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

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Grey and Silver: Pourville


The title has seen many variations, as follows:

  • ‘Gray and Silver – Pourville’ (1901, ISSPG). 1
  • 'Marine "Grey & Silver, Trouville" ' (1902, Whistler). 2
  • ‘Grey & Silver – Trouville’ (1902, C. L. Freer). 3
  • ‘Grey and Silver, Trouville’ (1904, Copley Society, Boston). 4
  • 'Blue and Gray: Trouville' (1905, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts). 5
  • ‘Grey and Silver, Trouville’ (1912, St Louis). 6
  • ‘Blue and Gray, Trouville’ (1914, Buffalo Fine Arts Academy). 7
  • ‘Blue and Grey, Trouville’ (1945, W. H. Bixby). 8
  • 'Grey and Silver: Pourville' (1980, YMSM). 9

The original (1901) title is probably correct, although it is undoubtedly confusing that several owners, and Whistler himself, later called this a painting of Trouville. 'Grey and Silver: Pourville' is therefore the preferred title.


                    Grey and Silver: Pourville, Art Journal, December 1901, repr. p. 379.
Grey and Silver: Pourville, Art Journal, December 1901, repr. p. 379.

Early reproductions show that this was a view of the sea from a beach, in horizontal format. A dark beach runs diagonally from left up to right. Two figures stand towards the left, on the beach. The sea is stormy, under a cloudy sky, and there is a sail on the horizon at right. 10

C. L. Freer, who called it ‘Grey & Silver - Trouville’, described the painting as ‘Green sea and purplish clouds’ in 1902. 11

William Hoxie Bixby (1888-1967), the son of the original owner, W. K. Bixby, gave the following description of his painting:

‘it is apparently painted on board and is very small, being 9 x 6 inches. There is a Woman and child in the foreground and in the lower right hand corner there are two figures, which are quite small. It is a scene of a beach with water breaking upon same and a small ship in the far distance.' 12

As reproduced by Rinder in 1901 and Buffalo in 1914, the painting does not correspond exactly with Bixby’s description, for the small figures are on the left, not on the right. Furthermore, the size given by W. H. Bixby, 9 x 6 inches (22.9 x 15.2cm), is not the same as that given in a memorandum, in the copy of the Boston Memorial Exhibition catalogue formerly owned by Frank Gair Macomber (1849-1941) and now in the Boston Public Library. In this memo the size of the panel framed is given as 17 x 9 inches (43.2 x 22.9cm), and unframed, 9 1/2 x 7 inches (24.1 x 17.8cm). In these measurements width precedes height. However, both these inaccuracies might have arisen from carelessness.


Pourville on the coast of France. It was probably painted at Pourville between July and September 1899, although, according to the first owner, W. K. Bixby (quoted by Cary), it was painted at Trouville in 1901. 13 Pourville-sur-mer, near Dieppe, is quite a long way north of Trouville-sur-mer.


1: 3rd Exhibition, Pictures, Drawings, Prints and Sculptures, International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers, Galleries of the Royal Institute, London, 1901 (cat. no. 38).

2: Whistler to C. L. Freer, a/c, [23 March 1900/June 1902], GUW #13883.

3: Memo., dated 16 June 1902: Diaries, Bk 12, Freer Gallery Archives.

4: Oil Paintings, Water Colors, Pastels and Drawings: Memorial Exhibition of the Works of Mr. J. McNeill Whistler, Copley Society, Boston, 1904 (cat. no. 9).

5: 100th Anniversary Exhibition, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, 1905 (cat. no. 421).

6: Paintings from St Louis homes, City Art Museum, St Louis, 1912 (cat. no. 94).

7: 9th Annual Exhibition, Buffalo Fine Arts Academy, Buffalo, 1914, repr. p. 85.

8: W. H. Bixby to F. W. Coburn, 14 November 1945, GUL WPP file.

9: YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 522).

10: Rinder 1901 B [more] , repr. p. 379. 9th Annual Exhibition, Buffalo Fine Arts Academy, Buffalo, 1914, repr. p. 85.

11: Memo., dated 16 June 1902; Diaries, Bk 12, Freer Gallery Archives.

12: W. H. Bixby to F. W. Coburn, 1 December 1945, GUL WPP file.

13: Cary 1907[more] , p. 156.

Last updated: 5th June 2021 by Margaret