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

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Harmony in Fawn Colour and Purple: Portrait of Miss Milly Finch

Titles

Whistler's original title is not known. The known title varies only in punctuation:

  • 'Harmony in Fawn Colour and Purple (Portrait of Miss Millie Finch)' (1936, Hunterian). 1
  • 'Harmony in Fawn Colour and Purple: Portrait of Miss Milly Finch' (1980, YMSM). 2

In 1886 Whistler listed among the full-length portraits in his studio, 'Milly. Finch - Red - ... / Millie Finch - Violet - / Blue. Girl - / Millie Finch Black.' 3 It is not really clear which one is which, and despite the touch of coral red in her scarf, seen also in Harmony in Coral and Blue: Miss Finch [YMSM 237], this painting, 'Harmony in Fawn Colour and Purple: Portrait of Miss Milly Finch', does not appear to fit these titles. However, the titles suggest that it was the colour harmonies, rather than the individual model, that was the subject of these pictures.

Description


                    Harmony in Fawn Colour and Purple: Portrait of Miss Milly Finch, The Hunterian
Harmony in Fawn Colour and Purple: Portrait of Miss Milly Finch, The Hunterian

A full-length portrait of a young woman facing front. She has dark brown eyes and hair, cut in a curly fringe. She wears a purple head-scarf tied at the back, the ends draped forward over her breast, and a coral-red scarf or fichu over her shoulders. Her fawn or khaki dress is close-fitting, with a black belt knotted at the front, and three-quarter-length sleeves. Her hands hang at her sides, her right hand holding an open fan. The background is cream shading to a grey floor. The bottom of the skirt has been rubbed out. The canvas is in vertical format.

Sitter

Millie Finch (fl. 1875-1885) . Milly Finch – possibly Amelia or Millicent Finch – has not been identified. Milly may have been 'Millicent J. Finch', who would have been fifteen in 1884. Milly seems to have modelled for Whistler when Maud Franklin (1857-ca 1941) was ill.

Whistler called her 'the Red Girl', which might refer to the red scarf around her neck, or to another portrait in which she posed in a red dress. 4 He painted three oil portraits of Milly in the mid-1880s, which are closely related to this oil, namely Harmony in Coral and Blue: Miss Finch [YMSM 237], and Harmony in Blue and Violet: Miss Finch [YMSM 239].

Notes:

1: James McNeill Whistler, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, 1936 (cat. no. 21).

2: YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 239).

3: Whistler, list, [1886/1887], formerly dated [4/11 January 1892], GUW #06795.

4: Whistler to C. W. Dowdeswell, [1/14 May 1884], GUW #08653.

Last updated: 19th October 2020 by Margaret