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

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Arrangement en couleur chair et noir: Portrait de Théodore Duret


  • ca 1885: bought from the artist by Théodore Duret (1838-1927), Paris;
  • 1913: sold by Duret to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

It was presumably bought by Duret from the artist about 1885, although there are no documents to corroborate this. By January 1909 Duret wished to sell his portrait to a museum and Roger Elliot Fry (1866-1934) wrote to Bryson Burroughs (1869-1934), of the Metropolitan Museum, New York, recommending its purchase, and claimed that Duret would present it to the Louvre unless his price was met. 1


  • 1885: Ouvrages de peinture, sculpture, architecture, gravure et lithographie des artistes vivants, 103rd exhibition, Salon de la Société des artistes français, Palais des Champs Elysées, Paris, 1885 (cat. no. 2460) as 'Portrait de M. Théodore Duret'.
  • 1905: Memorial Exhibition of the Works of the late James McNeill Whistler, First President of The International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers, New Gallery, Regent Street, London, 1905 (cat. no. 10) as 'Portrait of Monsieur Théodore Duret, Writer on Art'.

In April 1884 Whistler sent the portrait of Duret from Paris for the Grosvenor Gallery exhibition in London, but Sir Coutts Lindsay rejected it, writing, 'I trust that you will withdraw [your portrait] of Monsieur Duret, the work is so incomplete & slightly made out that I cannot accept it at the Grosvenor.' 2 To this Whistler replied that his pictures were 'sunken in & degraded & begrimed with dirt from their journey', but, he added, 'when properly hung cleaned & varnished - [it] would be the fine picture it was when I had painted it in my Studio.' 3 Whistler explained this away to Duret in his own fashion, ''They are vexed with me at the Grosvenor - and refuse to have it - saying I believe that it is too much the "Portrait of a Gentleman" ', so, he added, 'We will keep it and show it in Paris.' 4

At the Salon in 1885 the 'Portrait de M. Théodore Duret' was accepted, but skied, according to Octave Maus (1856-1919). 5 Whistler himself was a little concerned, and asked the artist Otto Henry Bacher (1856-1909),

'How do you like his [Duret's] own portrait? doesn't he stand well? -

They say that this picture is hung rather high - but I daresay it is none the worse for that.' 6

Bacher's reply is not recorded.


1: Letters, 15 January and 16 February 1909; quoted by Sutton, Denys, (ed.)., The Letters of Roger Fry, 2 vols., London, 1972, pp. 310-13.

2: Lindsay to Whistler, 18 April 1884, GUW #01867.

3: Whistler to Lindsay, draft reply, [19 April 1884], GUW #01868.

4: [20/30 April 1884], GUW #09649.

5: Maus, Octave, L'Art Moderne, 24 May 1885, p. 164.

6: [3/10 May 1885], GUW #00230.

Last updated: 4th December 2020 by Margaret