JAMES JOSEPH TISSOT (1836-1902)
Departure Platform, Victoria Station (France, c.1881 - 1882)
Oil on panel
Signed and indistinctly dated on reverse of the panel
(23.03 inches high)
(12.01 inches wide)
Thomas Agnew and Sons, London
Wentworth, Michael, James Tissot: Catalogue Raisonné of his Prints, 1978, p.239, no.55c
Wentworth, Michael, James Tissot, 1984, p.132, pl. 150 (under the title Cabstand (Victoria Station))
Graves Art Gallery, Sheffield, James Tissot: An Exhibition of Paintings, Drawings and Etchings, 1955. (labels attached);
Leicester Galleries, London, Exhibition of Works by James Tissot, 1957 (label attached)
Description / Expertise
Michael Wentworth has pointed out that this is a first idea for a lost painting entitled By Land, of which a watercolour replica is known. Considerable variations occur between the present oil sketch and the watercolour replica; only the setting of the railway station with its glazed roof, iron columns and gas lamps, is the same. The action in the two paintings is also quite different – in the present oil sketch the girl in the foreground is climbing into a handsome cab whereas in the watercolour replica she stands impassively while her companion summons a cab. The subject By Land was paired with another entitled By Water; the two finished pictures were exhibited together at the Dudley Gallery in 1882. This companion piece is known from a watercolour replica now called Waiting at Dockside, (Owen Edgar Gallery, London). The female model in each of the watercolour replicas, and presumably therefore in the present oil sketch, is Kathleen Newton. Michael Wentworth has dated the present work to c. 1881-2.
This painting is one of many Victorian representations of the theme of travel. Railways had come to play an important role in contemporary life and therefore it was quite natural that any artist who sought to paint subjects of modern life should paint scenes set in railway stations or on board trains. Tissot was necessarily familiar with Frith’s painting The Railway Station , which had proved massively popular when it was first exhibited in 1862, and, although his railway station is in a very different spirit to that of Frith, it has more in common with the English prototype than with say Monet’s paintings of the interior of the Gare St. Lazare.
The anecdotal content of Frith’s painting has been abandoned here in favour of a mood which reminds one of the anxieties and excitements connected with departure and arrival. These sentiments wee particularly poignant to Tissot who painted a series of travel subjects while he was in England; trains had featured once previously, in Waiting for the Train (Willesden Junction) ; Waiting for the Ferry is a subject he treated three times; Goodbye, On the Mersey and Emigrants both deal with more distant journeys. This whole group of paintings may have its origin in Tissot’s experience of being forced to escape the Commune and the insecurity, which this caused him. Victoria Station was after all the first London landmark in which he set foot on his arrival in the city in 1871 and the present picture may be seen as a nostalgic memory of a place to which he had come in search of refuge. In any case he was tragically to make his departure from this point again very soon after the present sketch was painted and when the model for the painting was dead.