This painting is ostensibly a royal portrait of the widowed Empress Eugénie and her son, Louis Napoleon, but it is very different to a standard royal portrait. Tissot had been exploring painting in oils as a form of news reportage. Eugenie, in mourning dress, looks away from the viewer with a sad expression, whilst her son, the recently deceased Napoleon III’s heir, clad in his British Royal Artillery uniform, supports his mother and looks straight ahead at us.
Tissot: Empress Eugénie and the Imperial Prince in the grounds of Camden Place, Chislehurst
The EY Exhibition: Impressionists in London
Date of work
Oil paint on canvas 105 × 150 cm Musée national du Palais de Compiègne
James Tissot (1836 – 1902) was a French painter who moved to London in 19871, after fighting in the Franco- Prussian war as part of the Paris Commune. He quickly developed a reputation for painting scenes from fashionable society, featuring elegantly dressed women. During his time in London he was close to many artists from the Impressionist movement, and particularly his Thames scenes were influenced by his friendship with Whistler.