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

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The Grey Lady: Portrait of Lady Archibald Campbell

The Grey Lady: Portrait of Lady Archibald Campbell dates from between 1881 and 1882. 1

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) wrote to Whistler, in June 1882, 'And the Moon-Lady, the Grey Lady, the beautiful wraith with her beryl eyes, our Lady Archie, how is she?' 2 However, it is not entirely clear if he is talking about the woman or her portrait.

In a letter to Théodore Duret (1838-1927), which dates from about 1881/1882, Whistler wrote 'demain j'ai une séance pour le portrait de la grande dame en gris que vous avez vu commencer.' 3 Duret was introduced to Whistler in November 1880 and was certainly in London in February-April 1881, when it is likely the portrait was started.

The Pennells imply that The Grey Lady: Portrait of Lady Archibald Campbell [YMSM 241] was painted around the same time as Portrait of Lady Archibald Campbell in Court Dress [YMSM 240] and Arrangement in Black: La Dame au brodequin jaune - Portrait of Lady Archibald Campbell [YMSM 242] in about 1882, and quote a letter from the sitter in which she stated,

'A picture which he called The Grey Lady was a harmony in silver greys ...The picture was almost completed, when my absence from town prevented a continuance of the sittings ... When I saw him very shortly before his death, I remember asking after The Grey Lady. He laughed, and said he had destroyed her.' 4

This was the second portrait of Lady Archibald Campbell (see Portrait of Lady Archibald Campbell in Court Dress [YMSM 240]) that Whistler abandoned (see also Arrangement in Black: La Dame au brodequin jaune - Portrait of Lady Archibald Campbell [YMSM 242]).

Notes:

1: YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 241).

2: Quoted by Hart-Davis 1962 [more] , p. 121.

3: [May 1881/1882], GUW #09643.

4: Pennell 1908 [more] , vol. 1, p. 305.

Last updated: 8th November 2019 by Margaret