Several possible titles have been suggested:
There are two pen drawings, each signed with a butterfly by Whistler, which relate to this painting, namely Study for 'Arrangement in Black: Lady Meux' [M.0850] and Arrangement in Black - No. 3 [M.0851]. The latter is inscribed by Whistler 'Arrangement in Black - No. 3', but this is confusing, because both Arrangement in Black, No. 3: Sir Henry Irving as Philip II of Spain [YMSM 187] and Arrangement in Black and Brown: The Fur Jacket [YMSM 181] were exhibited at different times as 'Arrangement in Black, No. 3' (see also Arrangement in Black: Portrait of F. R. Leyland [YMSM 097], the first in the series).
Given the confusion arising from Whistler's numbering, the title 'Arrangement in Black: Lady Meux' is preferred.
A full-length portrait of a woman in vertical format. Her dark curly hair is cut in a short fringe. She wears a black dress with a low neck-line trimmed with feathers. She has a diamond necklace, bracelet, ear-rings and tiara. A white fur stole or cloak hangs over her left shoulder and behind her right arm, down to the floor. Her left arm is hidden and her right arm, clad in a black glove with a lacy trim, hangs at her side, holding the edge of the stole. The background is also black.
This was the first of three portraits to be completed (see Harmony in Pink and Grey: Portrait of Lady Meux [YMSM 229] and Portrait of Lady Meux in Furs [YMSM 230]). It was also Whistler's first full-scale commissioned portrait following his bankruptcy and his return from Venice.
Thomas Robert Way (1861-1913) comments:
'The keenness with which [Whistler] painted these portraits engrossed him entirely, and Lady Meux used to boast that she taught him how to paint, so much did she appreciate them. She had been introduced to him by a fellow-member of one of the Clubs he belonged to, and this friend must have been a very strong admirer of his work. Whistler instanced this as one of the advantages of belonging to a number of different Clubs.' 7
Later photographs suggest that she put on some weight at a later date, or that the costume and Whistler's painting were very flattering.
4: Ouvrages de peinture, sculpture, architecture, gravure et lithographie des artistes vivants, 100th exhibition, Salon de la Société des artistes français, Palais des Champs Elysées, Paris, 1882 (cat. no. 2687).
5: 3rd exhibition, Society of Portrait Painters, London, 1893 (cat. no. 46).
8: 'The Lost Lady: What became of a Whistler', The Graphic, 25 March 1911, p. 18.
Last updated: 17th November 2020 by Margaret