It was valued at 100 gns (£105.0.0) for the Wunderlich exhibition of 1889 in New York, but not sold, and returned to Whistler in London. 1
D. C. Thomson bought 'La Note Rouge' from Whistler for £80, and sent it to the Goupil branch in Paris for exhibition 'privately' in September 1891, after Whistler sent instructions: 'Kindly write to the house in Paris - and say that I should not like these pictures to be openly exhibited at present, but that they are to be shown by themselves, as you would show them, to special clients in a very choice and careful way.' 2 Thomson sent Whistler a cheque on 5 January 1892. 3
It was bought by Sir George A. Drummond on 21 December 1891. After Drummond's death on 2 February 1910, it presumably passed to his estate. It was returned to the UK and exhibited by D. C. Thomson at Barbizon House, London, in 1919 (cat. no. 19). At the Drummond sale at Christie's, 27 June 1919 (lot 166) it was bought by Reid for £945.0.0.
The later provenance is slightly less clear, but it was with Knoedler's in New York on 15 January 1924, and sold by them to Stevenson & Scott on 16 May 1924. According to a photograph in the Witt Library, Courtauld Institute of Art, two years later it was with Scott & Fowles.
It is not known when it was acquired by Hunt Henderson, but he bequeathed it with works from his collection to Tulane University in 1939. After it was sold by Tulane it was bought by G. L. Winthrop. Most of the paintings acquired by Winthrop were bequeathed to the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, but they did not include this oil. Presumably it was sold after his death in 1943 but, again, it is not known when it was bought by Mrs Mary Gay Labrot Leonhardt Sherrod; after her ownership, the provenance is clear. From 2005 it was on loan to the Art Institute of Chicago, except when away for exhibition.
The Sunday Times art critic had mixed feelings, being enthusiastic about the colour but disliking Whistler's depiction of figures:
'There is poetry really in some of them, as in the "Note in Red," or the "Scherzo in Blue," both of which are striking in colour, although they are marred with great ugliness of form. Mr. Whistler does but little justice to his sitters, or he must be singularly unfortunate in his models. Surely such long-legged children, such elephantine-footed females were never seen before. Their costumes seem to have been purchased, too, at that Rag shop in Chelsea, a picture of which, taken seemingly in the middle of the night, Mr. Whistler obligingly christens a "Nocturne in black and gold.” ' 5
The New York Times mentioned it in a generally favourable review in 1889. 6 It was priced at 100 guineas in 1889, but remained unsold, and was returned to Whistler after the exhibition by Wunderlich's on the SS Servia. 7
4: ‘An Enthusiast’, [Sickert, W. R.], 'Mr Whistler and His Art', The Artist, vol. 5, 1 June 1884, p. 199-201; press cutting in GUL Whistler PC7, p. 11.
5: Anon., ‘Notes – Harmonies – Nocturnes’, Sunday Times, London, 24 May 1884; press cutting in GUL Whistler PC8.
6: Anon., 'Etchings, Drawings, Pastels', New York Times, New York, 3 March 1889, p. 5.
Last updated: 2nd April 2021 by Margaret