James Tissot (French, 1836–1902)
Sketch for The Foursome (La Partie Carrée), c. 1868–1870
Oil on panel, 10 5/8 x 14 1/2 in.
Signed lower right, J.J. Tissot

Tissot completed this oil study in preparation for his painting The Foursome (private collection), which he showed at the 1870 Salon to both critical and public acclaim. Most of the final painting’s details are already present in this work, from the fans tossed on the grass to the arrangement of the plates on the blanket. The consistency of the composition can be attributed to the fact that Tissot painted this scene en plein aire, showing the models and scene as he saw them. The Foursome is the largest work in Tissot’s series of Directoire paintings, which depict the hedonistic lifestyle of France between 1795 and 1799. Both finished painting and study are charged with symbols of flirtation, such as the low cut of the woman’s dress and her exposed blue stocking. The costumes in the painting, particularly those of the woman staring directly out at the viewer, appear in several of Tissot’s other Directoire paintings — indeed, he depicts the same hat in Young Lady with a Fan (private collection), On the River (private collection), and Young Lady in a Boat (private collection).