In London in 1876, Tissot, who was forty-one, met twenty-three year-old divorcee and mother of two, Kathleen Newton. She quickly took up residence with him and became the main source of inspiration for his most iconic works at the end of the decade.
Like a butterfly in a greenhouse, Kathleen embodied the artist’s ideal vision of femininity in the studio, house and garden as a young and radiant but fragile beauty who was soon to succumb to illness and death. Kathleen had tuberculosis and was being “consumed” before the very eyes of her artist-lover, who continued to use her as his model right up until her death on 9 November 1882. Tissot left Britain for France on 15 November and moved back into his town house in Paris.
Afflicted by Kathleen’s death, the painter soon began to acquaint himself with experiments in communicating with the deceased and spiritualism, which were in vogue in Europe at the time. Tissot believed that he made contact with Kathleen through the British medium Eglington at a spiritualist séance held in London on 20 May 1885.
He faithfully reproduced this “apparition” in a unique style of painting entitled The Apparition, which combined elements of Romantic ghost figures and contemporary spirit photographs.