Born in Nantes, Jacques Joseph Tissot moved to Paris in 1857 to attend the École des Beaux-Arts, where he studied with Jean-Hippolyte Flandrin (1809–1864) and Louis Lamothe (1822–1869), both students of Auguste-Dominique Ingres. Already by 1854 he was known as `James’, a change probably prompted by his interest in all things English. In 1859 he made his debut at the Paris Salon. In 1870–1 he fought in the Franco-Prussian War, and after the Paris Commune left for London in May 1871.
Tissot painted society portraits and scenes of modern city life in a highly refined style and using a polished technique. While in London he worked for the magazine 'Vanity Fair'. Many paintings of this period featured his companion Kathleen Newton. After her death in 1882 he returned to Paris, where he continued to paint women in a series entitled ‘Women of Paris’, which he showed in a major exhibition in 1885. That year he revived his Catholic faith, and from this time devoted himself to religious painting. He died suddenly in 1902 at the Château de Buillon, his house located near the Jura region of France.