London Visitors (c.1874)

Tissot, James (1836-1902)

London Visitors
Oil on canvas, 160 × 114.3 cm
Toledo Museum of ArtToledo

Outside the National Gallery in London a fashionable tourist couple decides what to see next. The woman points her umbrella imperiously in the direction of Trafalgar Square while her oblivious companion consults a guidebook. Meanwhile, a young guide from Christ’s Hospital School stands by, bored, his services unengaged. The painting seems a straightforward, rather humorous look at sightseers in London. But is there more going on here? The woman breaks some important Victorian social rules. Her dress is too ostentatious for a day spent touring the city. Furthermore, her forthright gaze—apparently locking eyes with someone on the steps (or with the viewer of the painting)—is a breach of feminine propriety. A proper Victorian lady never made eye contact with strangers. The abandoned cigar on the steps provocatively suggests an unseen male presence. French artist James Tissot moved to London in 1872. A keen observer of the fashion and manners of the newly wealthy British middle class, many of his paintings suggest narratives of social “mistakes,” both innocent and deliberate. (TMA)


Tissot, James (1836-1902)
Jeune femme descendant les marches



See also:

• National Gallery (London)