Modern life was the central theme of Tissot's art, with a focus on bourgeois social behaviour. His genre pieces typically dwelt on social nicety, flattering viewers who were sufficiently well-versed in etiquette to decipher their moral code. Tissot lived in London from 1871 to 1882. Hush! purportedly depicts a musical soirée in the smart London home of the Coopes in 1873, at which the violinist was Madame Wilma Neruda (Lady Hallé, through her marriage to Charles Hallé, who was knighted in 1888, the year of their marriage). According to a contemporary account, Tissot was barred from taking portraits of the guests, so professional models were used for the figures. His interest in decor, fashion and polite behaviour echoes the content of contemporary magazines, such as Vanity Fair. Here, he depicts the moment before the start of a concert, when the audience is still settling down. Fans flicker, satins rustle, people are whispering, with figures caught mid-action and even cut off, showing the influence both of the recent invention of photography and of Japanese art, which was especially popular in Paris in the last quarter of the 19th century. The costumes give an extremely accurate picture of fashionable dress.
Hush! (also know as The Concert) 1875 James Joseph Jacques Tissot 1836 - 1902 Oil on canvas Modern life was the central theme of Tissot's art, with a focus on middle-class social behaviour. As a Frenchman living in London from 1872 to 1882, he was often accused of mocking British society. Hush! depicts a musical evening at a Kensington salon. Professional models were used for some of the figures, while others may be portraits of known socialites. The work dwells on social etiquette and good manners; but one, rather racist, critic crudely referred to 'ogling Orientals ready to devour a young lady violinist.' The painting is a tour-de-force of figure composition: the complex group to the left is especially skillful, as is the painting of the elegant lady with the fan. Tissot's interest in decor, fashion and polite society echoes that of the contemporary magazine Vanity Fair for which he produced cartoons. Purchased 1933.56
frame: 106.5cm x 144.7cm
unframed: 73.7cm x 112.2cm
Place of creation
Manchester Art Gallery - Balcony Gallery
© Manchester Art Gallery