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

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Variations in violet and rose

Provenance

  • 1889: sold through Wunderlich's, New York, to Henry Osbourne Havemeyer (1847-1907) ;
  • 1907: bequeathed to his widow, and her daughter Electra Havemeyer Webb(Mrs J. Watson Webb) (1888-1960) ;
  • 1960: bequeathed to the Shelburne Museum.
  • 1996: sold at auction, Sotheby's, New York, 5 December 1996 as 'The Greek Slave (Variations in violet and rose)'.

The 1996 sale was reported by Ann Wallace in APnews:

'SHELBURNE, Vt. (AP) The Shelburne Museum has decided to sell 22 works of art and raise $25 million, not to acquire other works but to preserve the rest of its 80,000-piece collection. The decision followed years of debate by the museum’s directors, some of whom said selling the works to raise a maintenance endowment violates the guidelines of the American Association of Museums, which forbids the selling of artworks for purposes other than the acquisition of more art. "It’s a wrenching decision,″ said trustee Jane Beck, who helped decide which paintings would be auctioned off by Sotheby’s in New York starting in November.' 1

The New York Times on 23 April 1996 added further details:

'The decision came after two years of debate among the museum's directors, which became so contentious that the board chairman, J. Watson Webb, whose mother, Electra Havemeyer Webb, built the Shelburne in 1947, resigned in January. Mr. Webb said at the time that the museum's plans to sell off valuable French Impressionist works given to the museum by his mother were in violation of the code of ephics of the American Association of Museums, which forbids the selling of artworks for purposes other than acquiring more art.

John Wilmerding, Mr. Webb's nephew and an active board member, defended the museum's decision yesterday. "We don't want to dig into our endowment until it disappears," he said. "We've spent a great deal of time exploring every option from mergers to lending our collections. This seemed like the best option, a pro-active decision rather than a reactive one." '

Exhibitions

  • 1886: 'Notes' - 'Harmonies' - 'Nocturnes', Second Series, Messrs Dowdeswell, London, 1886 (cat. no. 21) 'Variations in violet and rose'.
  • 1887: possibly Exposition Internationale de Peinture et de Sculpture, Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, 1887 (cat. no. 185) as 'Violet et rose'.
  • 1888: possibly Ve Exposition des XX, Société des XX, Brussels, 1888 (no cat. no.) as 'Harmonie en rose et violet'.
  • 1888: possibly III. Internationale Kunst-Ausstellung, Königlicher Glaspalast, Munich, 1888 (cat. no. 47) as 'Harmonie rosa und Violet'.
  • 1889: “Notes” – “Harmonies” – “Nocturnes”, H. Wunderlich & Co., New York, 1889 (cat. no. 46) as 'Pink and Violet'.
  • 1904: Oil Paintings, Water Colors, Pastels and Drawings: Memorial Exhibition of the Works of Mr. J. McNeill Whistler, Copley Society, Boston, 1904 (cat. no. 124) as 'Greek Girl'.

                    Variations in violet and rose, Whereabouts unknown
Variations in violet and rose, Whereabouts unknown

The Globe on 14 May 1886 commended the figure's 'beauty of form and graceful movement'. Similarly, Kay described it as 'a woman most gracefully draped, the body facing, the profile turned, the right hand on a balustrade over which drapery falls, and a pink cap on her head, one of the most delightful bits in the collection'. 2 New York Herald, 2 March 1889, noted three studies of women in the Wunderlich show including 'one of remarkable beauty of grace ... a young woman, with her form beautifully shown through a semi-transparent robe, leaning on a balustrade.'

Notes:

1: https://apnews.com/article/4eaa9ef9ae3b78b5a3fef64abcc21f2c

2: Kay, Charles de, 'Whistler. The head of the Impressionists', Art Review, vol. 1, no. 1, 1886, pp. 1-3, at p. 2.

Last updated: 11th April 2021 by Margaret