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

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Gold and Brown


  • By 1900: sold by Whistler to George Washington Vanderbilt (1862-1914) of Asheville, North Carolina;
  • 1914: bequeathed by Vanderbilt to his widow, Edith Stuyvesant Vanderbilt (1873-1958) (later Mrs Peter G. Gerry), Asheville, North Carolina, and Providence, Rhode Island;
  • 1959: bequeathed to the National Gallery of Art.


  • 1898: Exhibition of International Art, International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers, Knightsbridge, London, 1898 1898 (cat. no. 179) as 'Gold and Brown'.
  • 1904: Oil Paintings, Water Colors, Pastels and Drawings: Memorial Exhibition of the Works of Mr. J. McNeill Whistler, Copley Society, Boston, 1904 (cat. no. 1) as 'Gold and Brown – Portrait of Mr. James McNeill Whistler'.
  • 1905: Œuvres de James McNeill Whistler, Palais de l'Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Paris, 1905 (cat. no. 29) as 'Brun et Or – Portrait de Whistler'.

Whistler was determined to prevent the artist Giovanni Boldini (1845-1931) from seeing a self-portrait – possibly Brown and Gold [YMSM 440] or Gold and Brown [YMSM 462] – because he planned to exhibit it at the ISSPG with Boldini's recent (1897) portrait of Whistler (now in the Brooklyn Museum). 1 However, Boldini refused to lend his portrait, so no comparison between them was possible at the time.

Arrangement of paintings at the ISSPG, Library of Congress
Arrangement of paintings at the ISSPG, Library of Congress
Arrangement of paintings at the ISSPG, Library of Congress
Arrangement of paintings at the ISSPG, Library of Congress

In 1898, Whistler made a sketch for Albert Ludovici, Jr (1852-1932) of the proposed hanging of his works, Arrangement of paintings at the ISSPG [M.1539], adding, 'So if I send my portrait you will put it between the Rosa Corder and the Princess - leaving nice margin - and keeping all on line, more than in sketch.' 2

Gold and Brown, 1898, photograph, GUL WPP file
Gold and Brown, 1898, photograph, GUL WPP file

In the end Whistler exhibited The Thames in Ice [YMSM 036], Grey and Silver: La Petite Souris [YMSM 502], At the Piano [YMSM 024], Arrangement in Brown and Black: Portrait of Miss Rosa Corder [YMSM 203], La Princesse du pays de la porcelaine [YMSM 050], Rose and Brown: The Philosopher [YMSM 472], Blue and Coral: The Little Blue Bonnet [YMSM 500], Nocturne in Blue and Gold: Valparaiso Bay [YMSM 076], and, at the last minute, the painting under discussion, Gold and Brown [YMSM 462].

The Morning Post commented not only on this painting, which was described as a 'sketch', but on the court case relating to Brown and Gold: Portrait of Lady Eden [YMSM 408]:

'Gold and Brown is the name given to a sketch-portrait of the painter, his hand raised as gesticulating responsively to an utterance of his that may be assumed to have gleeful reference to the result of his litigation in Paris, since the catalogue contains extracts from the summing up of the Advocate-General and the judgment of the President of the Court of Appeal.' 3


1: R. Birnie Philip to E. G. Kennedy, 8 May 1898, GUW #09777.

2: Whistler to Ludovici, [26/30 April 1898], GUW #08075.

3: 'The International Gallery', Morning Post, London, 19 May 1898, p. 8.

Last updated: 13th November 2020 by Margaret