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

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Harmony in Flesh Colour and Black: Portrait of Mrs Louise Jopling

Titles

Whistler's original title is not known. The suggested titles are:

  • 'full length of Mrs Jopling' (1877, E. W. Godwin). 1
  • 'a symphony in salmon and black' (1878, L. Jopling). 2
  • 'Harmony in Flesh Colour and Black (Portrait of Mrs Louise Jopling)' (1936, Hunterian). 3
  • 'Harmony in Flesh Colour and Black: Portrait of Mrs Louise Jopling' (1980, YMSM). 4

Louise Jopling described the painting as 'a symphony in salmon and black' but it is simply not known if that was a description or a title. The earliest published title for the painting, as late as 1936, may have come originally from Whistler and been recorded by Rosalind Birnie Philip (1873-1958) , who gave the painting to the University of Glasgow. The punctuation was regularised to be consistent with other titles in 1980, and thus 'Harmony in Flesh Colour and Black: Portrait of Mrs Louise Jopling' became the accepted title.

Description


                    Harmony in Flesh Colour and Black: Portrait of Mrs Louise Jopling, The
Hunterian
Harmony in Flesh Colour and Black: Portrait of Mrs Louise Jopling, The Hunterian

A full-length portrait of a woman seen from the back, with her head turned in profile to left. She has very dark hair, tied with red ribbons. Her dress is a creamy white, fitting at the top, with narrow sleeves, and the skirt loosely gathered up at the back. She has a black scarf round her neck, and a gold necklace. The background is a rich black. The portrait is in vertical format.

Sitter

The artist, Louise Jopling (1843-1933) .

H. R. Barraud, Louise Jopling, carbon print, National Portrait Gallery, NPG Ax8712
H. R. Barraud, Louise Jopling, carbon print, National Portrait Gallery, NPG Ax8712

Louise Jane Jopling (née Goode, later Rowe) recorded the sitting later, remembering that, after breakfast in Whistler's London studio, she 'stood for two hours without a rest in which time he had painted a life-sized full-length of me. I wonder where that portrait sketch vanished to.' 5

J. E. Millais, Portrait of Mrs Louise Jopling,National Portrait Gallery.
J. E. Millais, Portrait of Mrs Louise Jopling,National Portrait Gallery.

John Everett Millais (1829-1896) painted a portrait of Louise Jopling-Rowe in 1879 and exhibited it at the Grosvenor Gallery, London, in 1880 (cat. no. 49). 6 She recollected sitting for Millais:

'I arrived about 10.30, stood until lunchtime, and then had about another hour after. It took [Millais] exactly five days. But then I sat with all the knowledge of a portrait painter. I knew that the better I sat, the sooner the work would be finished, and, also, the better the portrait would be. And so it turned out, for Millais' portrait of me is considered to be the finest woman portrait he ever painted.' 7

Notes:

1: 22 July 1877, Diary, Victoria and Albert Museum.

2: Louise Jopling, diary, 17 February 1878, quoted in de Montfort, Patricia, Louise Jopling: a biographical and cultural study of the modern woman artist in Victorian Britain, Abingdon & New York, 2017, p. 80.

3: James McNeill Whistler, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, 1936 (cat. no. 27).

4: YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 191).

5: Jopling 1925 [more] , p. 71.

6: National Portrait Gallery, London, NPG 6612.

7: Jopling 1925 [more] , p. 140; see also Millais 1899 [more] , vol. 1, pp. 443–45.

Last updated: 21st May 2021 by Margaret