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Tissot's Life of Christ

DATES February 17, 1940 through March 31, 1940
ORGANIZING DEPARTMENT European Painting and Sculpture
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  • February 17, 1940 For the Easter Season the selection of ninety-eight subjects from the Tissot Collection at the Brooklyn Museum depicting the Life of Christ will be removed from the fifth floor gallery and rehung in the Balcony Gallery just off the Main Entrance Hall for the greater convenience of the public which always shows a marked interest in collection at this time of the year. The pictures will go on view in the new setting on Saturday, February 17th, and will remain there through Sunday, March 31st.

    The four hundred subjects that make up the entire collection owned by the Museum were the result of James Tissot’s determining in 1886, at the age of fifty, to undertake a journey to Palestine to make illustrations of the Life of Christ. This was a complete change in subject matter for him and was due to a great personal sorrow because of the death of a friend. After beginning his illustrations of the Gospels, he is not known to have ever undertaken a picture that of a religious character.

    He spent ten years in Palestine studying the life and archeology of the country from which he made a series of three hundred and fifty paintings, mostly water colors, and one hundred and twelve and pen and ink sketches, all of which were acquired by the Museum in 1900 by subscription of the citizens of Brooklyn. Previously the collection had been widely shown in Europe and exhibited in all the principal cities of the United States.

    Aside from their great pictorial interest they are valuable as accurate and historical documents as Tissot’s research was thorough. This method of depicting religious subjects was a new point of view in this phase of art. Previously these subjects were in settings determined by the customs, mode of life and styles of domestic and public buildings in Europe. By going to Palestine for first hand information, the accurate reconstruction was possible as in Tissot’s day the settings had not changed since the time of Christ.

    Brooklyn Museum Archives. Records of the Department of Public Information. Press releases, 1939 - 1941. 01-02/1940, 039.
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