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

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Portrait of Mrs Lewis Jarvis


                    Portrait of Mrs Lewis Jarvis, Smith College Museum of Art
Portrait of Mrs Lewis Jarvis, Smith College Museum of Art

There are signs of alterations to the right side of the neck, and the head was originally further left. It was painted fairly thickly, but the paint has been carefully worked and smoothed down so that the general effect is of a flat, decorative design, in subtle, washed out colours.

The Collections Database of the Five Colleges and Historic Deerfield Museum Consortium comments:

'This painting of the Irish wife of Whistler’s friend was rendered rapidly in a narrow range of subdued colors. … Though the bust format was, for him, atypical, Mrs. Lewis Jarvis is fully representative of his highly aesthetic, consciously distilled style.

Rendered on a rough, irregular canvas, the sitter’s likeness never fully covers the surface. Instead, her image seems to hover, faint and thin, stained onto the fiber instead of being painted. The hues, low in tone, range from the light coppery green of her dress to the pale lavender-gray of the background. Here, Mrs. Lewis Jarvis’s form is calm, restrained, and iconic. Though she confronts the viewer directly, it is impossible to fully meet her gaze. This effect is accentuated by Whistler’s burnished gold-leaf frame that further quiets the fleeting, wan image within.' 1

Conservation History

                    Portrait of Mrs Lewis Jarvis, photo
Portrait of Mrs Lewis Jarvis, photo



Described on the 'Five Colleges' website, 'Whistler’s burnished gold-leaf frame ... quiets the fleeting, wan image within.' 2 The stretcher size is given as 25 x 16", 63.5 x 40.64 cm.


1: Collections Database website at

2: Collections Database website at

Last updated: 21st October 2020 by Margaret