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

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A Grey Note - Flags, Portsmouth


  • 1889: bought from Wunderlich's, New York dealers, by J. N. or J. H. Wade, jr.

Wunderlich's at one point said that Wade had 'disappeared'. 1 However, the painting was not returned to Whistler, so the sale may have been completed satisfactorily. Wunderlich's letter appears to read 'J. N. Wade Jr.' but no such person has been identified. Jeptha Homer Wade II (1857-1926) a financier, who helped develop Cleveland Museum of Art, may have been the purchaser, in which case this painting may have burnt with his country house in 1927. 2 However, the purchaser has not been conclusively identified.


  • 1887: Winter Exhibition, Royal Society of British Artists, London, 1887-1888 (cat. no. 235) as 'A Grey Note'.
  • 1889: “Notes” – “Harmonies” – “Nocturnes”, H. Wunderlich & Co., New York, 1889 (cat. no. 33) as 'A Grey Note – Flags, Portsmouth'.

It was described by The Globe, London, 29 November 1887, as 'an excellent sea-coast [study] of miniature size' and by the Manchester Courier on the following day (which identified it as 'A Gray Note, Portsmouth') as showing that Whistler was 'gradually getting out of his eccentricities'!


1: Wunderlich and Co. to Whistler, April 1889, GUW #07175.

2: See MacDonald 1995 (cat. rais.) [more] (cat. no. 1139), where, under 'History', the purchaser was suggested as Wade's grandfather, the first Jeptha Homer Wade (1811-1890). This now seems unlikely as he was not 'junior'.

Last updated: 4th March 2021 by Margaret