It was painted on a medium-weight, fairly open plain-weave canvas, which was lined with a more tightly woven plain tabby-weave canvas.
According to the Pennells, Whistler regretted the exhibition of his portrait in 1900: it was 'far from successful, and he had little pleasure in it.' 2 Whistler also told the Pennells, 'It was not ready, the colour has sunk in, you cannot see it.' 3 He also wrote to Edward Guthrie Kennedy (1849-1932) on 12 May 1900, 'I feared it might have been too sunken in to be at all seen.' 4
It is painted thinly, with layers of soft criss-crossing brush strokes. The face looks as if it has been rubbed down and the right hand and foot are very vague.
Albert Eugene Gallatin (1882-1952) claimed that Whistler repainted it in part after its exhibition in 1900. 5 Whistler's executrix, Rosalind Birnie Philip (1873-1958), wrote that, on the contrary, it had been rubbed down in 1900 and not repainted. 6
When it was restored by Harry Woolford in 1983 he mentioned evidence of extensive damage and retouching, and also noted an area of what looked like scorch marks on the clothing and background. He removed the retouching and varnished the picture. Clare Meredith also commented on surface abrasions and signs of damage to the surface, and it is not clear if this was the result of the artist's rubbing down or later cleaning. She commented that although the varnish to some extent concealed the damaged surface, 'The overall effect is probably far removed from the artist's preference for the thinner varnish.' 7
Flat Whistler frame. 8
1: Pablo de Valladolid, ca 1635, oil, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, P01198; photograph, GUL Whistler PH 3/9, Glasgow University Collections website at http://collections.gla.ac.uk/#/details/ecatalogue/337948 (acc. 2020).
6: Miss Birnie Philip to A. E. Gallatin, 2 December 1913, GUL Whistler BP III.
7: Condition report by Clare Meredith, conservator, 23 April 2001, Hunterian files.
Last updated: 22nd October 2020 by Margaret