In early 1874 Degas wrote, "Look here, my dear Tissot. . . you positively must exhibit at the Boulevard [in the first impressionist exhibition]. . . Exhibit. Be of your country and with your friends." Degas and Tissot, who met as students during the late 1850s, stayed in close communication even after Tissot fled to London in 1871 to avoid punishment for activities in the abortive Commune. Arguing that the benefits of declaring his allegiance to French art outweighed the potential harm it might cause among Tissot's London audience, Degas urged Tissot to show with the impressionists and thereby affirm his ties to France and more particularly to Degas and realism.
Although he chose not to accept the invitation, Tissot, like Degas, worked in a realist vein. Hide and Seek depicts a modern, opulently cluttered Victorian room, Tissot's studio. After Kathleen Newton entered his home in about 1876, Tissot focused almost exclusively on intimate, anecdotal descriptions of the activities of the secluded suburban household, depicting an idyllic world tinged by a melancholy awareness of the illness that would lead to her death in 1882. The artist's companion reads in a corner as her nieces and daughter amuse themselves. The artist injected an atmosphere of unease into this tranquil scene by comparing the three lively faces peering toward the infant in the foreground at the left with an ashen Japanese mask hanging near Mrs. Newton in the entry to the conservatory.
lower right near border of carpet: J.J.Tissot
Owned equally by 1956 by J.R. Ormrod, Esq., Moreton-in-Marsh, Gloucestershire, England, (M. Newman Ltd.) and (P. Polak Ltd.). (sale, Christie, Manson & Woods, London, 22 February 1957, no. 43); Fine Art Society. (sale, Sotheby's, London, 20 March 1963, no. 140); Mrs. C. Behr, London, until at least 1967. Julian Spiro, Esq.; (sale, Christie, Manson & Woods, London, 15 October 1976, no. 43); (Herman Shickman Gallery, New York); sold 24 May 1978 to NGA.
- Loan Exhibition, Municipal Art Gallery and Museum, Cheltenham, 1904.
- James Tissot: Victorian Life/Modern Love, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven; Musée du Québec, Québec; Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, 1999-2000, no. 57, repro.
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 394, repro.
- National Gallery of Art, Washington. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 196, repro.
- The Child's Doctor: Journal of the Children's Memorial Hospital, Chicago 1997: cover, repro.