James Tissot (French, 1836–1902)
Oil on wood
26 x 18 7/8 in. (66 x 47.9 cm)
Signed and dated (lower right): J.J. Tissot / L. '72
Gift of Mrs. Charles Wrightsman, 1998 (1998.170)
When Tissot moved to London in 1871, he immersed himself in the local scene, with work for Vanity Fair and genre paintings with the river Thames as backdrop. Tea is a repetition of the left-hand portion of one of his most famous London scenes, Bad News (National Museum of Wales, Cardiff), which shows a captain and his girlfriend absorbing the news of his imminent departure while a companion prepares tea.
Bad News shows the Pool of London through the tavern windows, while Tea displays the dense London cityscape beyond that stretch of the river. Tissot's friend Edgar Degas owned a pencil study for this picture.