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

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Harmony in Black, No. 10


  • Unknown.


  • 1887: 64th Annual Exhibition, Royal Society of British Artists, London, 1887 (cat. no. 12) as 'Harmony in Black, No. 10'.
  • 1887: Exposition Internationale de Peinture et de Sculpture, Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, 1887 (cat. no. 211) as 'Arrangement en noir'.

At the Whistleries, Suffolk Street, drawing for Judy, 8 December 1886, Fogg Art Museum
At the Whistleries, Suffolk Street, drawing for Judy, 8 December 1886, Fogg Art Museum

At the RBA in 1887 it was priced at £800. It was mildly praised in the Magazine of Art: 'There is much to admire in the suppressed vivacity of the figure.' 1 Claude Phillips (1846-1924) thought it 'in what seemed to be an improved condition' when shown later in the same year in Paris. 2 Robins suggests that Whistler may well have worked on the portrait before sending it to Paris, where several critics commented on 'its distinctly masculine air'. 3

At that time it was described enthusiastically by Guigon:

'La femme, d'une élégance maigre, se dresse en vêtements très sombres sur un fond gris, terne, mais élastique, comme baignée de l'air du crépuscule. Sous le chapeau aux larges ailes, la figure, d'un ton rose vivace quoique étouffé, aux joues d'une pulpe pareille à la chair des pêches, illumine toute la toile. On peut s'arrêter sur cette sensation et ne pas chercher à pénétrer dans le caractère raffiné du modèle, dans l'étrange originalité de la physionomie. C'est déjà un plaisir rare de voir les bruns et les gris fins de la toile s'unir et fleurir en ce ton rose délicieuse.' 4

According to the Pennells, one of the portraits exhibited by Whistler at the SBA in 1886-1887 was a portrait of Maud Franklin 'in bonnet and furs, owned by Mrs. Walter Sickert, and by her returned to Whistler'. 5 However, Pennell's description fits A Portrait: Maud [YMSM 186] far better than Harmony in Black, No. 10 [YMSM 357].


1: Anon., 'Current Art', Magazine of Art, vol. 10, 1887, pp. 109-13, at p. 111.

2: C. Phillips 1887 [more], at p. 423.

3: Robins 2007 [more], p. 82.

4: Guigon 1887 [more]; translated approximately, but not so poetically, this reads: ‘The slender elegant woman stands in very dark clothes against a grey background, dull, but elastic, as if bathed in the twilight air. Under the hat with its large wings, the face, of a vivacious but subtle pink tone, with cheeks of a texture like the flesh of peaches, illuminates the whole canvas. One can dwell on this sensation and not seek to penetrate into the refined character of the model, into the strange originality of the physiognomy. It is a rare pleasure to see the browns and fine grays of the canvas come together and flower in this delicious pink tone.’

5: Pennell 1921C [more], pp. 166-67.

Last updated: 30th October 2020 by Margaret