Fêtes and Folly: Holyday

7:00 AM

James Tissot, Holyday, c. 1876
By LILI TUCKER

Nothing says folly like a picnic by the pond; a fresh linen blanket, milky-white china and lustrous chrome silverware. Early Autumn, the leaves crisp and burning gold and yellow-like embers dripping down the canvas to touch this scene of frivolity.

Here one finds Tissot's typical fishpond garden, encircled by his typical cast-iron colonnade, and his typical over-dressed women with their air of British Superiority.

And it all seems so typical.

That is the point of folly, and without folly, fêtes are nothing more than a gathering of familiar faces. This painting, captures folly well.

The laissez-faire air of luxury in Tissot's wife, Kathleen, on the lower right. She holds her delicately enameled teacup with a gloved hand as if the ivory porcelain should stain her lily-white complexion. She sits peacefully by the pond, cushioned from the harsh needles of grass by her gold and gingham skirt. The cricket player lounges in middle, hand to his temple, held up simply by the soft small of the woman's back- for the weight of his meager worries seems to require nothing more substantial. Finally, the pinstriped girl on the left puts every ounce of her energy into endeavoring to dip her cookie all the way into the cricket player's teacup. As their chaperone dozes off in the background, the young socialites worry over nothing but the waning afternoon and the wind blowing away their picnic paraphernalia. 

There's a peaceful finality of the whole scene. Time is slow - like pouring marmalade. There's no before or after to this vignette. This snapshot of bliss. Only the sound of the wind stirring the lilies along the surface of the pond resonates around this peaceful picture. 

*** Editor's Note: Students developed the topic of Fêtes and Folly to chronicle elegant celebrations, bad dates, late nights, or other things related to that time in Spring where barbaric yawps can be heard from backyards, beaches, or the more familiar rooftop. Enjoy their revelry, cheeky overstatement, and occasional tales of ribaldry over the next couple of weeks.

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