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Currently shown
James Tissot

October

Artist

James Tissot
Nantes 1836 – Buillon, France, 1902

Title

October

Date

1877

Materials

Oil on canvas

Dimensions

216.5 x 108.7 cm

Credits

Gift of Lord Strathcona and family, inv. 1927.410

Collection

Western Art

Mrs. Newton was twenty-two years old, the mother of two illegitimate children; when Tissot met her, she was also a beautiful divorcee. Theirs would have been a perfect happiness had tuberculosis not claimed the life of the painter’s graceful and notorious muse, leaving him inconsolable—shades of the Romantic heroines of her day, like Marguerite Gautier of Dumas fils’s Dame aux camélias and Violetta of Verdi’s La Traviata. Comedy of manners, this tableau of social behaviour and fleeting fashion, that is captured in October, one of the finest and largest of the artist’s works. Elegantly corseted, Mrs. Newton turns towards the viewer, a touch flirtatiously, showing a well-turned ankle in the rustle of lace petticoats, her boot treading a carpet of autumn leaves. Dressed in black in this season of decline, she shines with the glow of her last fire. Signs of the Japanist style here are the verticality inspired by kakemono scrolls and the tumultuous background of chestnut trees, through whose leaves and branches can just be made out a small group of deer.

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