Several possible titles have been suggested:
The title by which it is known, 'Arrangement en couleur chair et noir: Portrait de Théodore Duret', is a combination of the early exhibition titles and that given by Duret himself in 1904.
A full-length portrait of a bearded man, in vertical format. He faces the viewer, and is wearing evening dress – a white shirt, black suit – and carries a pink domino (a woman's evening cloak) over his left arm. He carries a top hat in his right hand.
Théodore Duret (1838-1927), art critic and connoisseur, was introduced to Whistler by Edouard Manet (1832-1883) in 1880 (in 1868 Manet had painted the portrait of a very dandyish Duret, which is illustrated above).
Duret owned several of Whistler's paintings (Green and Grey. The Oyster Smacks – Evening [YMSM 070], Nocturne: Grey and Silver [YMSM 156], Nocturne in Black and Gold: The Gardens [YMSM 166], Nocturne: Trafalgar Square - Snow [YMSM 173], and possibly Alice Butt (1) [YMSM 437]) and also published one monograph and several influential articles on Whistler. 5
In 1912 Edouard Vuillard (1868-1940) painted a magnificent portrait of Duret in his office, holding a cat, and with the Whistler portrait in the background. It is now in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, and is reproduced above.
In the following year Duret wrote to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York: 'Ce que Whistler a du faire d'effort pour réussir ce portrait et l'amener, selon son esthétique, à ce point de perfection où l'apparence de l'effort a disparu, moi seul le sais!' 6 (Translation: 'What effort Whistler had to make to succeed in this portrait and bring it, according to his aesthetic, to this point of perfection where the appearance of the effort has disappeared, only I know!')
Arrangement en couleur chair et noir: Portrait de Théodore Duret [YMSM 252] is distinguished from Whistler's other portraits of men in evening dress (Arrangement in Black: Portrait of F. R. Leyland [YMSM 097], Portrait of Sir Henry Cole [YMSM 233], Arrangement in Black: Portrait of Señor Pablo de Sarasate [YMSM 315], Arrangement in Black and Gold: Comte Robert de Montesquiou-Fezensac [YMSM 398]) in having a light rather than a dark background.
1: 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).
3: 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).
6: 2 March 1913, Museum Archives.
Last updated: 4th December 2020 by Margaret