Several possible titles have been suggested:
The title 'Grey and Silver: Mist – Life Boat' is based on the original 1884 title, with punctuation added to conform with other titles.
A seascape in horizontal format. In the foreground, at left, two shawled women with white aprons over their skirts stand talking on the beach, while out at sea, to left of centre, a small life boat is being rowed out into a calm sea. At far left is the end of a pier, with a small sailing boat (probably a fishing boat) beside it.
This was painted at St Ives, Cornwall, between January and March 1884, and probably, given the weather, towards the end of this period. The same view is seen in The Pier: A Grey Note [YMSM 286]: both were painted by the harbour. 9
The lifeboat station was based in Fore Street (it was used until 1911). A local guide states: 'On the shore, near the church, is the boat house of the St. Ives lifeboat, which goes to sea for practice once a month. Its exercise is well worth seeing.' 10 So Whistler's painting probably represents the practice rather than a rescue mission.
1: 'Notes' - 'Harmonies' - 'Nocturnes', Messrs Dowdeswell, London, 1884 (cat. no. 54).
2: Label on verso.
3: Exposition Internationale de Peinture et de Sculpture, Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, 1887 (cat. no. 199).
5: III. Internationale Kunst-Ausstellung, Königlicher Glaspalast, Munich, 1888 (cat. no. 60).
6: “Notes” – “Harmonies” – “Nocturnes”, H. Wunderlich & Co., New York, 1889 (cat. no. 29).
7: Exposition Générale des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, 1890 (cat. no. 843).
10: Matthews, John Hobson, A guide to St. Ives and its surroundings – scenery curiosities antiquities history and traditions, James Wearne, St Ives, 1884, at http://west-penwith.org.uk/wpenbk1.htm#Matthews (acc. 2015).
Last updated: 2nd April 2021 by Margaret