autumnal chestnut leaves, a pug dog, and a young woman in beautifully detailed fashionable dress – with the enigmatic hints of narrative clues that have made Tissot a favourite with audiences worldwide. As described by the Graphic’s art critic when the painting was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1874, Waiting ‘contains one figure only – a young lady seated in a pleasure-boat: the first, probably, of a pair of lovers to arrive at the place of assignation.’ But look closely and you will see that the story is not quite so simple. The boat is angled so that the viewer is placed within the craft itself, at the opposite end to the young woman. She looks away and only the dog looks directly at the viewer. The young woman’s gaze is directed up and right, as if to someone standing on the right of the viewer. Her facial expression is uncertain and hard to determine. A glove has been removed from her right hand, revealing pale slim fingers bare of any rings. The single right glove lies on the thwart and gapes open towards the right, on a blue-spotted and striped white towel. Has the suitor removed the young woman’s glove in preparation for a proposal, or is it she who has removed a glove in expectation, or even ‘thrown down the gauntlet’ in challenge? Are we, the viewers, in the position of a friend or chaperone? Should we be encouraging or dissuading a proposal? The dog’s expression is wary and its stance protective. Autumnal leaves suggest a chapter is coming to an end, but the path opening through trees on the right could signify a new direction. The ambiguity of clues in the painting fires viewers’ imaginations. (Christie's)

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