Musée d'Orsay: James Tissot Evening

James Tissot

James Tissot (1836-1902)
Oil on canvas
H. 90; W. 50 cm
© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay) / Thierry Le Mage


In Evening, also known as The Ball, Tissot depicts a young woman wearing a luxuriant yellow dress, arriving at a society event. The extreme femininity of the main character is emphasised through a skilful interplay of curves. Her wide fan, placed virtually in the centre of the painting, continues the curve of her shoulders. In the bottom left hand corner, her long train forms an impressive rising arabesque. Amidst the ribbons and lace some fabric is revealed, with Japanese influenced motifs of fish in water. This detail should be seen as a metaphor for the scene before us: the young woman will slip effortlessly into this social circle where her beauty is certain to attract attention.

Of her male companion, we see only his back and his white hair. Concealed in this way, this character's role seems to be reduced to no more than opening the doors to high society for his partner. Moreover, the young woman is already detaching herself from him, as she looks into the distance.
In the background, two women at the centre of the crowd are considering the latest guest as a potential rival.
The Albright Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, in the United States, has a painting very close to this one in its collections, whose title, The Ambitious Woman, reveals a little more of Tissot's intention: to put forward a critical and trenchant view of the salons of his time.

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