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Zimmerli's Art After Hours features painter James Tissot

 – Photo by Peter Jacobs/Zimmerli Art Museum

On the first Tuesday of every month, Rutgers’ Zimmerli Art Museum hosts a fun and free Art After Hours event where students and patrons can engage in an exciting evening of art, music and conversation. 

This month’s event centered around the recently opened exhibition in the Anthony and Marlene Volpe Gallery: “Intimate Details: Prints by James Tissot.” 

This exhibition consists of 12 exquisite prints by James Tissot and is curated by Christine Giviskos, curator of Prints, Drawings and European Art at the Zimmerli Art Museum.

Tissot (1836-1902) was a skilled French painter and illustrator who began to pursue and experiment with printmaking around 1875, likely after drawing inspiration from the work of his contemporaries such as James Abbott McNeill Whistler and Edgar Degas. 

The artist was based in the cosmopolitan hubs of London and Paris and most of his body of printmaking work consists of black-and-white etchings that reproduce his large-scale, colorful paintings. 

As an artist, Tissot was celebrated during his lifetime and often depicted subjects in a way that was up to date with contemporary aesthetic trends at the time, particularly in the context of fashion and the decorative arts. Tissot was also inspired by Japonisme, an artistic movement explored in great depth in some of the Zimmerli Art Museum’s galleries of European Art.

The Zimmerli Art Museum’s small but spectacular exhibition includes intricate prints that span a variety of subject matter, ranging from scenes of the quotidian life of the upper-middle classes in 19th century Europe to Biblical narratives such as “Parable of the Prodigal Son.” 

The exquisite detailing on every print that graces the gallery is a display of Tissot’s technical prowess and attention to the principles of art. Giviskos called the prints “technical tour de forces.”

A striking piece in the exhibit is “Ces Dames des Chars (Ladies of the Chariots),” a recently acquired proof of an etching and drypoint creation from 1885. This powerful piece from later in Tissot’s career shows female athletes participating in a chariot race in the city’s hippodrome, which is no longer extant. 

It is a reproduction of a painting from the artist’s “La femme à Paris” series, which engaged with the archetype of the Parisian woman through different aspects of social life. 

An earlier work of Tissot’s from 1877, that takes on a rather comedic tone, is “Entre Les Deux Mon Coeur Balance (How Happy I Could Be With Either).” In this print, Tissot shows a military man exploring his romantic dynamic with two women aboard a boat near Portsmouth Historic Dockyard in England. 

Giviskos, in conversation with The Daily Targum, discussed the immersive and transportive nature of the Tissot show and what Rutgers students could gain from it, as well as the museum as a whole. 

“I think these prints are just so beautiful, and they’re just like taking a mental break. I would like students to know that that’s what the museum’s here for. Yes, you can learn something, but you can also just let your senses take over and enjoy seeing what an artist’s hands and eyes accomplished. We, as a team here, want students to know the museum is a great place to see a lot of different things ... It’s a great opportunity to do a different kind of learning,” she said. 

Apart from the amazing art, audiences were entertained by the tunes of The Dave Mosko Quartet. Mosko is a Mason Gross School of the Arts junior and jazz trombonist. 

“Intimate Details: Prints by James Tissot” is on view at the Zimmerli Art Museum until March 29, 2020.

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