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

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Grey and Silver: Mist – Life Boat


  • 1890/1892: bought from Whistler by Otto Goldschmidt (1829-1907) ;
  • 1907: passed to his estate;
  • 1913: recorded as sold by 'Mrs Goldschmidt' – possibly Mrs B. M. Goldschmidt (fl. 1913) – to Knoedler, New York art dealers, November 1913 (a/c # 13360);
  • 1914: bought by Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919) , Detroit;
  • 1919: bequeathed by C. L. Freer to the Freer Gallery of Art.

It was probably one of' two 'Marines' (see also Grey and Green: A River [YMSM 295]) bought from Whistler by the pianist and impresario Otto Goldschmidt for £200. 1 'The Life boat' was listed by Beatrice Philip (Mrs E. W. Godwin, Mrs J. McN. Whistler) (1857-1896) as in the collection of Otto Goldschmidt in November 1892. 2 C. L. Freer saw it in Goldschmidt's house in Paris in 1904/1905. 3

                    Grey and Silver: Mist - Life Boat, photograph, 1913
Grey and Silver: Mist - Life Boat, photograph, 1913

'Mrs Goldschmidt' was not the widow of Otto Goldschmidt: his wife, Jenny Lind, pre-deceased him. Their children were Walter Otto (b. 1853), Jenny Maria Catherine (Mrs Maude, 1857-1935) and Ernst Svend David (1861-1947). Walter Otto Goldschmidt married Mary Julia Daniels in 1884 (divorced in 1893), and Agnes Gilchrist Dunn in 1918; he probably died in 1929. Ernst Svend David Goldschmidt (1861-1947) married Helen Wallace (Mrs E. S. D. Goldschmidt) (ca 1874-1947) in 1911: so she could have been the 'Mrs Goldschmidt' living in 1913.

However, Otto Goldschmidt senior also had a brother Enrique Goldschmidt (fl. 1891) who was working in Berlin in 1891, and occasionally handled Whistler's works for his brother. 4 There may well have been another Mrs, Madame or Frau Goldschmidt. Several other works by Whistler were sold by Mrs Goldschmidt including Nocturne [YMSM 153] and Grey and Green: A River [YMSM 295].

The painting was sold to Knoedler's, New York dealers, in November 1913, and bought from them in the following January by C. L. Freer for $2605 including expenses.


  • 1884: 'Notes' - 'Harmonies' - 'Nocturnes', Messrs Dowdeswell, London, 1884 (cat. no. 54) as 'Grey and silver Mist – Life Boat'.
  • 1884: Annual Exhibition of Sketches, Pictures & Photography: A Loan Collection of Pictures by Mr Whistler ..., Dublin Sketching Club, Dublin, 1884 (cat. no. 246) as 'Grey and silver Mist – Life Boat'.
  • 1887: Exposition Internationale de Peinture et de Sculpture, Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, 1887 (cat. no. 199) as 'Gris et argent: Mer et Pluie. Bateau de sauvetage'.
  • 1888: Probably III. Internationale Kunst-Ausstellung, Königlicher Glaspalast, Munich, 1888 (cat. no. 60) as 'Grau und Silber'.
  • 1889: “Notes” – “Harmonies” – “Nocturnes”, H. Wunderlich & Co., New York, 1889 (cat. no. 29) as 'A Grey Note – The Life Boat'.
  • 1890: Exposition Générale des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, 1890 (cat. no. 843) as 'Le Bateau de sauvetage'.

It attracted few comments in the press in 1884, but Walter Richard Sickert (1860-1942) admired its 'Beauty of handling and high finish'. 5

It was listed by Whistler in 1888 as 'Gris et argent – Le bateau de sauvetage' to be sent first to the exhibition in Munich and then to Wunderlich's in America. 6 It was priced at 60 guineas by Wunderlich's but not sold; it was returned by Wunderlich's on the SS Servia. 7 Whistler obviously thought highly of this painting and exhibited it frequently, six times between 1884 and 1890.

By the terms of C. L. Freer's bequest to the Freer Gallery of Art, the painting cannot be lent.


1: Note by Goldschmidt; quoted by Brumbaugh 1972 [more] .

2: Letter to E. G. Kennedy, [22 October/November 1892], GUW #09793.

3: [1904/1905], Diaries, Bk 14, Freer Gallery Archives.

4: See E. Goldschmidt to Whistler, 4 March 1891, GUW #01756.

5: ‘An Enthusiast’, [Sickert, W. R.], 'Mr Whistler and His Art', The Artist and Journal of Home Culture, vol. 5, 1 June 1884, pp. 199-201. See also Anon, ['Cigarette'], 'Whistles', The Topical Times, 24 May 1884; press cuttings in GUL Whistler PC7, p. 11 and PC6, p. 35.

6: GUW #04203.

7: G. Dieterlen to Whistler, 1 November 1889, GUW #07187.

Last updated: 2nd April 2021 by Margaret