Rita Wright’s lecture spoke on the incredible story and work of French artist, James Tissot. As luck would have it, Tissot’s work is exhibited at the MOA this November: a blessing for all who attend. In preparation for the November tours, Rita Wright spoke on Tissot’s life story and his remarkable conversion that influenced much of his later work.
A recurring parable that Tissot portrayed was that of the prodigal son. As Wright would explain, Tissot was France’s prodigal son, returning to his religious roots later in his life. Much of James Tissot’s life was encompassed by conflict. He struggled with his identity: in his past, his career, and his religious beliefs. Born in France, but with a heavy influence in Britain, James Tissot struggled between his career and success. Both countries displayed an influence upon his religion- Catholic vs. Protestant. As a man impacted by many areas, Tissot manifested a great complexity in his artwork. Inspired by many things, Tissot depicted a glimpse into the past. Though his earlier works were beautiful, Rita Wright’s words on his religious pieces struck me deeply.
Tissot’s conversion experience was incredibly moving. Sitting amongst the worshipers at St. Sulpice, James Tissot had a vision unlike any he had ever experienced. What he saw was a depiction of Christ leaning next to an impoverished couple. From this time forth, Tissot devoted the rest of his life to the painting of the Savior. Tissot aimed to capture the mystical and divine Christ in his watercolors. Tissot wished “to receive and grasp every impression.” He dedicated his time and efforts into the study of the Gospels hoping to identify deeply with the life of Christ.
Throughout our life we are given incredible opportunities to expand our knowledge of the world around us. Tissot’s exhibit at the MOA is one such opportunity and it within our reach. It would be foolish to ignore such a chance as this. I shall have to tour these incredible depictions of Christ’s life.