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

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Battersea Reach

Titles

Only minor variations on the title have been suggested:

  • 'The Battersea' (1892, Whistler). 1
  • 'Battersea Reach' (1892, Whistler). 2
  • 'Battersea Reach' (1911, St Louis, exhibition catalogue). 3
  • 'Thames at Chelsea' (1893, E. G. Kennedy). 4
  • 'Battersea Reach' (1980, YMSM). 5

'Battersea Reach' is the preferred title.

Description


                    Battersea Reach, Corcoran Collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
Battersea Reach, Corcoran Collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

A view across a river, in a city, painted in horizontal format. In the lower right foreground are figures walking or leaning on a parapet over the river. A woman in a white dress, with long fair hair, is prominent among these. Half a dozen sailing barges with red or black furled sails are moored by the shore at right. Another sailing barge and other boats are on the river. On the far side of the river there are large buildings, factories and warehouses. Both river and sky are streaked with grey and white with touches of pale blue.

Site

The river Thames, as seen from Chelsea, London. Old Westminster Bridge is seen in the background. Whistler described the view:

'The picture called "Battersea Reach" was painted by me ... when I was living in Lindsey Row, Chelsea. It was a view of the opposite bank of the river, from out of my window.' 6

In a letter to Edward Guthrie Kennedy (1849-1932), Whistler listed it as 'No. 3. The Battersea (afternoon or evening effect).' 7 In another letter, to his sister-in-law, he described it as 'the little evening on the Battersea Reach - a most gorgeous bit of colour.' 8


                    Battersea Reach, Corcoran Collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
Battersea Reach, Corcoran Collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

                    Grey and Silver: Old Battersea Reach, Art Institute of Chicago
Grey and Silver: Old Battersea Reach, Art Institute of Chicago

Battersea Reach appears to be a pair with Grey and Silver: Old Battersea Reach [YMSM 046], which was painted from the same viewpoint. 9


                    Symphony in Grey: Early Morning, Thames, Freer Gallery of Art
Symphony in Grey: Early Morning, Thames, Freer Gallery of Art

Symphony in Grey: Early Morning, Thames [YMSM 098], and numerous other paintings, show the same view as in Battersea Reach.

Sitter

The 'White Girl' in the foreground at lower right is a visual reference to Whistler's portraits of Joanna Hiffernan (b. ca 1843-d.1886), particularly Symphony in White, No. I: The White Girl [YMSM 038]. 10

Notes:

1: Whistler to E. G. Kennedy, 10-11 June 1892, GUW #09680.

2: Whistler to S. Richards,[27 June 1892], GUW #05189.

3: St Louis 1911 (cat. no. 84).

4: E. G. Kennedy to Whistler, 22 February 1893, GUW #07212.

5: YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 45).

6: Whistler to Isaac Cook, 17 August 1893, GUW #13533.

7: Whistler to E. G. Kennedy, 10-11 June 1892, GUW #09680.

8: Whistler to H. E. Whistler, [7 August 1892], GUW #06718.

9: Lochnan, Katharine, Turner, Whistler, Monet, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, Paris; Tate Britain, London, 2004-2005 (cat. no. 121).

10: MacDonald, Margaret F., 'Joanna Hiffernan and James Whistler: an Artistic Partnership' in Margaret F. MacDonald (ed.), The Woman in White: Joanna Hiffernan and James McNeill Whistler, New Haven and Washington, 2020, pp. 15-31.

Last updated: 1st December 2020 by Margaret