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

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Harmony in Pink and Grey: Portrait of Lady Meux

Titles

Several variations on the title have been suggested:

  • 'Harmony in Flesh-Colour and Pink – Mrs. H. B. Meux' (1882, Grosvenor). 1
  • 'Portrait in Pink ... the pink picture' (1884, Whistler). 2
  • 'the Pink Meux' (1892, Whistler). 3
  • 'Harmonie en gris et rose – portrait de Lady Meux' (1892, Exposition Nationale des Beaux-Arts). 4
  • 'Harmony in Pink and Grey: Portrait of Lady Meux' (1892, Goupil). 5
  • 'Harmony in Pink and Grey: Portrait of Lady Meux' (1980, YMSM). 6

'Harmony in Pink and Grey: Portrait of Lady Meux' is the generally accepted title.

Description


                    Harmony in Pink and Grey: Portrait of Lady Meux, The Frick Collection
Harmony in Pink and Grey: Portrait of Lady Meux, The Frick Collection

A full-length portrait of a woman in vertical format. She is in profile to right but looks at the viewer. She wears an ivory/white dress with satiny pink top. The dress is gathered into a bustle and draped around to the front of the figure, held by her right hand. She wears a broad brimmed straw hat decorated with ribbons. She stands on a reddish-brown floor against a greyish background.

Sitter


                    Lady Meux and Sir Henry Meux, photograph, Lowewood Museum
Lady Meux and Sir Henry Meux, photograph, Lowewood Museum

Valerie Susan Meux (née Langdon) (1847-1910) .

Harmony in Pink and Grey: Portrait of Lady Meux [YMSM 229] was the second of the three portraits of Lady Meux to be completed (Arrangement in Black: Lady Meux [YMSM 228], Harmony in Pink and Grey: Portrait of Lady Meux [YMSM 229], Portrait of Lady Meux in Furs [YMSM 230]).

'A caricature of Whistler painting simultaneously his three portraits of Lady Meux', by Charles Hallam Elton Brookfield (1857-1913), was published in The Graphic, 25 March 1911. 7

Comments

Dinner Dress, two piece, 1877/1883, Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY, 1979.34.2-d
Dinner Dress, two piece, 1877/1883, Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY, 1979.34.2-d

The luxurious day dress in pink satin and silvery grey chiffon (or other semi-transparent material) is discussed in detail by Susan Galassi and Helen Grace Burnham in Whistler, Women and Fashion, and compared with the opulent dinner dress reproduced above. With the help of corsets, the dress flattered Lady Meux's generous proportions. Galassi and Burnham draw attention to the sitter's 'assertive stance and outward stare', as suggesting the femme fatale, and compare it with Nana by Edouard Manet (1832-1883) (1877, Kunsthalle, Hamburg). 8

Notes:

1: VI Summer Exhibition, Grosvenor Gallery, London, 1882 (cat. no. 48).

2: Whistler to V. B. Meux, [1/8 January 1884], GUW #07928.

3: J. Whistler to B. Whistler, [30 January 1892], GUW #06608.

4: Exposition Nationale des Beaux-Arts, Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts, Champ-de-Mars, Paris, 1892 (cat. no. 1066).

5: Nocturnes, Marines & Chevalet Pieces, Goupil Gallery, London, 1892 (cat. no. 43).

6: YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 229).

7: 'The Lost Lady: What became of a Whistler', The Graphic, 25 March 1911, p. 18.

8: Susan Galassi and Helen Grace Burnham, 'Lady Henry Bruce Meux and Lady Archibald Campbell', MacDonald 2003 [more] , chapter 8, pp. 157-178, at pp. 171-175, dress repr. p. 172.

Last updated: 31st December 2020 by Margaret