Saturday, November 6, 2010

Saturday Salon: A Favorite Painting

An amateur's evaluation, without a doubt. But that's how I view art, with an amateur eye and a feeling in the gut that springs to attention when I view something extraordinary. Some might say that art appreciation is not for amateurs, but I say: why not?

Art is subjective, no question. But still, I present one of my very favorite paintings by one of my very favorite artists, the Frenchman, J.J.J. Tissot. (1836-1902) A painting that strikes me as containing all that is/was right and wrong about the Brits in their empirical phase. (Note the gilded ceremonial warrior accoutrement to the right, sitting incongruously on the sofa. The large map on the wall.) This is a painting of a subject at once preposterous and noble. Relaxing, perhaps before battle, here is Colonel Frederick Gustavus Burnaby (1842-1885), English traveller, journalist, author, soldier and adventurer. Please note the wonderful length of leg (the Colonel was 6'4" in life), the red stripe which practically takes over the canvas, the poised arm brandishing a cigarette, the Poirot mustache, probably waxed, the slightly supercilious, inordinately confident face - a face that I happen to like very much.

Burnaby was a likeable man, from what I've read of him and an extraordinarily brave one. He met his fate at the Battle of Abu Klea in the Sudan against the Mahdi's followers, overwhelmed and killed in hand-to-hand fighting.

To my mind, there is a certain fondness for the subject in this painting. Tissot glamorizes Burnaby, showcases him in all his glory. Looking back, because of how Burnaby died, there is also a touching aspect to this portrait that might not seem as pronounced otherwise.

There are several paintings by Tissot that I am fond of, but I believe this is my favorite.

Read more about Burnaby here.
See more of artist, J.J.J. Tissot's work, here.


  1. Not an artist I was familiar with but I really do like this work. I'll be looking into him a bit more. Thank you so much for sharing.

  2. Ryan, I'm so glad you liked Tissot's work. Far as I'm concerned, he is wonderful. He used to be thought of, mostly, as a kind of illustrator and so was looked down upon by 'the establishment'. But he's garnered more respect as time has gone on. I love his work.

  3. Beautiful painting, i love the colours.

  4. Hi Willa, thanks for dropping by. Yes, Tissot's use of color is brilliant.

  5. I liked the use of the `burnt` orange colour. The accentuated stripe on the outside of the trousers, matched again on the hat band, the articles or whatever, on seat in the background. On first sight, I thought the picture was cluttered. But further purusal all the activity in the background is put into comparison by the white cover foreground of the sofa. It is the sort of painting that stays easily in the mind. And in my mind, that is really saying something. :-)

  6. If you go up to 150 percent, you should be able to see the articles on the sofa and floor. They are all his ceremonial soldierly stuff. Yes, that stripe in the foreground steals all the attention. Since the first moment I saw this painting, I've loved it. You're right of course, Dave, it's the sort of painting that stays easily in the mind.


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