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

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Portrait of Whistler with Hat

Titles

Several possible titles have been suggested:

  • 'Head of a young man' (1874, New York). 1
  • 'Portrait of the Artist by himself ' (1876, Baltimore). 2
  • 'Portrait of Himself' (1881, New York). 3
  • 'Self-Portrait' (1881, New York). 4
  • 'Portrait of Whistler' (1885-1886, New York). 5
  • 'The Artist' (1898-1899, New York). 6
  • 'Portrait of Whistler with Hat' (1904, Boston). 7
  • ‘Portrait of Whistler with Hat’ (1980, YMSM). 8

Portrait of Whistler with Hat’ is the preferred title.

Description


                    Portrait of Whistler with Hat, Freer Gallery of Art
Portrait of Whistler with Hat, Freer Gallery of Art

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.

Sitter

James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903).


                    Whistler Smoking, private collection
Whistler Smoking, private collection

                    Portrait of Whistler with Hat, Freer Gallery of Art
Portrait of Whistler with Hat, Freer Gallery of Art

His face looks older, broader and heavier than in the earlier portrait, Whistler Smoking [YMSM 009].

H. Fantin-Latour, Portrait of Whistler (detail from  Le Toast! Hommage à la vérité), Freer Gallery of Art
H. Fantin-Latour, Portrait of Whistler (detail from Le Toast! Hommage à la vérité), Freer Gallery of Art

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.

Comments

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.

Notes:

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).

8: YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 23).

9: [August 1872], GUW #08041.

10: Eddy 1903 [more] , p. 42; see also Hobbs 1981 [more] , p. 1195, and Sutherland 2014 [more] , p. 41, and MacDonald 2015 [more] , on Whistler’s Bohemian fashion style.

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