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

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The Greengrocer's Shop, Paris

Technique


                    The Greengrocer's Shop, Paris, The Hunterian
The Greengrocer's Shop, Paris, The Hunterian

The thin panel is made from a single piece of timber 3-4 mm thick, the grain running horizontally, and it has bevelled edges on the verso. It was prepared with a very thin layer of grey priming, with faint application brushmarks along the long (horizontal) direction. This was used as a light tone in the sketch and was painted thinly and unevenly, with many areas left bare. 1

The panel, being unfinished, demonstrates Whistler's painting technique at a later period: the composition was first sketched roughly with charcoal on the pre-primed pale grey base, then the central areas were coloured with thinned-down oil paints in pale colours: yellow ochre, brown, a dull green, and a highlight of a more orange brown. 2 The woman was sketched in further to the right, and moved ca 2 mm to the left, resulting in two outlines for her proper left elbow, but then the figure was not completed.

Conservation History

The paint on the panel has damage along all four sides, suggesting it was transported or framed before it was dry (there are traces of gilding as well). There is a thin transparent varnish, fairly matte, and with a faint linear craquelure on a scale of 1 mm or less. This could be an egg white temporary varnish. There are traces of damage from impacts on the surface, and a light fingerprint at the lower left corner. 3

The panel is slightly warped, slightly split, and fragile. The pine panel support is bevelled on the verso and was also trimmed with a knife, possibly to fit into a paint box. There are spots and streaks of paint on the verso, mostly off-white, and one spot of emerald colour paint. 4

Notes:

1: Clare Meredith, condition report, 8 May 2001, Hunterian files.

2: Dr. Joyce H. Townsend, Chief Conservator, Tate Britain, Report of examination, April 2017.

3: Townsend 2017, op. cit.

4: Meredith 2001, op. cit.; Townsend 2017, op. cit.

Last updated: 22nd October 2020 by Margaret