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


Blue and Silver: Trouville


Several possible titles have been suggested:

  • Probably 'The Yacht Race – A Symphony in B sharp' (1873, Deschamps). 1
  • Possibly 'Harmonie en bleu et argent' (1883, George Petit). 2
  • Probably 'Yacht Race' or 'Trouville' (1891, Deschamps). 3
  • 'Sea Piece - Trouville' (1892, Whistler). 4
  • 'Blue Sea. Trouville' (1892, Whistler). 5
  • Probably 'Blue and Silver' (1892, Goupil). 6
  • 'Symphonie in Silber' (1892, VI. Internationale Kunst-Ausstellung, Munich). 7
  • 'The "blue & Silver" Sea piece' (1892, Whistler). 8
  • 'Harmony in Blue and Silver' (1893, World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago). 9
  • 'Sea & Boats' or 'Blue & Silver "Trouville" ' (1895, C. L. Freer). 10
  • 'Blue and Silver, Trouville' (1899, ISSPG). 11
  • 'Blue and Silver: Trouville' (1980, YMSM). 12

Whistler queried the title of the painting exhibited at the Society of French Artists (cat. no. 110) as 'The Yacht Race ̶ A Symphony in B sharp'. He wrote to the manager Charles William Deschamps (1848-1908),

'At first I took what the Observer of last Sunday said about Mr. Whistlers pun on "B Sharp", for some unwarrantable hoax of their own - And paid no further attention; but I find it repeated in other journals and am told that it is so in your catalogue! For this I am very sorry - I am convinced that you would not willingly have done any thing of the kind to annoy me ... but you see the names I give to my pictures really mean to indicate seriously the kind of work I am about -

And this or any other witticism from without thrown at me would do well enough, but I never joke with my own work myself and I cannot possibly let it be supposed that I should do so - The upshot of all this is that I beg you will scratch "Symphony in B Sharp" out of your catalogue - Leave 'Yacht Race' if you like - though I regret immensely having been knocked over by my illness so immediately after seeing you - and so prevented from seeing the picture and doing anything about either its name or its frame - Also that I shall probably have to write a line to the Athenaeum to explain this and that I hope you will not be vexed at my so doing.' 13

C. W. Deschamps replied that the title 'The Yacht race / A Symphony in B Sharp' was written on a label on the back and signed 'J. Whistler'. 14

Whistler wrote to the Athenaeum on 22 November 1873 protesting that this was not the original title, and adding: 'The titles I have hitherto given to my pictures have been intended by me as a key to my work simply; but I cannot expect others, who do not understand them, to refuse themselves any witticism, like the above brilliant parody, on the subject.' 15

'Blue and Silver: Trouville' is the preferred title.


                    Blue and Silver: Trouville, Freer Gallery of Art
Blue and Silver: Trouville, Freer Gallery of Art

A view from a sandy beach, in horizontal format. The beach extends from lower right upwards to left. There are a few rocks on the beach at lower right and further out in the sea. The sea is pale blue, a few waves breaking in the shallows. A couple of sailing boats are far out to sea to left. The sky is bright, pale blue with scudding white and grey clouds.


The coast at Trouville, France.


1: Sixth Exhibition of the Society of French Artists [Summer Exhibition], Deschamps Gallery, London, 1873 (cat. no. 110).

2: Exposition Internationale de Peinture, Galerie George Petit, Paris, 1883 (cat. no. 4).

3: Deschamps to Whistler, 8 April 1891, GUW #00833.

4: Whistler to D. C. Thomson, [16 November 1892], GUW #11504.

5: Whistler to E. A. Abbey, [November 1892 / 10 January 1893], GUW #03181.

6: Nocturnes, Marines & Chevalet Pieces, Goupil Gallery, London, 1892 (cat. no. 37) but see Blue and Silver [YMSM 340].

7: VI. Internationale Kunst-Ausstellung, Königlicher Glaspalast, Munich, 1892 (cat. no. 1950b).

8: Whistler to Charles Frederick Ulrich, [October 1892], GUW #13148.

9: World's Columbian Exposition, Department of Fine Arts, Chicago, 1893 (cat. no. 768).

10: [1895], n.d., Diaries, Bk 12, Freer Gallery of Art.

11: 2nd Exhibition, Pictures, Drawings, Prints and Sculptures, International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers, London, 1899 (cat. no. 135).

12: YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 66).

13: [9/22 November 1873], GUW #13487.

14: Deschamps to Whistler, [10/22 November 1873], GUW #00830.

15: The Athenaeum, 22 November 1873, p. 666; GUW #13150.

Last updated: 3rd December 2020 by Margaret