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

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Blue and Violet (No. 2)

Composition


                    Blue and Violet (No. 2), Colby College Museum of Art
Blue and Violet (No. 2), Colby College Museum of Art

                    Blue and Violet, The Hunterian
Blue and Violet, The Hunterian

This appears to be a variant on Blue and Violet [M.1221]. M. F. MacDonald was quoted by Sotheby's in 2006 as follows:

Dr Margaret MacDonald writes, "It was very interesting to compare the pastel [Blue and Violet II] with the Hunterian Art Gallery's pastel by Whistler called Blue and Violet … The pose is very similar indeed to the Glasgow pastel, and there are areas where Whistler tried out variations in the shape of the arm, for instance. It is certainly not an exact copy of the pastel (by Whistler or anyone else) but it is a very careful study of the model in almost exactly the same position and outfit. Although Whistler rarely got this close in doing variations on a pose, there were certain poses that appeared to have obsessed him. There are other pairs or groups of pastels that form, as you might say, 'families'; in my catalogue raisonné you will see other pairs, such as Draped Nude (M.1222) and The Blue Girl (M.1223) that are subtle variations on a theme. The finish on your pastel is quite high, and it is signed with a butterfly, and both style and signature date it to the period of 1888-1892. This was a period when Whistler was obsessed with drawing, both in lithography and pastel. Your pastel and the Hunterian's Blue and Violet are highly finished examples of Whistler's work at this time, and were probably intended for exhibition." 1

The two pastels cited for comparison are Draped nude [M.1222] and r.: The Blue Girl; v.: Woman holding a fan [M.1223].

Technique


                    Blue and Violet (No. 2), Colby College Museum of Art
Blue and Violet (No. 2), Colby College Museum of Art

The figure is outlined in black chalk, with some repeated otlines on her left arm and leg. The edge of the robe at lower left has been moved to right, closer to the body. The colour is mostly rubbed in smoothly. There are a few white highlights and strokes of colour on the robe and head-scarf. The picture is highly finished, although the face is soft and blurred. The butterfly is a little unusual, and the level of soft finish atypical of Whistler's work.

Notes:

1: Sotheby's, New York, 24 May 2006 (lot 39)

Last updated: 13th April 2021 by Margaret