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

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The Priest's Lodging, Dieppe

The Priest's Lodging, Dieppe is difficult to date, partly because it was not completed or signed. However, the technique – as far as it goes – suggests a date in the late 1890s. The subject has long been associated with Dieppe, and therefore the date suggested (between 1896 and 1899) is primarily based on Whistler's known visits to Dieppe. 1 He visited Dieppe fairly often, partly because it was the port for ferries to and from the UK.

1896: After the death of his wife in 1896, Whistler travelled to the continent. He was in Dieppe in September, but complained: 'I don't think I shall stay - There is nothing much in the place - and it either pours or [is] cold … I don't see much use in struggling with work out of doors.' 2 And later in the same month he reported on his lack of progress:

'The work I have no success with! … Today was really fine - and at one moment I thought I had a wonderful picture - but no! - and how I lost it I scarcely can explain - though I do really know - which doesn't make it any better! - Of course it is ridiculous to have come here in this haste & to leave in this hurry! ... Here, this is the last day - and on this day only do I find what I want both in picture and place in which to paint it - and - What's the use! - Nobody ever yet painted with a trunk packed and one leg in the train! Rubbish - But isn't it funny - that I always do find what I want - There is, in this, perhaps something reassuring.' 3


                The Priest's Lodging, Dieppe, The Hunterian
The Priest's Lodging, Dieppe, The Hunterian

1897: Joseph Pennell (1860-1926) remembered that when he was in Dieppe with Whistler, in 1897, the artist had hardly arrived when 'he was in the street hunting for a little shop front he remembered'. 4 Perhaps this was the ideal spot mentioned in his letter of the previous year.

1897-1899: Whistler spent part of the summer in the Dieppe area, with or without his in-laws, the Birnie Philips, and the painting may date from one of these trips.

Notes:

1: Dated 'Possible ... July 1897' in YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 482).

2: Whistler to W. Heinemann, [14/19 September 1896], GUW #08534.

3: Whistler to R. Birnie Philip, [30 September 1896], GUW #04679.

4: Pennell 1908 [more] , vol. 2, p. 195.

Last updated: 2nd November 2020 by Margaret