The genre tradition [of David Wilkie and Thomas Webster] was adapted to Victorian high life by the Scottish painter, William Quiller Orchardson (1835-1910) and the French emigré James Jacques Joseph Tissot (1836-1902), who had their graphic counterpart in the Punch illustrator, du Maurier. They were preeminently city artists; but they injected into their depictions of sophisticated urban settings a new psychological realism suggestive of the ambiguous relationships, especially between the sexes, existing within polite society. Although the Goncourts called Tissot an 'ingenious exploiter of English idiocy,' and although Ruskin referred to his paintings as 'mere coloured photographs of vulgar society, he was strongly influenced, notably in his Thames scenes, by Whistler, with whom he was intimate during the 1870s.

Even at its most pictorial, Victorian genre is rarely without some implicit teaching. Hogarth had spoken of his paintings as 'pictur'd morals'; and for his nineteenth-century followers the spectacle of contemporary life was no less freighted with moral significance than the world Hogarth portrayed. — E. D. H. Johnson

Works

Related Material

Bibliography

Johnson, E. D. H. “Victorian Artists and the Urban Milieu.”The Victorian City: Images and Realities. H. J. Dyos and Michael Wolff. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1973. Pp. 449-74.

Wentworth, Michael. James Tissot. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1984.

Wentworth, Michael. James Tissot: Catalogue Raisonnée of his Prints. London: 1978.


Victorian Web Visual Arts Painting Victorian Book Illustration

Last modified 15 July 2014