According to Arthur Jerome Eddy (1859-1920), the sitter told Whistler, 'My husband wished me to say that he ... appreciated the honor of your inviting me to sit for a portrait but that ... he did not wish to be understood as committing himself in any way, and the picture must not be considered a commission', and Whistler replied, 'We are doing this for the pleasure there is in it.' 1
A draft letter to the sitter partially confirms this story, in the context of a request by Lady Archie to reproduce the portrait in a forthcoming Book of Beauty:
' "Tout arrive à point à qui sait attendre"! - which does not at all improperly hint at your having waited for this little note - but rather that I, after these years, have not waited in vain for the moment when my picture should be claimed as the portrait of the grande dame de par le monde, who takes her place in the nations book of Beauty!
For at first you would none of it! - The Duke's opinion was quoted as beyond all question! - and it went forth irrevocably that the Clan repudiated the painting - That the pride had been pained, in that the lady Archibald had been invested by the vulgarity of the painter with a jaunty sauciness to be found only in the pertness of a petite Bourgeoise unknown to a daughter of their House - and intolerable to the Argyles ...
Whereupon if you remember, with delicacy characteristic of the gentle Artist, I at once withdrew the name from the work, and effaced the picture ceasing to be a portrait went forth as the "Brodequin Jaune" - under which title only was it known at Exposition Universelle, where, incognito, the lady received the first Gold Medal in Paris -
In Münich she brought back the ribbon of St Michael and now known as the Yellow Buskin she hangs on the walls of the Philadelphia Academy whose directors payed 1200 or 1500 gs for the outcast and highly disapproved person!' 3
In December 1886 Richard d'Oyly Carte agreed to lend Whistler £500 on the security of Arrangement in Grey and Black: Portrait of the Painter's Mother [YMSM 101] and Arrangement in Black: La Dame au brodequin jaune - Portrait of Lady Archibald Campbell [YMSM 242], and both were in his possession in April 1887: this meant that it could only be exhibited under Carte's name. 4 Whistler lent the money to the Society of British Artists, but reclaimed the money and probably redeemed both pictures in July 1888. 5
In 1891 Whistler hoped, in vain, that the 'B' might be sold in Liverpool. Then in January 1892 he hoped, again in vain, to sell the painting in Paris:
'Directly the Concert finished, Madame Gréfhüle, the Count of course, and a whole bouquet of Princes go over to Goupils! - and sit for two hours in Joyants little entresol, and stare at the B. who goes up in price - and up in chance of being gobbled by the fish!' 6
He then suggested selling it to Americans including Bertha Honoré Palmer (1849-1918):
'How about Americans ... are there any more coming over - Mrs Potter Palmer goes on to London ... She is the most important lady in the Chicago Exhibition matters - You must find her and show her "La Dame au Brodequin Jaune".' 7
Whistler suggested £600 and a share of future profits:
'Now, this picture is one of the most in repute, and is continually referred to in the press - There are many who look upon it as much more important, (than, for instance the "Furred Jacket", which is more of an artists picture) besides being the portrait of a well known lady - instead of an obscure nobody … This "Brodequin Jaune" then, is one of the best of my possessions - of what the people are pleased to call that period ... I think you ought to give me either more down - or - the £600 - and then divide the profits.' 9
Reid counter-offered, £600 outright, or £400 and a share of profits, and Whistler agreed. 10 However on 19 August 1892 Whistler acknowledged 'your second cheque for £400 - making, with the first for £200 - six hundred pounds for the "Dame au Brodequin Jaune".' 11 By November, Reid was asking '£1000 or guineas' for it. 12 It was exhibited in Philadelphia in 1893 and Reid wrote to Whistler, 'after all their promises surely one of the pictures will be sold.' 13 Harrison S. Morris (1856-1948), manager of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, claimed that La Princesse du pays de la porcelaine [YMSM 050], Arrangement in Black and Brown: The Fur Jacket [YMSM 181] and Arrangement in Black: La Dame au brodequin jaune - Portrait of Lady Archibald Campbell [YMSM 242] were offered to the Academy by a syndicate headed by Reid, at $15,000 each, but the Academy was not interested.
According to the Pennells, Morris persuaded John Graver Johnson (1841-1917), chairman of the Wilstach Bequest, to buy it from the exhibition at the Academy for the Wilstach Collection in 1894. 14 Reid told Whistler that he expected to receive $6000 for it. 15
Johnson successfully offered Reid $7500 against the asking price of $15,000. It was purchased with the W. P. Wilstach Fund for the Philadelphia Museum of Art. This was the first painting by Whistler to be bought for an American public collection.
1884, Grosvenor Gallery: On 2 May 1883 Janey Sevilla Campbell (Lady Archibald Campbell) (ca 1846-d.1923) had written to Whistler saying that she was sorry not to see 'Lady A's picture' (which portrait is not clear) exhibited at the Grosvenor Gallery. 16
However, according to Blackburn, a 'Portrait of Lady Archibald Campbell' in 'dark grey dress and fur cape' was exhibited at the Grosvenor Gallery in 1884. 17 Whistler apologised to Coutts Lindsay (1824-1913) that it was 'sunken in & degraded & begrimed with dirt.' 18 Presumably it was then cleaned and possibly revarnished. Alan Summerly Cole (1846-1934) noted in his diary on 30 April 1884: 'To Grosvenor Private view. Jimmy's portrait of Lady Archie quite surprising, graceful and charming.' 19 Whistler himself told an artist friend, Thomas Waldo Story (1855-1915), 'My 'Lady Archie' is magnificent.' 20 However, he asked another friend, the sculptor Joseph Edgar Boehm (1834-1890), what he thought of the portrait: 'badly they have hung it haven't they - still if you stand in the other gallery, on the farthest side, and look through the door at the picture - then you will see how beautifully she stands away from the infernal vulgar stuff about her on the walls.' 21 Boehm replied that it was perfectly all right:
'I did not think Lady Archibald C. badly hung - & think it as lovely as it is vigorous, if it were less high it would perhaps be better for the perspective of the floor in the picture but it is very fine[,] the lines & composition are grand & simple & full of grace.' 22
The Pennells described it as 'one of Whistler's several Arrangements in Black. Critics of the day could discover in the series only dinginess and dirt. One wit described the picture as the portrait of a lady pursuing the last train through the smoke of the Underground.' 23 It is true that a 'wit' writing for the Sporting Gazette commented, 'His portrait of Lady Archibald Campbell is excellent, though it is Lady Campbell in the coalhole.' 24 It may be that the lighting was not entirely satisfactory, in that the Birmingham Daily Post on 2 May 1884 wrote that it 'depends much on the light in which it is seen'. However, several newspapers were mildly complimentary. The Bristol Times critic wrote, tongue in cheek, 'we must dissemble, or I may get myself into hot water. But never mind, it so happens I like the picture better than any I have seen by Mr. Whistler for some time'; the Edinburgh Evening News called it 'a vivid and characteristic piece of portraiture', and the Times of India added condescendingly that the portrait was one 'which this fantastic painter has condescended to make a little more generally attractive than usual'. 25
Théodore Duret (1838-1927) saw it at the Grosvenor Gallery and described it enthusiastically: 'il me semble que voilà réalisées toutes les conditions d'une oeuvre de grand art. Originalité de forme et de fond, invention dans le sujet, simplicité dans l'exécution; la vie, le mouvement rendus sensibles sur la toile.' 26 Henry James (1843-1916) described it as 'an adorable big Whistler, a portrait of Lady Archibald Campbell. It is almost as good as the portrait of his Mother.' 27
1885, Salon, Paris: Whistler was deeply concerned about the state in which it arrived in Paris in 1885, and contacted Duret: 'Il me parait comprendre que Duran[d] Ruel a mal fait les choses, et que mon portrait de Lady Archie est arrivé au Salon dans un fichu état - et qu'il a été verni depuis - et par conséquent doit être couvert de poussière a l'heure qu'il est.' 28 However, Duret reported 'that the first day it seemed all "sunk in" but that it had been varnished since and is now in a perfect condition.' 29 According to Sickert, Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas (1834-1917) greatly admired the portrait and said, 'Elle rentre dans la cave de Watteau.' 30
Whistler asked George Aloysius Lucas (1824-1909), and later, Messrs Durand-Ruel, to arrange for it to be photographed by Adolphe Braun (1812-1877), founder of the Paris photographic firm, in Paris. Then, when the painting was in London, he planned for it to be photographed in his studio, hoping to sell the copyright to Messrs Dowdeswell. 31 Then he arranged for it to be engraved by Delorme-Butler. The resulting wood engraving was reproduced by Duret. 32 Whistler described the painting to a journalist as 'the graceful and distinguished portrait of Lady Archibald Campbell, which was last year the marvel of the Salon'. 33
1887, Manchester: It was listed as 'Arrangement in Black No. 8 – Portrait of the Lady Archibald Campbell', and Whistler told George William Agnew (1852-1941) that he had hoped to send it to the Manchester Jubilee exhibition. 34
1888, Munich: For exhibition in Munich it was insured for £1000. Robert Koehler (1850-1917) was sorry to hear that Whistler was exhibiting in the British section and asked if some could be included in the American section. 35 Whistler agreed but made certain stipulations:
'Most certainly do I wish to be with my own Countrymen in the Exhibition - and if you do not feel that I shall abuse their hospitality by the number of my works - that is practically if you are of opinion that you can properly hang all that I am sending, I shall be only too pleased to place myself at your disposal. I am naturally proud to know that you take this interest in my work, and are willing to look upon it as of any importance in your collection.
I would beg you, however, to understand that it was quite clearly accepted by Mr Papperitz that I only sent at all, on condition that what I considered a representative assertion of my work, should in its entirety be perfectly hung.' 36
Koehler therefore asked how much wall space was required, but by 28 May it was clear there was insufficient room in the American section and Whistler's work reverted to the British section. 37 It was awarded a second-class medal, and in response, Whistler ironically sent the Committee his 'sentiments of tempered and respectable joy' and 'complete appreciation of the second-hand compliment.' 38
1889, Exposition Universelle, Paris: Whistler proposed to exhibit in the American section, but after sending a rather large group of work, he was asked to remove ten of them, which had not been approved by the jury. Whistler promptly removed the lot. 39 As he told the Pall Mall Gazette, 'You are badly informed ... I have not "withdrawn" my works" from the forthcoming Paris Exhibition. I transported my pictures from the American department to the British Section of the Exposition Internationale - where I prefer to be represented ... A little paragraph is a dangerous thing.' 40
The portrait was exhibited in the British section, and this time it was awarded a first-class gold medal. 41 Joris-Karl Huysmans (1848-1907) praised it highly: her brown boots and gloves were, he wrote, painted with 'deux coups qui réveillent la nuit dont les ténèbres s'éclaircissent', while the lady herself, 'jaillit avec une suprême élégance.' 42 Robert de Montesquiou-Fezensac (1855-1921) raved about the work that Whistler exhibited, meaning either this painting or Variations in Flesh Colour and Green: The Balcony [YMSM 056]:
'Cette toile qui a l'air non pas faite, mais mûrie par un soleil artiste. Cette chose dont il faudrait dire qu'elle est la plus jolie des peintures, si ce n'était pas encor mieux – La plus jolie des choses.
Cette peinture matériellement persuasive, invitante et déroutante qui donne tout d'abord envie de l'embrasser - et puis de la manger!' 43
Freely translated – Montesquiou's literary style being a bit obscure – this reads:
'This canvas which gives the feeling of having been not made, but ripened by an artistic sun. This work of which it must be said that it is the most beautiful of paintings, if it were not even better – the most beautiful of things. This materially persuasive painting, inviting and distracting which arouses an immediate desire to kiss it - and then to eat it!'
It is worth noting that it was exhibited as 'The fur jacket. Arrangement in black no. 3' in Amsterdam and 'No. 7' in Paris, in the same year!
1890, Brussels: From Brussels on 18 September 1890, Gérard Harry (fl. 1877-1890) wrote to Whistler, 'How Mrs. Harry and myself - and indeed every one in Brussels - relish your "Lady Archibald Campbell".' 44
1891: Adolf Paulus (1851-1924) wanted to borrow Arrangement in Brown and Black: Portrait of Miss Rosa Corder [YMSM 203] for exhibition, and Whistler offered Walford Graham Robertson (1867-1948), 'La Dame au brodequin jaune' as a replacement. 45
1891, Liverpool: Whistler told his wife,'Well the B. looks I think all right - and perhaps - but only perhaps - runs a chance of staying in the Provinces - We shall see!' 46 But it was not bought for the city of Liverpool.
1892, Goupil Gallery, London: D. C. Thomson described the picture as it was hung in Goupil's:
'Both our large rooms are filled with the pictures & the effect is magnificent. The three large portraits (Rosa Corder, Lady A. Campbell & the Fur Jacket) hang on our wall & they dwell in ones mind like the grand orchestral tones of a fine oratorio. They are magistrale in every way, & their harmonies march along like heroes returning from victory.' 47
1893, Philadelphia: The painting was awarded the Temple Gold Medal. 48
2: Letter of 9 February 1937; quoted by Preston, Kerrison (ed.), Letters of W. Graham Robertson, London, 1953, pp. 367-68.
24: Sporting Gazette, London, 10 May 1884, pp. 6-7.
25: Bristol Times and Mirror, 1 May 1884; Edinburgh Evening News, Edinburgh, 12 May 1884; Times of India, Maharashtra, 24 May 1884.
27: Letter to Elizabeth Boott, [2 June] 1884, Anesko, Michael and Greg. W. Zacharias (eds), The Complete Letters of Henry James, 1883-1884, vol. 2, University of Nebraska Press, 2019, p. 137.
30: Sickert, Walter R., ‘Degas’, Burlington Magazine, vol. 31, November 1917, pp. 183-91, at p. 186.
31: Whistler to G. A. Lucas, [23 June 1885], GUW #09206; Whistler to W. Dowdeswell, [6 December 1885], GUW #08595; Whistler to Durand-Ruel, 13 December 1889, GUW #09068; Whistler to C. Dowdeswell, [December 1886], GUW #11256.
40: Whistler to William Thomas Stead, 26 April , GUW #04390; Whistler to the Editor, Pall Mall Gazette, London, 27 April 1889, p. 6. Further comments on this change of venue were published in the New York Herald: Hawkins, Rush C., letter to the Editor, New York Herald, New York, 28 April 1889; 'Whistler's Grievance', New York Herald, New York, 3 October 1889; Whistler to the Editor, New York Herald, New York, 6 October 1889; see GUW #11426.
Last updated: 8th June 2021 by Margaret