The last few weeks have been spent rushing around shopping, cleaning, decorating and preparing for Christmas. I’m ready for the holiday except for the most important thing: an unhurried heart to receive the fullness of the season. For that, I need to give myself the gift of time–preferably in a bookstore or museum. In the presence of books and art I feel calm and centered.
I’m heading to the Brooklyn Museum to see James Tissot: The Life of Christ. The exhibit includes 124 watercolors selected from a set of 350 that depict detailed scenes from the Bible. It marks the first time in 20 years that any of the Tissot watercolors has been on view.
Born in France, James Tissot (1836-1902) enjoyed great success as a society painter in Paris and London in the 1870s and 1880s. Returning from London to Paris, he planned to produce a series of paintings of fashionable Parisian women.
One day, during Mass at the Church of St. Sulpice, he had a vision of Jesus tending to people in a ruined building. After this experience, he abandoned his former subjects and embarked on an ambitious project to illustrate the New Testament.
In preparation for the work, he made expeditions to the Middle East to record the landscape, architecture, costumes, and customs of the Holy Land and its people, which he recorded in photographs, notes and sketches.
An interactive view of Tissot’s sketchbook can be seen here. The sketchbook is made of wove paper bound in leather, 9 1/8 x 6″.
First presented in Paris in 1894, the watercolors were received with great enthusiasm, and a highly publicized exhibition later traveled to London and the United States.
In 1900, at the suggestion of John Singer Sargent, the Brooklyn Museum decided to acquire the series. The purchase funds were raised primarily by public subscription, spurred on, in part, by exhortations in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle newspaper urging readers to contribute to the campaign.
The exhibition runs through January 17, 2010.
To all who celebrate the holiday – warm wishes for a peaceful, blessed and very merry, Christmas.