Artist's studio sale, Hotel Drouot, 9-10 July 1903, no 3 ('Portrait')
This lively study of Tissot’s mistress Kathleen Newton, at once vulnerable and sensual, is painted with the Parisian bravura of his friends Manet and Degas, rather than in his painstaking London ‘Academic’ manner. His larger picture Quiet, painted from this sketch, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1881, is in this manner. This sketch, neither finished nor signed, was not intended for exhibition.
The extraordinary story of the vivacious Irish beauty Kathleen Newton reads like a novel. In 1870, when she was 16 and a ‘ravishing beauty’, Kathleen sailed to India to enter into an arranged marriage to a widowed surgeon twice her age, Dr Isaac Newton. On the journey she had a ship-board romance with a dashing 31-year-old naval officer, Commander Henry St Leger Bury Palliser. When they arrived in India, Palliser left to join his ship, and Kathleen was married to Dr Newton in January 1871. The union was never consummated, and after Kathleen later told Dr Newton that she was pregnant by Commander Palliser, they were divorced the next year. In 1877, after two children (both probably Palliser’s but given Newton’s name), Kathleen was living with her sister in St John’s Wood, London, where Tissot noticed her in the street and painted his first picture of her. So began Tissot’s obsession with Kathleen, whom he painted incessantly until her death from tuberculosis in 1882, with titles such as La Mystérieuse and La Belle Irlandaise.
An French friend of Tissot, Georges Bastard, remembered the artist calling his mistress and muse muse ‘Kitty’ and described her, in his 1906 biography of Tissot, as ‘a ravishing Irishwoman,’ ‘delightful,’ ‘educated and distinguished, tall and slim, with superb blue eyes and long golden hair.’