This work in graphite and watercolor on off-white wove paper is vertically oriented. There are six male figures portrayed in the uniforms of éclaireurs, or scouts, of nineteenth century France. Only the second and third men from the left are colored in, the four others are graphite outlines. The men wear military jackets with belts, trousers, and black shoes with tall, white spats. Their hats have brass emblems and tipped up bills. The largest man who was been colored in has a blue sash over his gray uniform and holds a rifle at his side. There is a pale blue rectangular border around the men with the artist’s name in the bottom center.
Tissot depicts six male figures portrayed in the uniforms of éclaireurs, or scouts, of nineteenth century France. Tissot was born in Nantes, France, and moved to Paris in 1856. Although his first works were literary and historical, he started painting modern subjects in 1856, focusing on detail and costume (Les Éclaireurs de la Seine was painted ca. 1870-1871). Tissot was in Paris and helped defend Paris from the Germans during the Franco-Prussian War. These are likely portraits of people he knew and perhaps served with. He fled to England after the fall of the Commune in 1871, where he proceeded to paint portraits and was linked to the aesthetic movement. He lived with a mistress and muse until her death in 1882, when he returned to Paris. He converted to Catholicism three years later and mainly focused on ambitious religious themes.
Signed l.r.: W. Lewis Individual sketches titled in ink: "Sailor", "Union Officer", "Telegraph Man", "Engineer on a warship", "Union Artillery" Inscribed, verso, in felt tip pen: To Mike and Mary/ All my best wishes/ - Bill