Several possible titles have been suggested:
‘Portrait of Whistler with Hat’ is the preferred title.
Whistler described it as 'la tête grandeur nature peinte.' 9
A portrait in vertical format, it shows the head and shoulders of the artist in three-quarter view to left. He has dark curly hair and a moustache, and wears a black jacket and a flat-brimmed brushed silk hat. 10 The background is also very dark. The red signature 'Whistler.’ at the lower left is prominent.
James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903).
His face looks older, broader and heavier than in the earlier portrait, Whistler Smoking [YMSM 009].
A portrait of Whistler was painted by Ignace-Henri-Jean-Théodore Fantin-Latour (1836-1904) in 1865 as part of his large figure composition, Le Toast! Hommage à la vérité: the surviving fragment shown above shows a slightly older Whistler, looking, in fact, more like his earlier self-portrait.
In July 1897 Whistler wrote urgently to the 'Major', his sister-in-law Rosalind Birnie Philip (1873-1958):
'The telegram sent tonight means that Heinemann wants the photograph that Drouet gave me - or rather to Trixie -
… It used to be on the piano - and is from a portrait I did of myself long ago - Just the head with a hat - rather large - and very grand I need not say! - Find it Major and either post it - or if in too great a hurry bring it with you to Dieppe.' 11
There is however, no explanation of why the publisher William Heinemann (1863-1920) wanted the photograph.
1: Loan Exhibition of Paintings, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1874 (cat. no. 36).
2: Academy Charity Exhibition, Academy of Music, Baltimore, March 1876; press cutting in GUL Whistler PC I, p. 3.
3: Loan Collection of Paintings, in the West Galleries, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1881 (cat. no. 55).
4: Exhibition of Pictures, Union League Club, New York, 1881; press cutting, 10 April 1881, in GUL Whistler PC 4, p. 61.
5: Loan Collection of Paintings and Sculpture, in the West Galleries and the Grand Hall, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1886 (cat. no. 99).
6: Loan Exhibition of Portraits for the Benefit of the Orthopædic Hospital, National Academy of Design, New York, 1898-1899 (cat. no. 253).
7: Oil Paintings, Water Colors, Pastels and Drawings: Memorial Exhibition of the Works of Mr. J. McNeill Whistler, Copley Society, Boston, 1904 (cat. no. 55).
11: 'Trixie' was Beatrice Philip (Mrs E. W. Godwin, Mrs J. McN. Whistler) (1857-1896), and 'Major', R. Birnie Philip; [29 July 1897], GUW #04714.
Last updated: 4th December 2020 by Margaret