Exhibitions: James Tissot: “The Life of Christ”

James Tissot: Jesus Sits by the Seashore and Preaches

For this scene, Tissot directly integrated one of the motifs from his extensive sketching campaigns in the Middle East into a finished composition for the Gospel narrative. Here, a large boulder that the artist had drawn by the Sea of Tiberias becomes the rock on which Jesus sits as he preaches to his followers.

Such direct correlations between the sketched motif and the Gospel narrative evoke Tissot’s claim for what he termed hyperaesthesia—a combination of direct observation of his surroundings and mystical revelation. In the introduction to his illustrated Bible, he claimed: “It is in the Holy Land itself … that the mind is best attuned alike to receive and grasp the significance of every impression…. I felt that a certain receptivity was induced in my mind which so intensified my powers of intuition, that the scenes of the past rose up before my mental vision in a peculiar and striking manner…. I meditated on any special incident in its own particular sanctuary, and was thus brought into touch with the actual setting of every scene, the facts I was anxious to evoke were revealed to me.…”