Hush! by James Tissot (1836-1902). c.1874. Oil on Canvas. 73.7 X 112.2 cm. Collection: Manchester Art Gallery. Accession no. 1933.56; purchased from Leicester Galleries, 1933, and kindly made available to be shared and reused under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives licence. Text by Jacqueline Banerjee. [Click on the image to enlarge it.]

As the title of the painting suggests, a beautiful young violinist is about to start playing, but apart from her accompanist and his companion, who are finding the right page in the sheet music, hardly anyone in her audience is paying attention. Only two exotically dressed rajahs in the company are leaning forward eagerly to catch the first strains of music. Caroline Corbeau-Parsons identifies the violinist as the famous Wilhemine Neruda (1838-1911), and the occasion as a soirée in the Kensington home of Octavius Coope. She also points out that some of the figures are those of Tissot's friends — he would have used them as models because he was unable to make portraits of the guests themselves, for reasons of privacy (see p. 95). This last was unfortunate: although the painting was the talk of the town, people were disappointed not to be able to identify the guests properly, and it was more than twenty years before the dealer, Agnew's, could manage to sell the painting on.

Moreover, there was some feeling that Tissot was mocking the socialites' behaviour. It is all very elegant and beautifully composed, with more guests spiralling down the stairs and through the open doorway, and a grand chandelier which is reflected in the mirror above some perfectly arranged white flowers. Everything here is exquisite, down to the very last detail — fan, garments, trimmings, upholstery and so on. But how cultured are these people, really? For a series of close-ups, with telling and often amusing comments, see Lucy Paquette's discussion of this painting (link in bibliography).


Corbeau-Parsons, Caroline. In The EY Exhibition: Impressionists in London: French Artists in Exile, 1870-1904. Ed. Corbeau-Parsons. London: Tate Enterprises, 2017. 95.

Paquette, Lucy. "A Closer Look at Tissot’s “Hush! (The Concert)." The Hammock. Web. 20 January 2018.

Created 23 January 2018