The Gallery of HMS Calcutta (Portsmouth) James Tissot Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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James Tissot was passionate about painting maritime themes and this energy increased during his spell in England, a region well acquainted with an island mentality. He was very technically experienced by the time he produced The Gallery of HMS Calcutta (Portsmouth).

The combination of Impressionism and Realism that was typical of this artist enabled him to produce some truly charming pieces. Donors could be found to commission paintings at substantial prices and Tissot was soon established within his career, as well as financially secure. The Nantes-born painter had perfected his knowledge of maritime painting at an early age before travelling across to the UK to take on subjects such as the one we find here in Portsmouth. He preferred to remain connected to land, and would produce most of his paintings within harbours rather than out on the open seas. The UK itself had long since had a reputation for maritime art but this Frenchman would take things into a new direction through his concentration on the social circles which exists amongst the middle classes on board.

The city of Portsmouth on the southern English coast has a long history as a maritime port, and now offers a museum which captures much of this together in a frequently visited venue. The entire country has relied on its navy for both protection and also for offensive capabilities in a series of battles dating back many centuries. As an artist who already was inspired by this theme, this nation would have been an obvious choice for Tissot to have visited and sought out work. Many major ships would be kept in Portsmouth for considerable periods of time and this artist always preferred to capture scenes whilst in harbour, rather than at sea, making this city a great location for him to work. As such, Tissot produced a number of artworks during his time here, including several oil paintings as well as some etchings as well. Some of the other notable paintings from this artist along the maritme theme include Ball on Shipboard, Boarding the Yacht and Young Lady in a Boat.

The Gallery of HMS Calcutta (Portsmouth) in Detail James Tissot