The Power of Mystery in Tissot's 'Waiting for the Train'

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THE POWER OF MYSTERY IN JACQUES JOSEPH TISSOT’S WAITING FOR THE TRAIN (WILLESDEN JUNCTION)
When creating a new work an artist carefully considers each decision they make. From the positioning of objects and the composition and framing to the hues of their colours, no decision is too small as each not only contributes to the overall meaning of the work but has great effect on how the work is received by the viewer. Closer inspection of the tools which an artist deploys to achieve their goals such as size, space, composition, perspective, line, colour and subject matter can help a viewer discern what the artist was trying to convey – his final goal. In his 1871 oil on panel painting Waiting for the Train, Jacques Joseph Tissot uses the formal elements of painting to draw the viewer into his work and to get them to begin to contemplate not only it’s subject matter but their place within it.

Waiting for the Train does not immediately command it’s space within the Dunedin Public Art Gallery, in fact it’s positioning amongst larger and more strikingly composed pieces seems to work to draw the attention from it, rather than towards it. At a size of 59.6cm by 34.5cm the work is not particularly commanding in size either, and as viewers we must place ourselves directly in front of it to decipher each detail. But this is the true beauty of it. Tissot paints an unglamorous scene and a figure which is by all means beautiful, but certainly not awe inspiring. Because of its small size and less compelling subject matter the painting must use its formal and mysterious elements to fight these surroundings and draw attention to itself. That is the work must capture and draw the viewer in. Tissot does so subtly, yet artfully in a way we are not used to when contemplating art.

Tissot has not painted a striking composition, or one particularly out of the ordinary for that matter. Instead he seeks to convey a moment in time, a moment which the viewer can begin to connect with...
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