A Passing Storm

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James Jacques Joseph Tissot


Victorian Neoclassical artist

A Passing Storm

Oil on canvas

Lord Beaverbrook Art Gallery

Fredericton | Canada

Tissot utilized windows as a backdrop in several of his pictures. It was an effective signature device which demonstrated a remarkable control of light and shadow. Looking at a selection of these pictures, the viewer can see the same windows, and sometimes, the same costumes on the models used to differing effects. A Passing Storm was painted around 1876.

The title is a clever joke on Tissot's part. In the background storm clouds have gathered, while in the foreground, the young lovers have obviously just quarreled. The brooding man stands on the terrace separated from his lover. One might say that his face has clouded over. His female counterpart lies inside on the divan and though her body language and facial expression, the viewer can assume she has recently been upset. However, as the title suggests, the upset is passing and perhaps the young lady has noticed the power she has taken by allowing him to stew.

Of particular interest is the special brown-gray quality of light he has captured that occurs just before or after a storm. There are patches of bright, cool light, cutting through darker, muddier illumination. Tissot manages to capture the quality of "glare" from the water as a result of moisture in the air and one can almost feel the cool rain that has just passed. Think of the onset of storms one has witnessed for themselves, has not Tissot managed to capture it with his brush? Tissot managed to create a picture that not only dazzles with his control of light and color, but matches the exterior atmosphere with the emotions of his subjects.

- By James Abbot
Adapted from an article first published August 4, 2011 on the Jade Sphinx