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

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A White Note

Titles

One principal title is known:

  • 'A White Note' (1888, New English Art Club). 1
  • 'Note Blanche. - (A White Note.)' (1905, Œuvres de James McNeill Whistler, Paris). 2
  • 'Joe, Note Blanche' (1908, Pennell). 3
  • 'Note Blanche' (1921, Pennell). 4
  • 'A White Note' (1980, YMSM). 5

'A White Note' is the preferred title.

Description


                    A White Note, Colby College Museum of Art
A White Note, Colby College Museum of Art

A three-quarter-length portrait in vertical format. A young woman with long wavy dark red hair stands in profile to left, looking out of a window. She wears a white dress with low neckline and full sleeves. Her hands are clasped in front of her waist. Through the window is a landscape, under a grey sky. In the foreground is a field of ripe corn. There is a wooded hill in the distance, and a steam locomotive travelling from right to left in a cutting in front of the trees.

Site

It may have been painted in Guéthary, Basses-Pyrénées, where Whistler also painted Blue and Silver: Blue Wave, Biarritz [YMSM 041].

Sitter


                    A White Note, Colby College Museum of Art
A White Note, Colby College Museum of Art

                    Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

                    Symphony in White, No. 2: The Little White Girl, Tate Britain
Symphony in White, No. 2: The Little White Girl, Tate Britain

Joanna Hiffernan (b. ca 1843-d.1886), Whistler's chief model and partner in the 1860s. She also posed in white for Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl [YMSM 038], Symphony in White, No. 2: The Little White Girl [YMSM 052], Symphony in White, No. 3 [YMSM 061], The Artist's Studio [YMSM 062], and The Artist in his Studio (Whistler in his Studio) [YMSM 063].

Comments

The inclusion of a locomotive in a picture by Whistler is unusual, but it may reflect attitudes towards contemporary subject matter associated with the Realist master, Jean-Désiré-Gustave Courbet (1819-1877). 6

Notes:

1: New English Art Club, Dudley Gallery, London, 1888 (cat. no. 98).

2: Œuvres de James McNeill Whistler, Palais de l'Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Paris, 1905 (cat. no. 6).

3: Pennell 1908 [more] , vol. 1, p. 95.

4: Pennell 1921C [more] , p. 156.

5: YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 44).

6: YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 44).

Last updated: 14th October 2021 by Margaret