Holyday by James Tissot (1836-1902). c.1876. Oil on Canvas. Support: 762 x 994 x 20 mm; frame: 925 x 1185 x 95 mm. Collection: Tate Gallery, London. Ref. no. N04413; purchased 1928, and kindly made available under the Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported) licence. [Click on the image to enlarge it.]

This is reminiscent of other well-known picnic paintings like John Everett Millais's Apple Blossoms (1858-59) or Edouard Manet's Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe (1861), but there are also some obvious differences. This is a mixed-sex and mixed-age group, unlike Millais's, and much more conventional than Manet's, with its nude and semi-nude women with two fully clothed men. In Tissot's scene the young women are fashionably dressed, and the young men, wearing cricket caps, look sporty. The chaperone, drinking her tea in front of the tree trunk at the left, is apparently turning a blind eye to their flirtations. The others at that side seem left out, especially the young man on the other side of the tree. It is tempting to imagine a story for him, to wonder if one of the other young women — either the one whose shoes are shown in the lower left-hand corner, or the one gazing away at the right-hand side — has disappointed him. The setting is autumnal, with the leaves of a great chestnut tree already turning brown. All sorts of details are carefully composed (knives and flasks arranged in fan shapes), and the figures and natural forms artistically deployed to give interest to every part of the canvas, including the middle background, where a couple are engaged in a separate tête-â-tête. The garden, with its limpid pond and circle of elegant columns, contributes greatly to the sense of this painting as a polished composition rather than an attempt to snatch and keep a moment from time. — Jacqueline Banerjee


Gallery label, Tate, July 2007. "James Tissot: Holyday." Tate. Web. 19 January 2018.

Jacobi, Carol. In The EY Exhibition: Impressionists in London: French Artists in Exile, 1870-1904. Ed. Caroline Corbeau-Parsons. London: Tate Enterprises, 2017. 202.

Created 19 January 2018