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

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Sketch of Miss Ethel Philip

Sketch of Miss Ethel Philip may date from the late 1890s, although it has been variously dated between 1889 and 1903.


                Sketch of Miss Ethel Philip, The Hunterian
Sketch of Miss Ethel Philip, The Hunterian

                Red and Black: The Fan, The Hunterian
Red and Black: The Fan, The Hunterian

1889/1890s: Prof. A. McLaren Young suggested that the pose was related to that of Red and Black: The Fan [YMSM 388], which was considered to have been painted in the early 1890s. 1 However Red and Black: The Fan [YMSM 388] may have been started earlier.

1895: The sitter, Ethel Philip ̶ Ethel Whibley (1861-1920) ̶ married Charles Whibley (1859-1930).

 Ethel Philip (Mrs Whibley), 1896/1898, photograph, GUL Whistler PH1/50
Ethel Philip (Mrs Whibley), 1896/1898, photograph, GUL Whistler PH1/50

1896: In Sketch of Miss Ethel Philip, the sitter appears to be dressed severely in black, and this might reflect the period of mourning after the death of her sister, Beatrice Philip (Mrs E. W. Godwin, Mrs J. McN. Whistler) (1857-1896) , on 10 May 1896. Ethel's appearance at that time is recorded in several photographs. 2

1897-1900: Ethel (by then Mrs Whibley) is known to have been posing for Whistler at intervals from 1896 to 1897. The Hunterian dates the portrait ca 1897-1900. 3

 Ethel Whibley and Mrs Birnie Philip, 1896/1909, photo by W.D. Downey, GUL Whistler
PH1/51
Ethel Whibley and Mrs Birnie Philip, 1896/1909, photo by W.D. Downey, GUL Whistler PH1/51

1901/1903: Finally, a note on the verso of Sketch of Miss Ethel Philip, written by Harold Wright (1885-1961) of Colnaghi's, on information provided by the sitter's sister, Rosalind Birnie Philip (1873-1958) , said this portrait was painted at Cheyne Walk 'about 1903'. This would make it one of Whistler's last paintings. Ethel did help her sister to nurse the ailing Whistler. His health made sittings less likely in 1902-1903, but stylistically a late date is possible.

Notes:

1: Glasgow University's Pictures, London, Colnaghi, 1973 (cat. no. 101). 'Probably painted in the early 1890s' according to YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 387).

2: Photographs of Ethel Whibley, Whistler collection, Special Collections, Glasgow University Library: see GUL Whistler PH1/50.

3: Hunterian website at http://collections.gla.ac.uk.

Last updated: 2nd November 2020 by Margaret