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

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Arrangement in Black and Brown: The Fur Jacket

Composition


                    Arrangement in Black and Brown: The Fur Jacket, photograph of the unfinished painting, 1876/77
Arrangement in Black and Brown: The Fur Jacket, photograph of the unfinished painting, 1876/77

                    Arrangement in Black and Brown: The Fur Jacket, photograph, 1892, Goupil Album, GUL Whistler PH5/2
Arrangement in Black and Brown: The Fur Jacket, photograph, 1892, Goupil Album, GUL Whistler PH5/2

A photograph in the Lucas Collection, Baltimore shows the picture before completion. 1 This early photograph shows the painting already signed with the butterfly, but the fur of the jacket (particularly down the front) is not so light; head, hat and shoulders are very thinly sketched in, her chin is rounder and her eyes more wide open.

On 2 May 1892 Whistler wrote to D. C. Thomson that Walter Richard Sickert (1860-1942) had a photograph of Arrangement in Black and Brown: The Fur Jacket [YMSM 181] '(in an earlier state - but that doesn't matter) showing how much finer it could be', being less dark than in contemporary photographs and therefore, Whistler suggested, more suitable for inclusion in the Goupil Album. 2 The suggestion was not taken up, the more recent photograph being the one published.

Technique


                    Arrangement in Black and Brown: The Fur Jacket, Worcester Art Museum
Arrangement in Black and Brown: The Fur Jacket, Worcester Art Museum

Painted with thin washes of dark colours: Marc Simpson comments on 'the fluid nature of Whistler's paint … and the summary nature of the forms that he was willing to accept in order to maintain surface unity across the large canvases'. 3 However, the face, soft-edged, is painted in more detail, and stands out clearly from the enveloping shadows.

Conservation History


                    Arrangement in Black and Brown: The Fur Jacket, photograph of the unfinished painting, 1876/77
Arrangement in Black and Brown: The Fur Jacket, photograph of the unfinished painting, 1876/77

                    Arrangement in Black and Brown: The Fur Jacket, photograph, 1892, Goupil Album, GUL  Whistler PH5/2
Arrangement in Black and Brown: The Fur Jacket, photograph, 1892, Goupil Album, GUL Whistler PH5/2

                    Arrangement in Black and Brown: The Fur Jacket, Worcester Art Museum
Arrangement in Black and Brown: The Fur Jacket, Worcester Art Museum

The painting may have darkened a little. There is some craquelure in the background.

Frame

Portrait Whistler frame, dating from 1876/1879. 4

Whistler Memorial Exhibition, Boston, 1904, photograph, GUL Whistler PH6/18
Whistler Memorial Exhibition, Boston, 1904, photograph, GUL Whistler PH6/18

The photograph above shows the framed painting on exhibition in Boston in 1904.

Notes:

1: Pennell 1911 A [more] , repr. f. p. 428. Joseph Pennell called this 'the destroyed version': Pennell, Joseph, ‘The Forty Undiscovered Whistlers’, International Studio, vol. 72, February 1921, pp. cv-cxiii., at p. cxii.

2: GUW #08205.

3: Simpson, Marc, 'Whistler, Modernism, and the Creative Afflatus', in Simpson, Marc, Like Breath on Glass: Whistler, Inness, and the Art of Painting Softly, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, MA, 2008, pp. 24-51, at pp. 41-42.

4: Dr Sarah L. Parkerson Day, Report on frames, 2017.

Last updated: 4th June 2021 by Margaret