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

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Blue and Coral: The Little Blue Bonnet

Composition


                    Blue and Coral: The Little Blue Bonnet, Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Blue and Coral: The Little Blue Bonnet, Los Angeles County Museum of Art

                    The Blue Girl: Portrait of Connie Gilchrist, The Hunterian
The Blue Girl: Portrait of Connie Gilchrist, The Hunterian

Blue and Coral: The Little Blue Bonnet [YMSM 500] appears to be the last in Whistler's sequence of 'Blue Girls', started in the 1870s. The dress is based loosely on a full-length portrait of the dancer Connie Gilchrist (1864-1946), The Blue Girl: Portrait of Connie Gilchrist [YMSM 207]. It dates from about 1879 and was probably in Whistler's London studio. The original dress is extremely unlikely to have survived but it may be that Whistler wished it to be recreated. However, the hat gave the model an up-to-date, fashionable appearance.

This is the largest and the most finished of Whistler's oval portraits (see, for instance, A Paris Model [YMSM 458]).

Technique


                    Blue and Coral: The Little Blue Bonnet, photograph by W. E. Gray, 1898
Blue and Coral: The Little Blue Bonnet, photograph by W. E. Gray, 1898

The right side of her face, as seen in 1898 reproductions, was originally painted with a very dark, hard outline, although this was somewhat blurred by the ruff over her chin. 1


                    Academy, 10 December 1898, p. 417, drawn on by Whistler; GUL Whistler PC 17/36
Academy, 10 December 1898, p. 417, drawn on by Whistler; GUL Whistler PC 17/36

                    Blue and Coral: The Little Blue Bonnet, Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Blue and Coral: The Little Blue Bonnet, Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Whistler altered a reproduction from the Academy of 10 December 1898, in his own press cutting book, by further accenting the outline of the face in ink, making it squarer. 2 However, if anything the effect was later softened: the tone of her hat was darkened, and the cloak and shadow behind her right shoulder were extended nearly to the butterfly. A shadow behind her ruff and shoulder at right was emphasized with dark paint, as – to a lesser extent – was the curve of her bodice.

Conservation History


                    Blue and Coral: The Little Blue Bonnet, photograph by W. E. Gray, 1898
Blue and Coral: The Little Blue Bonnet, photograph by W. E. Gray, 1898

                    Blue and Coral: The Little Blue Bonnet, Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Blue and Coral: The Little Blue Bonnet, Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Unknown. It does appear lighter in early photographs, but this might have been the effect of lighting and the photographic process.

Frame

82.5 x 68.6 x 5.72 cm.

Notes:

1: Exhibition of International Art, International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers, Knightsbridge, London, 1898, p. 22 (cat. no. 182).

2: 'The Souvenir Catalogue of the Exhibition of International Art at Knightsbridge', Academy, London, 10 December 1898, repr. p. 417; press cutting in GUL Whistler PC 17, p. 36.

Last updated: 7th June 2021 by Margaret