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

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Chelsea Shops: Yellow and Grey


Several titles have been suggested:

  • 'Chelsea; yellow and grey' (1884, Dowdeswell). 1
  • Possibly 'Rose et Brun: Les Boutiques de Chelsea' (1887, Petit). 2
  • 'Chelsea Shops' (1904, Copley Society, Boston). 3
  • 'Chelsea Shops' (1980, YMSM). 4

In 1980 it was suggested that this might have originally been called 'Pink note – Chelsea', which the Liverpool Mercury had described on 3 July 1884 as a view in Chelsea 'more elaborate than the others.' 5 This could equally apply to other works, such as Street in Old Chelsea [YMSM 249]. On the other hand, press descriptions of 'Chelsea; yellow and grey' mention the newspaper-shop that dominates the scene, and make it much more likely that this is its original title. 6 It has therefore been decided to combine the original, 1904 and 1980 titles, to create a new title, 'Chelsea Shops: Yellow and Grey'.

Anna Robins comments that Whistler's titles 'reflect an eclectic interest in colour systems rather than an adherence to one particular theory' and, in the exhibition catalogue '[conjure] up an image of luscious colour arrangements'. 7


                    Chelsea Shops: Yellow and Grey, Freer Gallery of Art
Chelsea Shops: Yellow and Grey, Freer Gallery of Art

A street scene in horizontal format. Across a broad street, which rises slightly to left, is a row of small shops. Four shops are shown, the house fronts from left to right varying from off-white, to brown, to cream, to brown. The cream shop has a grey awning over the open door and there are numerous newspaper signboards standing on the pavement outside it, and outside the shop at right. Several figures are walking along the pavement, or looking in the windows at right. The ground and upper floor of the buildings are shown, the windows curtained and the two at right with flowers in pots on the window ledges.


It is among the earliest of Whistler's many studies of London – and particularly Chelsea – shop fronts. The exact site is identified by Anna Robins as showing 'Nos 83-6 Cheyne Walk, including the tobacconist's at No. 85, a photographer's and coffee shop to the left and a furniture dealer to the right.' 8 Robins points out that the etching The Street, Chelsea Embankment of 1888-1889 by Théodore Roussel (1847-1926) shows a slightly more extensive view of the street, from Nos. 83-88. 9


1: 'Notes' - 'Harmonies' - 'Nocturnes', Messrs Dowdeswell, London, 1884 (cat. no. 11).

2: Exposition Internationale de Peinture et de Sculpture, Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, 1887 (cat. no. 208).

3: Oil Paintings, Water Colors, Pastels and Drawings: Memorial Exhibition of the Works of Mr. J. McNeill Whistler, Copley Society, Boston, 1904 (cat. no. 3).

4: YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 246).

5: Ibid.; 'Notes' - 'Harmonies' - 'Nocturnes', Messrs Dowdeswell, London, 1884 (cat. no. 23); press cutting in GUL Whistler PC 7, p. 13.

6: Anon., 'Man about town, The County Gentleman, Sporting Gazette and Agricultural Journal, London, 24 May 1884, p. 8; press cutting in GUL Whistler PC 6, p. 57.

7: Robins 2007 [more] , pp. 26-27.

8: Robins 2007 [more] , pp. 126-28, repr. p. 126.

9: See Hausberg 1991 [more] (cat. no. 26 I/I), and Art Institute of Chicago website at See also Hausberg, Meg, and Victoria Sancho Lobis, Whistler and Roussel: Linked Visions, Art Institute of Chicago, 2015, URL.

Last updated: 31st December 2020 by Margaret