Detail from The Canal, Amsterdam, 1889, James McNeill Whistler, The Hunterian, University of Glasgow

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The Coast of Brittany

The Coast of Brittany is signed and dated '1861'. It dates from the autumn of 1861. 1

In June 1861 Whistler was ill and staying with the Hadens in Sloane Street, London. It was recommended that he recuperate by the sea. His mother, Anna Matilda Whistler (1804-1881), wrote to Whistler of her relief at 'The delightful report of yrself, of July 25th ... I hope yr old friend "Sea Side" will soon establish the cure.' 2 For nearly three months, starting in September, he convalesced on the coast of Brittany, 'sea bathing recovering his health' according to his mother. 3 He was back in Paris by mid-November 1861. 4

The Coast of Brittany, Wadsworth Athenaeum
The Coast of Brittany, Wadsworth Athenaeum

On 23 November 1861 Ignace-Henri-Jean-Théodore Fantin-Latour (1836-1904) wrote to Edwin Edwards (1823-1879) that Whistler had been back in Paris a couple of weeks, 'il a fait un tableau qu'il ne veut montrer que nettoyé et encadré, oh! Barnum.' 5

On 26 December 1861, under the title 'Seule', the painting was received from Whistler by Ernest Gillonneau (fl. 1861) for exhibition by the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts, Martinet's Gallery, Paris, 1861. 6


1: YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 37).

2: 19 August 1861, GUW #06517.

3: Letter to J. W. Gamble, 19 February 1862, GUW #06518.

4: D. Louncke to Whistler, 14 November 1861, GUW #02638.

5: Translation: 'he has done a painting that he does not wish to show until it is cleaned and framed, oh! Barnum.' Copy of letter, Bibliothèque Municipale, Grenoble. Fantin-Latour means Whistler was a showman, like P. T. Barnum.

6: GUW #01664.

Last updated: 1st April 2019 by Grischka