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

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Arrangement in Black, No. 8: Portrait of Mrs Cassatt

Titles

Several possible titles have been suggested:

  • 'Arrangement in Black No. 8: Portrait of Mrs. Cassatt' (1885, Society of British Artists). 1
  • 'Portrait' (1894, National Academy of Design). 2
  • 'Portrait of a Lady' (1904, Copley Society, Boston). 3
  • 'Arrangement in Black, No. 8: Portrait of Mrs Cassatt' (1980, YMSM). 4

The original, and preferred, title is 'Arrangement in Black, No. 8: Portrait of Mrs. Cassatt' (see Arrangement in Black: Portrait of F. R. Leyland [YMSM 097] regarding the series of Arrangements in Black).

Description


                    Arrangement in Black, No. 8: Portrait of Mrs Cassatt, private collection
Arrangement in Black, No. 8: Portrait of Mrs Cassatt, private collection

A full-length portrait of a woman in vertical format. She stands in three-quarter view to left. She wears black riding dress, including a black hat, and is adjusting her gloves. The background is a very dark, warm black.

Sitter

Maria Lois Cassatt (1847-1920) . In 1868 Lois Buchanan, niece of James Buchanan, 15th President of the United States, married Alexander Johnston Cassatt (1839-1906) , a president of the Pennsylvania Railroad, and brother of the artist Mary Stevenson Cassatt (1844-1926).

The likeness of Mrs Cassatt was apparently not entirely satisfactory to the artist or the family, as the sitter recalled: 'from something I said Whistler took it that I did not consider it a likeness, nor do I, but he replied, "After all it's a Whistler".' 5

Whistler replied to a letter from A. J. Cassatt,

'I know it is not a striking likeness ... I do not delude myself in the least- and when I come over I will paint you another ... with pleasure - Anything in this world rather than that Mrs Cassatt should be obliged to put on her hat & costume and stand in a particular light in order that she may faintly resemble her unfortunate picture.' 6

Notes:

1: Winter Exhibition, Society of British Artists, London, 1885 (cat. no. 362).

2: Portraits of Women, loan exhibition for the Benefit of St. John's Guild and the Orthopaedic Hospital, National Academy of Design, New York, 1894 (cat. no. 355).

3: Oil Paintings, Water Colors, Pastels and Drawings: Memorial Exhibition of the Works of Mr. J. McNeill Whistler, Copley Society, Boston, 1904 (cat. no. 45).

4: YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 250).

5: Lois B. Cassatt to E. R. Pennell, 10 June 1919, LC PC.

6: Whistler to A. J. Cassatt, draft, [1885/1886], GUW #09014.

Last updated: 28th May 2021 by Margaret