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

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Harmony in Blue and Violet: Miss Finch

Titles

Whistler's original title is not known with certainty:

  • Possibly 'Millie Finch - Violet' (1886/1887, Whistler). 1
  • 'Harmony in Blue and Violet (Miss Finch)' (1936, Glasgow University). 2
  • 'Harmony in Blue and Violet: Miss Finch' (1980, YMSM). 3

It is not certain that the current title, 'Harmony in Blue and Violet: Miss Finch' was Whistler's title; however, the Hunterian website comments:

'Miss Milly Finch was a professional model who posed for Whistler during the 1880's. In painting this portrait, Whistler's main interest was not in capturing a true likeness of the sitter, but rather in concentrating on the themes of colour and form. Hence the title indicates that this piece should be viewed as an exercise in colour, rather than as a portrait of a specific person.' 4

Description


                    Harmony in Blue and Violet: Miss Finch, The Hunterian
Harmony in Blue and Violet: Miss Finch, The Hunterian

A full-length portrait of a young woman standing facing the viewer, her body turned slightly to the right (her left). She has dark brown eyes and hair cut in a curly fringe. She is dressed in a pale turquoise pinafore over a blue and purple dress with three-quarter length sleeves trimmed with lace. A purplish-brown scarf covers her head and winds around her neck. She carries an open fan painted in cream, blue and pink in her left hand; her right hand is at her side, holding up her skirt and the hem of the pinafore. The background is black. The canvas is in vertical format.

Sitter

Millie Finch (fl. 1875-1885) has not been identified. She appears to have modelled at times when Maud Franklin (1857-ca 1941) was ill or unable to sit for some reason. Whistler painted three oil portraits of Milly in the mid-1880s (Harmony in Coral and Blue: Miss Finch, Harmony in Fawn Colour and Purple: Portrait of Miss Milly Finch [YMSM 238], and Harmony in Coral and Blue: Miss Finch [YMSM 237].

'Milly' could be short for Amelia or Millicent. A 'Millicent J. Finch', aged 32, born in Islington and listed in the 1901 census, would have been fifteen in 1884; she is a possible candidate, since Whistler showed a certain preference for young models.

Comments

It is possible that the portraits of Millie Finch – this and Harmony in Coral and Blue: Miss Finch [YMSM 237] – were part of a series of 'blue girls' painted by Whistler between 1870 and 1900.

The first 'blue girl was Annabel Lee [YMSM 079]. This was followed by The Blue Girl: Portrait of Miss Elinor Leyland [YMSM 111] and The Blue Girl: Maud Franklin [YMSM 112], with Elinor Leyland (1861-1952) and Maud Franklin (1857-ca 1941), respectively, as models. Later related works include Scherzo in Blue: The Blue Girl [YMSM 226] and Harmony in Coral and Blue: Miss Finch [YMSM 237]. The last 'blue girl' was probably Blue and Coral: The Little Blue Bonnet [YMSM 500], starring Muriel Smith (fl. 1880-1910).

Notes:

1: Listed among full-length portraits in the studio, [1886/1887], list formerly dated [4/11 January 1892], GUW #06795.

2: James McNeill Whistler, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, 1936 (cat. no. 23).

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

4: Hunterian website at http://collections.gla.ac.uk.

Last updated: 22nd October 2020 by Margaret