James Tissot (French, 1836-1902). Jesus Goes Up Alone onto a Mountain to Pray (Jésus monte seul sur une montagne pour prier), 1886-1894. Opaque watercolor over graphite on gray wove paper, Image: 11 3/8 x 6 1/4 in. (28.9 x 15.9 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Purchased by public subscription, 00.159.137
Last night my father-in-law took us down to the BYU Museum of Art for the final night of an exhibition of paintings by James Tissot. I was unfamiliar with Tissot and did not know what to expect other than a reference to religious art, but I’m always willing to go to museums and galleries and look at art, so I gladly went. We descended to a downstairs gallery filled with over one hundred small, meticulous watercolors that took the viewer through the life of Christ, from Annunciation to Resurrection. They were all from Tissot’s massive undertaking The Life of Our Lord Jesus Christ, on loan from the Brooklyn Museum. There was a particularly reverent, church-like atmosphere to the gallery; Tissot was so interested in depicting events directly from scripture that looking at each painting and reading the captions became almost like reading the scriptural accounts. As I embark on teaching a church primary class on the New Testament to 10-11 year old boys this year, it was a nice way to overview these sacred events.
Tissot was apparently a society painter in London and then Paris, until at some point while painting in a church he had a mystical, revelatory experience in which he saw Christ in vision. As a result he became a reformed Catholic and he devoted his artistic work to painting the life of Christ and the events of the New Testament. He traveled extensively in the Middle East to study and sketch the cities, landscapes, and people. His goal was to make more culturally, geographically, and scripturally accurate representations of the subject of Jesus Christ than many artists had undertaken up to that point. He described his artistic process as something that bordered on revelation, but nevertheless each picture is studied and meticulous, with incredible attention to craft and detail. The painting above is just one of over 350 images of the New Testament that Tissot rendered, and I particularly liked it. These paintings are all held by the Brooklyn Museum, and digital images and information can be found in their archives.
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This post commences a new feature here, the Froz-T-Freez Art Gallery, in which I will simply post pieces of art I like. In some instances, as in this post, I will also take the opportunity to speak ignorantly about art or whatever else I want for a paragraph or two.